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Photographic Print from New York production of Macbeth, 1936

[Detail] Photographic Print from New York production of Macbeth, 1936

Persuasive Writing

As the national director of the Federal Theatre Project, Hallie Flanagan worked on behalf of the administration to promote its programs and ensure their success. The administrative documents in this collection contain speeches Flanagan made to her colleagues and supervisors. A review of these addresses provides insight into how Flanagan argued for the creation and continuation of government-supported theatre.

Flanagan first spoke to her regional directors in an October 1935 address at the McLean Mansion entitled, “Is This the Time and Place?” Before calling for the creation of resources to assist the nation’s unemployed theatre workers, Flanagan noted the irony of giving such a speech in the luxurious estate:

The hideousness of the chandelier in the great ballroom, the busts and statues in the court, the gold faucets on the gigantic bathtub, are only equaled by their excessive cost. In short, the McLean Mansion, like many similar edifices throughout America, is a monument to the period of American culture in which the value of a work of art was measured in terms of its cost and the distance from which it was imported.

In a February 8, 1939 address to the House of Representatives’ Committee on Patents, Flanagan framed the Federal Theatre Project in terms of world history: “Four centuries before Christ, Athens believed that plays were worth paying for out of public money; today France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Russia, Italy and practically all other civilized countries appropriate money for the theatre.”

  • Why do you think Flanagan made these comparisons?
  • How do these comparisons reflect upon the FTP?
  • How might these examples help to elicit support for the FTP?
  • How does Flanagan use these examples to establish a tone and direction for her speeches?

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