Counterclockwise from left: Howard da Silva (1909–1986), Marc Blitzstein (1905–1964), Blanche Collins (1910–1968), Olive Stanton (active 1930s), and Bert Weston (active 1930s)
In 1937, composer Marc Blitzstein made national headlines with his musical The Cradle Will Rock. The strongly pro-union play was directed by Orson Welles and produced by John Houseman for the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Theatre Project. Just as it was to open, word of the play’s ideological slant reached Washington. Congressional conservatives threatened the WPA’s funding. The Federal Theatre Project cancelled the play, and Actors’ Equity told Welles that none of the actors could appear on stage in the production. So Welles and Houseman moved the play to a different site, and had the actors perform from the audience, with Blitzstein narrating at the piano. Columnist Walter Winchell called the play a great "diversion" and New York Times critic Brooks Atkinson praised it as "the best thing militant labor has put into the theatre yet."