I have picked up Susan Quinn’s Furious Improvisation this week. I have skimmed it befor, mining it for information needed ASAP, but have not taken the time to read the entire monograph.

The prologue tells the story of The England Riot. Not England the country, but the tiny little farming community in Arkansas. I’ve been to England AR once. I was trying to drive back to Ruston, LA from visiting my boyfriend, and I go lost in Little Rock. I got out the city eventually, but I was east instead of south. Not wanting to face the interstate again, I mapped out a route that would take me through some of the Natural State’s flat lands.

The riot happened in January, 1930. January is cold and wet in Arkansas. The farmers were suffering from a drought during the growing season, and the Red Cross was not providing enough food. The farmers first gathered outside the Red Cross, but when the organization refused to release rations because they were out of forms, the farmers drove into town and stormed the relief officer’s home. The plantation owner wired for emergency rations from Little Rock, and vouchers were distributed.

My research into Federal Theatre occasionally reveals anecdotes from Arkansas. They are usually about poor farming communities, tarpaper shacks, and one room school houses. Very different from the Arkansas I grew up in, yet it is still familiar. I was talking with a dear friend from Houston the other day and I told E that growing up I used to climb my grandfather’s apple trees and eat the fruit straight from the branch. She declared me “real life Anne of Green Gables.” I guess I was. My grandparents had a farm, I worked on it during the summer. My parents worked in factories. The most educated people I met were my teachers in school. It was a quiet life, far removed from the starvation and panic five decades earlier.

As I dig deeper into Federal Theatre, I am looking forward to uncovering more tidbits from the place I hail.




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