‘The Children’s Hour’: The process that brought this script to our stage

By: Erin Moore

*Warning: This article contains spoilers*

This past weekend, Highland Park’s theater department put on its second fall play, ‘The Children’s Hour’. 

From December 8th to December 10th at seven pm—and an additional Saturday matinee—the cast and crew performed for audiences of around fifty people each night. 

‘The Children’s Hour’ by Lillian Hellman is a play set in the 1930s. It follows two school teachers, Martha Dobie and Karen Wright as their once bright and energetic school becomes empty and quiet following the accusation by one of their students that the two had been lovers. Upon the spread of the accusation, parents pulls their students out of the school and Martha and Karen become shunned by the general public.

When they trace the accusation to the home of the ever-privileged Tilfords, Mrs. Tilford and her granddaughter Mary refuse to take back what they said, so Karen and Martha respond by taking legal action. When they lose the case, it feels as if there’s nothing left they can do. Then, when Martha admits that she does love Karen and her feelings aren’t reciprocated, she ends her life. 

This play is a beautiful representation of how rumors can destroy—and in some cases, end—lives. It also is an important display of how harmful homophobia can be. As Karen says, “What happens between people, happens, and after a while it doesn’t much matter how it started. But there it is. I’m here. You’re there. We’re in a room we’ve been in so many times before. Nothing seems changed. My hands look just the same, my face is just the same, even my dress is old. I’m nothing too much: I’m just like everybody else, the way I always was. I can have the things that other people have. I can have you, and children, and I can take care of them, and I can go to the market, and read a book, and people will talk to me—Only I can’t. I can’t. And I don’t know why.” 

It’s terribly sad that this play still holds truth and importance ninety years after it was written. This play was nominated for a Pulitzer prize, but lost because some of the judges refused to watch it. 

On a significantly less down-putting note, the performances went amazingly and were so fun to be a part of. As a member of the cast, I can confidently say that this was one of the best groups of people I’ve been able to be in a production with. 

Persephone Pond, a fellow student in the play, said, “This was my first show at Highland and it’s always going to be my favorite. The cast was so talented and kind and this show always felt so welcoming.” 

A member of the tech crew stated, “The cast and crew were really fun to hang out with and I met cool people.”

On the topic of cast, if you’re wondering how to audition for future productions, you can find information all over the school and on the hptheatrearts Instagram page.

When auditioning for ‘The Children’s Hour,’ I found a QR code in the school and it brought me to a Google form asking about experience, skills, and preferences. Then, at the end of the form, there was a link to sign up for an audition slot. 

In my audition, the director (Nancy Michael) had my group read for different characters in selected scenes from both ‘The Children’s Hour’ and ‘Clue’ (which was performed two weeks prior). Then, a little under a week later, the cast list was posted in the “Thespian Society” Schoology group and near the auditorium. 

The rehearsal schedule was soon also posted in the Schoology group, detailing when we would practice and who was called each day. In rehearsals, we worked on lines, blocking, and general character development.

Then, a week before the performances, we began what is known as “tech week.” This week is when lighting, sound, costumes, sets, props, and every other aspect not added earlier in rehearsal, joins with what has already been worked on. For ‘The Children’s Hour,’ tech week typically ran two hours later than usual. 

Now that the fall plays are over, rehearsals have already begun for the winter one acts (“Speed Date,” “Clowns With Guns,” “The Bifrost Incident,” “Call Me S(a)tan,” and “Put a Ring on It”). The audition process was fairly similar to that of ‘The Children’s Hour,’ and took place the week before tech week. One acts will perform the weekend of January 19th if you’re interested in attending their performances. 

In the end, ‘The Children’s Hour’ had very smooth and successful performances, and I’m grateful to have been a part of it. To keep theatre alive at HPSH, be sure to donate and attend performances when you can. 

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