Hallie Flanagan (27 August, 1889 — 23 July, 1969) was an American theatrical producer and director, playwright, author and director of the Federal Theatre Project, a part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
Born Hallie Ferguson in Redfield, South Dakota, Flanagan was raised in Grinnell, Iowa. After attending Grinnell College, she enrolled in George Pierce Baker's influential 47 Workshop class at Harvard University. This class, one of the first of its kind at an American university, taught playwrighting. While at Harvard and later at Vassar College, Flanagan began developing her own ideas for experimental theatre.
In 1926, Flanagan accepted a Guggenheim Fellowship to study theatre in Europe. While there, she met some of the most influential figures in theatre including John Galsworthy, Konstantin Stanislavsky, Edward Gordon Craig and Lady Gregory. Returning to Vassar, she began to institute many of her new-found ideas with the Vassar Experimental Theatre, which she created. Flanagan rose to national prominence after producing the theatrical adaptation she co-wrote, Can You Hear Their Voices, based on the short story written by Whittaker Chambers for The New Masses in 1931.
With the onset of the Great Depression, and masses of people, including theatre folk, out of work, Franklin D. Roosevelt established the WPA to provide jobs for many of the unemployed. Among the numerous segments of this program was the Federal Theatre Project aimed at employing out-of-work entertainers. In September 1935, WPA head Harry Hopkins asked Flanagan to lead this program.
Flanagan's vision for the Project was to bring theatre to the great majority of the American public who had never witnessed it, plus producing cutting-edge high-quality theatrical material. This program involved creating children's theatre as well as "Living Newspaper" plays that would reach out to the culturally unaware. Though the program enabled the creation of a number of fine works, some argued over political agendas being delivered by plays. Concerns over works with messages deemed to be communistic and socialistic plagued Flanagan and the Theatre Project. Flanagan was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1938. After four years, the Federal Theatre Project was shut down and Flanagan returned to Vassar.
Flanagan's first husband, Murray Flanagan, died in 1918. In 1934, she married Philip Davis, a professor of Greek at Vassar.