In a corner of the U-32 Auditorium at around 2:30 PM on a Friday, a small group of students sit with Erin Galligan-Baldwin, staring at scripts. Kate McKay and Sylvan Williams are reading the parts of Karen and Martha, respectively.
MARTHA: Where is she?
KAREN: In there. Mortar’s with her.
Rehearsals for The Children’s Hour, Stage 32’s spring play, are currently in session. There are not many actors at this one, but their work with the script is important if they want to perform well.
Looking at the small book, then turning to McKay, Williams adopts a tone of exasperation.
MARTHA: Anything really wrong with her?
KAREN: I doubt it. Isn’t it wonderful what kids can think up? Her latest trick was kidding your aunt out of a lesson with those faded flowers we threw out. Then she threatened to go to her grandmother with some tale about being mistreated.
MARTHA: And, please God, Grandma would believe her and take her away from here.
“Foreshadowing,” Galligan-Baldwin says abruptly, pausing McKay and Williams in their reading. She then identifies a reference to smoking that they will not perform, despite the setting of the play being in the 1930s. “It never looks good… stage cigarettes, you have to blow out of them,” Galligan-Baldwin says.
In the play, two women running a boarding school for girls are accused of having been lovers, and the reaction from their community has a big impact on them. Most of the outside world is not shown in the play, but the effect on the characters is still visible, straining the relationship between the two women and their relations with others.
“[The characters] are interesting, and they’ll let a lot of the actors play parts they haven’t played before,” the stage manager, James Pacheco, says.
The words that the characters speak are important too. An actor paraphrasing their lines is not a good thing. “It’s like paraphrasing Shakespeare,” Galligan-Baldwin says.
The fact that the play is important nowadays is evident in its script. It is an ambitious piece, written about bullying, sexism, classism, and homophobia, which means that it is just as relevant today as it was in the 1930s, and will require a stellar performance from the actors.
“I think that it was a pretty good choice for the time that we live in,” says Pacheco.
“The fact that it was written by a woman, Lillian Hellman, about women in the 1930s is a very big deal,” Galligan-Baldwin says. “I am honored and excited to bring it to life on our stage.”
Stage 32 is performing The Children’s Hour on Thursday and Friday, April 4 and 5 at 7:00 PM and Saturday, April 6 at 1:30 PM at the U-32 High School Auditorium.