Research by Exploration, inspired by Hallie Flanagan

So in the last week,  I have been exploring (and will continue to explore) the life and work of Hallie Flanagan, the woman who ran the Federal Theatre Project in the 1930s. In a part of her biography written by her stepdaughter, there is a chapter dedicated to her travels abroad. Hallie Flanagan was the first woman to be awarded a Guggenheim grant to travel and she certainly used it. She traveled all over- particularly Russia, Germany, Czech Republic, and England. As she explores, she discovers more about her thoughts, likes, and dislikes of theatre. I believe this did a number on shaping her theatre practices that would be implemented during the Federal Theatre Project, particularly the social subject matters. Now she was certainly doing experimental theatre before her trip. But I think this trip inspired her to explore and develop her theatre practices. Sadly, her trip to Russia would actually be used against her at the Committee of UnAmerican Activities, accusing her of being a communist and making the Federal Theatre Project as a tool of New Deal, Communist propaganda. But I digress.

So why am I talking about this? Besides being interesting (theatre history geek over here), I think this could teach us an important lesson when looking to research for our manifest: exploration. Now, I know we are going to be doing serious academic research to assist in our theatre manifestos; I know I certainly will do to my topic matter. However, the topics are meant to reflect in a sense our own views of theatre and its importance & impact. So, I think Hallie Flanagan was on the right track of going away to see theatre. Now we don’t have to go across the ocean to do so (though some of us probably have). But being open to seeing theatre in new locations. Now don’t get me wrong: there are great productions done locally. But I think it’s important to look at theatre outside of the norm. This can be done via road trip (short or long) or even youtube. Now the issue with youtube is that you aren’t getting the ‘theatre’ experience. However, it does allow us to see different kind of theatres from home.

Now I don’t know if this post will be of any help in terms of research or be of any real interest. But sometimes, among the fast pace, sleepless routine of college, it was good to be reminded that there is a large world of theatre and theatre practices out there and it’s importance that we explore it.



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