Directing Lillian Hellman's The Children's Hour for today's society and its contemporary relevance: A professional problem dissertation



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Although the play The Children’s Hour was first written and produced in 1934, I find the content to be highly relevant to today’s society. The professional problem is to show how this play from the 1930s can still strongly affect our audiences today, without altering the script. Bullying is the major element within this play that is my focus, a topic that has often been overlooked in many productions simply because it might not have been in the public’s consciousness from the 1930s through the 1980s. I directed a production that is relevant to today’s audience by focusing on bullying and manipulating without negating lesbianism. From multiple readings and in-depth study of this play, I have discovered that the details of events and behaviors emphasize bullying within the text. Although bullying is not the traditional primary focus of the play, it still holds a powerful message and is very much in the forefront of the public’s consciousness today. The element of homosexuality is deeply embedded into this play; yet it should not overpower the harsh reality of bullying that drives the plot. It is bullying that initiates the idea of homosexuality and causes the susceptible conditions that bring lesbianism into a more serious light. The key to this production is to focus on Mary’s great lie about her teachers, how it was developed through smaller lies, and how it affected the events that follow. Ms. Hellman inserted a great deal of physical and verbal abuse that is much more relevant today than it could have ever been observed in its time. I have discovered through my research that the impact this play had on audiences in the 1930s was not exactly the expectation of the playwright. The audience reacted more toward the homosexual content rather than the tragedy of the lie. The issue on which Lillian Hellman has stated, is about how a child’s lie sets off a series of events that change the lives of the two main characters. I believe this is more likely the intention that can be brought out and emphasized for the contemporary audience. I set the play in modern times but I did not want the focus to be specific to a particular year. I have incorporated some modern technology to connect more with today’s younger generation and to enhance the relevance. I presented this production in the manner in which it was written as it truly reflects issues in today’s society without being dated or old-fashioned.



Hellman, Lillian, The Children's Hour, Directing