UI Theatre’s first mainstage performance of the season to open with tragic play, ‘The Children’s Hour’

The University of Iowa’s first mainstage play of the fall semester will be ‘The Children’s Hour’ — a heavy play with themes of LGBTQ tragedy.


Grace Kreber

Photos from the dress rehearsal on Tuesday Oct. 4, 2022. The University of Iowa Department of Theater Arts The Children’s Hour a play by William Hellman and directed by Ann Kreitman. The play will be preformed on Oct. 7,8, 12, 13, 14, 15 at 8 p.m. at Mabie Theatre in the University of Iowa Theatre Building.

Ellie Heeren, Arts Reporter

“The Children’s Hour” is a play written by Lillian Hellman in 1934 — a time when people couldn’t write queer stories with happy endings.

The University of Iowa Department of Theatre Arts plans to produce “The Children’s Hour” as the first mainstage performance of the season. The play will be performed at the E.C. Mabie Theater in the UI Theater Building on Oct. 7-9 and 12-15.

The play takes place at an all-girls boarding school, and one of the students accuses her two female teachers, Karen Wright and Martha Dobie, of having a love affair. The teachers must navigate through the scandal and deal with the consequences.

Ann Kreitmen, a graduate student at the UI, often focuses on stories with LGBTQ+ themes. She will direct the production as the thesis for her MFA.

“We’ve been doing a deconstruction of this play to see how we can think about it differently, so if people are familiar with the play, if they’re not familiar with the play, I hope this provides kind of a new lens or a new take on it,” Kreitman said.

One of the challenges Kreitman discovered while directing the play was trying to think about shaping the piece to communicate the message they wanted without changing the play itself.

Lead actress Olivia Foster, an MFA student at the UI, will play Karen — one of the teachers caught up in the scandal at the all-girls school.

“Anne’s been really creative, and the play is kind of boring by itself, it’s very old,” Foster said. “Karen is written as a very quiet, kind, timid person, but we’ve transformed that, which has given us the freedom to explore what else our characters can give besides what’s written on the page.”

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Foster said she is excited for people to be moved and hopefully see themselves in some characters, ideally challenging the viewer to consider their own lives and those lives that constitute the LGBTQ+ community. Foster described Karen’s character as complex. She is a woman who knows what she wants and has no idea what she wants at the same time, yet has fantasies of what could be.

Bethany Kasperek, another MFA student at the UI and the set designer for the play, said productions like “The Children’s Hour” usually have a traditional living room setup, but they took a different direction for the UI’s rendition.

“I’m just really excited about how the actors play on a not-so-normal space, and then the integration of media design by Emily Berkheimer really adds like another pop to it which I’m really excited for the audience to see,” Kasperek said.

Kasperak challenged herself to design the set non-traditionally, working with the other designers in order to do that. Overall, she wanted to make this different from other productions of this play.

“The goal is not to change it into a happy ending, but what we have of LGBTQ+ history contains a lot of trauma,” Kreitman said. “So, how do we learn it, but create a positive future for ourselves?”