The Children’s Hour

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Sometimes when a play is performed or a movie is released real life events happen to take place along with it.

That is the case with the “The Children’s Hour” as when director Donn Youngstrom and the rest of the theater department at Buffalo State decided on a play that they had no clue would have events that would coincide with the play’s performance.

Two women named Martha and Karen, who have been friends since 17 years old, decide to open a school for girls.  Then one day a student named Mary lies that Karen and Martha are really lovers. She also says the she has witnessed the two kissing, along with hearing the noises that would eventually destroy their lives.

In the process of trying to clear their names Martha discovers she has feelings for Karen. She reveals this to her shortly before she commits suicide.

Theater department Associat Professor Donn Youngstrom, who also is the play’s director, stated that he and the rest of the department didn’t realize that things like “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” lies, cyber bullying, suicide by young adults and sexual orientation would happen shortly before the play opened.

“The reason that we chose it is that there is a preponderance of students within our major that are women and we also wanted to do an American classic,” Youngstrom said. “Also, it had to do with the theme as there are still gay and lesbian people that still are afraid to come out and a lie that can ruin people’s lives.”

The last thing that is also coinciding with the play is that one of the cast members is also gay.

“Given the recent events, the play has a really important social message,” the anonymous cast member said. “Acceptance can become a huge problem in a person’s life.”

According to Youngstrom, the process for selecting a play started last semester in the spring as teachers within the theater department would meet and recommend plays. From there they would whittle it down to a select few and finally selected “The Children’s Hour.”

Youngstrom went on to explain once a play was selected the department moved on to scenery.  That took place over the summer and was completed by the beginning of the fall semester.

From there Youngstrom stated the department moved to auditions, when school started up again, and theater majors were allowed to audition first. Once auditions for theater majors were held, auditions for all majors were conducted.

Youngstrom and the rest of the staff then discussed who to call back to audition again for a certain role. In both auditions people had to perform a dance, sing, and a monologue.

After callbacks are concluded, countless rehearsals, along with a countless number of things, take place before the opening of the play like sound cues, lighting cues, memorizing lines, and placement when saying those lines.

Cindy Delaney, who plays Martha, is a sophomore writing major at Buffalo State, but graduated as a Drama major from Fiorello LaGuardia High School of Music, Art and the Performing Arts. Delaney talked about what she went through from getting the part.

“Because getting ready for a show takes up a huge chunk of time, I knew that my schedule would need some rearranging from the moment I accepted the role,” Delaney said. “Maintaining schoolwork and other school activities on top of rehearsals became difficult at times, but I loved rehearsing with the cast and getting to know the other actors and everything.

Just her routine before a show takes a long time.

“I get to the theatre an hour and a half before the show starts and do my hair, makeup and listen to techno music to get my energy up,” Delaney said. “I’ll warm up my vocals and move around
a bit just so I don’t look stiff on-stage and sometimes I write in my character journal about what Martha did prior to entering the first scene she appears in of Act One.”

In the end, it may have been laborious for everyone, but they still managed to take away something.

“From The Children’s Hour, I’ve taken away an amazing experience,” Delaney said. “Working with the cast and Donn Youngstrom has been an amazing opportunity and I’ve loved every minute of being a part of this production. The social messages contained within the play like that lies can destroy lives and relationships and the journey of self-acceptance can be a very tough one for some people, hold resonance now even though the play was written in 1934 and are also very important to me.”

Danica Riddick, who plays Mrs. Tilford, said the emphasis of the show is on the lie.

“Professor Youngstrom wanted us to focus in on the lie as it can just devastate lives,” Riddick said.

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