The real New Deal

New play A Fireside Chat premiering this Friday at Cunneen-Hackett in Poughkeepsie

by Frances Marion Platt
April 28, 2011 11:11 AM | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It’s always heartening when the existence (and government funding) of a great public resource like a library collection justifies itself with the creation of some wonderful work of art and/or scholarship based on research conducted there. A notable recent case in point was the publication of Russell Shorto’s excellent popular history of New Amsterdam, The Island at the Center of the World. This best-selling book would simply have been impossible to write if not for the formidable progress that Dr. Charles Gehring of the New Netherland Institute in Albany has made in translating thousands of pages of 17th-century Dutch Colonial historical documents in the New York State Archives and making them available to researchers.

Now we have another good example of this process before us: Folks from Poughkeepsie’s Cunneen-Hackett Arts Center have teamed up with the Wisconsin-based Brown-Ullstrup Performing Arts Foundation to concoct a brand-new stage play titled A Fireside Chat: A Conversation with FDR, based on research conducted at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library in Hyde Park. Steven Brown and Michael Ullstrup are the playwrights. It’s a one-man show that explores President Roosevelt’s personality, his younger years and his relationships with his father James, his mother Sara and his wife Eleanor.

Wisconsin actor Gary Stamm will portray FDR in the world premiere of A Fireside Chat, which will debut this Friday, April 29 at 7:30 p.m. at Cunneen-Hackett’s theatre space, located at 12 Vassar Street in Poughkeepsie’s waterfront district. Additional performances will take place at 7:30 on Saturday, April 30 and at 2 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, April 30 and May 1. Tickets cost $15 general admission and $12 for students. Call the Arts Center at (845) 486-4571 or visit to purchase tickets.

This Friday afternoon, in advance of the premiere, a press event and preview of the new play will be held in the Henry A. Wallace Center at the FDR Presidential Library and Home. In addition to the producers of A Fireside Chat, representatives from the Roosevelt Library and the Dutchess County Arts Council will welcome attendees. The 2 p.m. program in Hyde Park is free and open to the public.

The play highlights one of the many effective ways in which FDR communicated with the American people. During the 1930s almost every home had a radio. Families typically spent several hours a day gathered together, listening to their favorite programs. Informal and relaxed, FDR’s “fireside chats” made Americans feel as if the president were talking directly to them. Roosevelt continued to use the radio throughout his presidency to address the fears and concerns of the American people, as well as to inform them of positions and actions taken by the US government.

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum is located at 4079 Albany Post Road (Route 9) in Hyde Park. For more information about this event, or about how to go about accessing the Library’s collections for your own research project, phone (845) 486-7745 or visit

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