Exhibition Archives




September 5 | December 2, 2012

At the height of the Great Depression, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union took to the stage demanding “Sing me a song with social significance,” in the Broadway musical revue Pins and Needles. Taking its cue in the surprise hit, this exhibition highlights moments when theatre aspired to be more than entertainment. From conditions in New York City sweatshops, to corruption in post-World War I Berlin, and racial violence in the Jim Crow South, musicals and plays have addressed major societal issues of modern life.

Songs of Social Significance focuses on designs for landmark productions in the McNay’s theatre arts collection: Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s caustic The Threepenny Opera (premiered 1928) and the witty Pins and Needles (1937–1940) by Mark Blitzstein and Harold Rome. Costume designs lent by Myrna Colley-Lee, a pioneer of the Black Theatre Movement, reveal the work of playwrights such as James Baldwin for The Amen Corner (written 1954) and Ifa Bayeza for The Ballad of Emmett Till (2007).

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This exhibition was organized by the McNay Art Museum and is a program of the Tobin Theatre Arts Fund.

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