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Blanche Morgan Illustrations and Designs

costume design for mother goose, 1938
Costume design for "Mother Goose", 1938

Blanche Morgan (1912-1981) was a set and costume designer for the Seattle Negro Repertory Company, a subsidiary of the WPA's Federal Theater Project which put on plays with African-American actors. She was also a watercolor artist and interior designer for Frederick & Nelson. She studied at the University of Washington and was a member of Women Painters of Washington, Northwest Watercolor Society, and the National Association of Women Artists. Her art departed from the traditional attitudes of loose, whimsical images done with watercolor, concentrating more on crisp, precise form and design. She exhibited in New York as well as the Oakland Art Museum, Seattle Art Museum and other regional venues. During her tenure with Seattle's Negro Repertory Company from 1937 to 1939, the company produced "Androcles and the Lion" "Is Zat So" "Black Empire" "Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby" (a Children's Unit production), "An Evening with Dunbar" "Mississippi Rainbow" "The Dragon Wishbone" (Children's Unit), and "Taming of the Shrew."

The Federal Theater Project (FTP) was established by the WPA to provide employment for theater professionals during the Great Depression. The FTP opened in Seattle in 1935 with the sponsorship of the Seattle Repertory Company and the support of the University of Washington Drama School and drama professor Glenn Hughes. The Negro Repertory Company (NRC) opened as a subsidiary of the FTP in January of 1936 with 73 actors and singers. The NRC was initially intended as a temporary effort, but strong reception led to the continuation of the company.

Florence and Burton James of the Seattle Repertory Playhouse headed the production of the NRC until their departure in the autumn of 1937. Hallie Flanagan, the national director of the FTP, then sent Esther Porter to lead the Seattle NRC. Blanche Morgan had been the principal designer for the FTP until Porter hired her for NRC productions.

The Negro Repertory Company's effort totaled 15 productions, second only to New York City, with both cities enjoying continuously active Negro units until the abolition of the Federal Theater Project by a Congressional act in June of 1939.

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