The Children’s Hour Dramaturgical Research
Dr. Daina Robins
This spring, the Theatre Department is producing The Children’s Hour by American playwright, Lillian Hellman. She tells the story of two headmistresses of a private boarding school who are accused of a scandalous affair by one of their wealthy students. The rumor spreads rapidly, and the two women are forced to fight to keep their lives together amidst a flurry of accusations and interrogations. The play is based on an essay titled: “Closed Doors, or The Great Drumsheugh Case,” which follows a real 1809 court case that took place in Scotland. When it was originally produced in 1934, the play was banned in Chicago, Boston, and London due to the allusions to homosexuality. Although Hellman has endured further banning and censoring of the play, it is revered as a great American dramatic work. As the dramaturg for this production, I conduct research on the play’s historical context in order to help the cast and creative team portray the complex relationships and situations presented in the play. I also compile materials to aid the audience’s understanding of the play, such as the lobby display and program note. The Children’s Hour addresses themes still present in our community today, and provides an opportunity to study the way those themes were punctuated and dealt with across the timeline of American theatre history.
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