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Summary Article: Flanagan, Hallie (Mae Ferguson)
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

US theatre organizer, teacher, and playwright. Her Vassar Experimental Theatre gained a reputation for restaging classical dramas. The works she was involved in as head of the Federal Theatre Project (FTP) attracted huge audiences, many of whom had never seen live theatre before.

She was born in Redfield, South Dakota. It was on her return from Europe, a visit funded by a Guggenheim fellowship, that she founded the Vassar Experimental Theatre. Her 1931 production, Can You Hear Their Voices?, a play about Arkansas farmers that she coauthored and staged with innovative techniques, was a great success. At the FTP, her most famous contribution was the so-called Living Newspaper, documentary dramatizations of pressing social issues of the day. In a legendary hearing before the US House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities, however, she was accused of promoting leftist ideas and the FTP was halted in 1939. She returned to Vassar and directed the writing of Arena (1940), an account of the FTP. In 1942, she became dean and then professor of theatre at Smith College, continuing her lifelong efforts at relating theatre to both educational and social concerns.

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