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Hayfield Secondary School The Children’s Hour

By • May 10th, 2012 • Category: Cappies

An inseparable friendship between two women is a perfectly common occurrence, but one false accusation told out of anger and spitefulness can turn this seemingly harmless bond into prey for a seething web of lies. In Hayfield Secondary School’s incredibly powerful production of The Children’s Hour, strong mutual companionship equates to a figurative death sentence in the 1930’s, where justice fails to prevail, solid reputations are tarnished forever, and hidden feelings are finally revealed.

This rousing drama, written by Lillian Hellman and inspired by an actual 1810 trial, was deemed highly controversial on its Broadway arrival in 1934, and was later adapted into a successful film starring Audrey Hepburn in 1961. The play follows Martha Dobie and Karen Wright, two all-girls boarding school headmistresses whose lives enter a perilous downward spiral when a surly student, Mary Tilford, alleges a story of a secret lesbian affair between the two, and it spreads through the town. Martha and Karen struggle to salvage their dwindling reputations and deal with their overwhelming grief as this unfounded allegation leads to their untimely downfall.

The talented cast of Hayfield Secondary School brought life to this sensational play, remaining heavily engaged in scenes while playing strong dramatic roles. From the ensemble to the leading ladies, each cast member brought tactful emotional vehemence that tapped into the pathos of this alluring production. Although there was a lack of articulation at times, emotive acting and strong projection made up for this minor misstep.

A standout performance came from Yvonne Fox, as the despairingly misunderstood Martha Dobie. Fox’s staunch portrayal of Martha and her inner struggles with taboo feelings of infatuation was phenomenal, and her solid dynamism and engaging finesse brought compassion to a character bleakly confined by her own emotions. Contrasting Fox’s performance was Paige Horwitz as the utterly troubled Karen Wright. Horwitz’s despondence and vulnerability was present in her every move, and the chemistry and mutual admiration between the two characters was both complex and interestingly presented by the gifted actresses.

Taryss Mandt’s superb portrayal of the gullible Mrs. Amelia Tilford was an exceptional performance amongst many impressive supporting roles. Mandt’s believability stemmed from her solid characterization of an aging grandmother, complete with a raspy voice, elderly gait, and ill-fated susceptibility, which allowed for a seamless interpretation. Mandt’s pleasant rendition was matched by Ian Burgess, who played Karen Wright’s passionate love-interest, Dr. Joseph Cardin. Burgess’s tender demeanor and heartbreaking fragility exhibited towards the end of the show was extremely compelling. Katie Wattendorf gave an impressive performance as the devious Mary Tilford, encompassing all aspects of her character’s personality from her devilish nature to her feigned innocence.

Era-appropriate costumes like schoolgirl uniform dresses, pastel colored gowns, and bright floral blouses combined with appropriately stylized hairdos added realism to the 1930’s ambiance of the show. Though there were minor technical issues, these slip-ups were made up for by the well-constructed set, which consisted of a school classroom that later was transformed into an upscale home featuring ornate furniture and a fireplace.

Hayfield Secondary School’s appealing rendition of The Children’s Hour was filled with raw adversity and all-pervading heartbreak. The cast dealt with profound topics such as homophobia and unrequited love with depth and commitment.

by Julian Sanchez of Westfield High School

Photo Gallery

Yvonne Fox, Allisha Edwards, Katie Hardy, Natalie Williams Katie Wattendorf, Taryss Mandt
Yvonne Fox, Allisha Edwards, Katie Hardy, Natalie Williams
Katie Wattendorf, Taryss Mandt
Taryss Mandt, Yvonne Fox, Adde Plemmons, Paige Horwitz, Ian Burgess Ian Burgess, Paige Horwitz
Taryss Mandt, Yvonne Fox, Adde Plemmons, Paige Horwitz, Ian Burgess
Ian Burgess, Paige Horwitz
Paige Horwitz, Yvonne Fox
Paige Horwitz, Yvonne Fox

Photos by Jean Martelli

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