Lillian Hellman’s intense drama, The Children’s Hour, will be playing on the Wytheville Community College stage at 8:00 p.m., March 21-23. First produced on stage in 1934, the show was considered “scandalous,” and some feared the police would shut it down. However, The Children’s Hour was a success and was subsequently turned into a popular film in the 1960s, starring Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine, and James Garner.
According to Hellman, the idea for this play was prompted by a similar event that happened in Scotland in the early 1800s. The plot is simple—an unhappy student (played by Jessie Moore) fabricates a malicious rumor about her two instructors (JoBeth Hilton and Lorna King) to avoid having to return to boarding school. The way the story develops around the plot--the motivations, the reactions, the outcome for all involved--those make The Children’s Hour a compelling drama.
Director Janice Pryor says the themes in the play are many. “So many threads are woven together for the actors and audience to consider: the power of gossip, the presence of evil, the corruption of power, bullying, love, truth, lies, friendship. All of these factor into the final outcome of the play, but the playwright leaves it up to the audience to decide how they all work together to bring about the ruin or survival of the characters.”
Frances Moore, Clint Helton, Barbara Brown, Tina Edwards, and Robert Burnett portray the other adults caught in the conflict between student and teachers. Featured as boarding school residents are Charla King, Olivia Brewer, Lauren McGrady, Piper Bailey, Arie Lucas, Victoria Thomas, and Stevie Freeman. Of course, no show makes it on stage without the valuable assistance of the production staff. Says Pryor, “Roger Dean Grubb has designed and built what I think is one of the most unique sets we have had. Tina Edwards, our costumer, has worked to give the show that sense of a different period in time, and Coyote Edwards’ lighting design will keep the audience focused on the action.”
Contrary to the play’s title, The Children’s Hour is not recommended for kids age 12 and under due to adult language and situations. All performances are in Snyder Auditorium on the Wytheville Campus at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are available 30 minutes before each show, $8 general admission and $5 for students and senior citizens.