Hallie Flanagan: A Life in the Theatre

Joanne Bentley, Author Alfred A. Knopf $24.95 (436p) ISBN 978-0-394-57041-9
Bentley's memoir contains revealing quotes from people who knew her stepmother, Hallie Flanagan, and excerpts from Flanagan's diaries, making a stirring history-biography. Born in South Dakota in 1889, this theatrical genius worked first as a writer-teacher at Grinnell College, Iowa, then headed the drama department at Vassar in 1926. She traveled abroad to confer with Stanislavsky, Pirandello, T. S. Eliot, Lady Gregory and other fellow innovators, in search of ideas for productions. Married to Bentley's father, Philip Davis, professor of Greek at Vassar, Flanagan benefited from his support until his death in 1940, particularly during her directorship of the Federal Theatre under the Roosevelt Administration. The project was a great success until the Dies Committee, suspecting ``Red'' infiltration, killed it after four years, in 1939. Flanagan returned to Vassar and, later, moved to Smith to experiment and ``make magic'' on the stage. Ill health brought an end to the career of a singular person before her death in 1969. In a eulogy an actor in the Federal Theatre summed up her importance to her craft: ``We'd have followed Hallie Flanagan to the ends of the earth.'' Photos not seen by PW. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/25/1988
Release date: 05/01/1988
Genre: Nonfiction
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