Mattatuck Museum transports you back to the era of the Great Depression with Stars and Bars, a 1938 living newspaper play by Ward Courtney and the Negro Unit of the Connecticut Federal Theatre on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. The reading is performed by the Working Actors Collective and directed by CPTV’s Ed Wierzbicki.

   The play, written in 1938, attempts to enlighten a “Yankee” character about the true plight of African Americans in Connecticut. This is the first living newspaper about racial issues to get past a first draft, and there is no record of any performance of the play during the New Deal Era. Stars and Bars is specifically based on the history and status of Blacks in the Hartford in the 1930s. The title refers both to the flag of the Confederacy, and to the impediments – “bars” – to freedom implicit in American society.

   Ward Courtney was a young white playwright originally from Vermont, who worked in the Federal Theatre’s Hartford office which housed one of the Negro Theatre units. Courtney had previously written Trilogy in Black, a modern tragedy on the Greek pattern, inspired by Aeschylus’s Agamemnon and Euripides’ Electra. It had closed after a single performance in Hartford the previous June.

   Stars and Bars is presented in conjunction with the exhibition Art for Everyone: The Federal Art Project in Connecticut on view through February 3, 2013. In 1935 FDR created the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a relief program to put people back to work. This exhibition offers the mostly unknown story of the WPA’s Federal Art Project in Connecticut where 173 artists created works that were then allocated to public buildings. Beatrice Cuming, James Daugherty, George Marinko, Spencer Baird Nichols, Joseph Schork and Cornelia Vetter are among the artists represented. The Art for Everyone exhibit is supported by Connecticut Humanities, Bank of America, the Connecticut Community Foundation, the Connecticut State Library and Historic New England.

   Admission to this program is $7 for members and $12 for non-members. Cash bar and light hors d’oeuvres are available at 6:30 p.m. and the reading will conclude with a short panel discussion with the actors and director. Join the museum to immediately qualify for member benefits. Please register in advance at or call (203) 753-0381, ext. 10. This program is supported in part by the Connecticut Community Foundation.

   Visit or call (203) 753-0381 for more information on all of the museum’s adult and children’s programs, events and exhibits. The Mattatuck Museum is operated with support from the Department of Economic and Community Development/Connecticut Office of the Arts, and is a member of the Connecticut Art Trail, a group of sixteen world-class museums and historic sites ( Located at 144 West Main Street, Waterbury, the museum is open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Free parking is located behind the building on Park Place.