Hot off the heels of the College Players’ production of “Urinetown,” Executive Producer Sam Schwartz prepares to wrap up the first part of the student-run theater club’s season with “The Children’s Hour.”
San Francisco Foghorn: What is “The Children’s Hour” about?
Samantha Schwartz: “Children’s Hour” is a play by Lillian Hellman about two school teachers who run a boarding school for wealthy 13 year old girls. One of the little girls doesn’t like the fact that she is being punished, so she makes up a rumor that the two teachers are having an “unnatural relationship.” The play takes place in the 1930s at a time when homosexuality was simply not talked about nor was it accepted. The two women’s lives are destroyed by the vicious rumor and they become outcasts in their town.
SFF: Why did you want to direct it?
SS: It is such an important play that shows how female playwrights can take chances with the subject matter of their work. Hellman was an innovator and made strides for women in art. I felt like it was important to revisit such an important piece and really bring audiences back to a time when homosexuality was not even a word that was said out loud and a time when being homosexual would destroy your life.
SFF: What was the casting process like?
SS: We had a large casting session back in September. It was really difficult to cast a show with so many women to choose from. We are extremely lucky that we have so many women at USF that want to act, but it made my job difficult. Trying to narrow the selection down from over 30 women down to 12 was quite difficult. I feel truly blessed to have cast some really talented new faces and I was able to offer roles to women that haven’t performed here at USF before.
SFF: How has the cast worked together?
SS: The relationships are really developing nicely amongst the cast members. With such a shortened rehearsal period of only three weeks, it is often hard for a cast to bond. I’m really pleased with how well the actors seem to be getting along and we have two more weeks to continue to build these relationships. They are having a blast working with each other so I couldn’t ask for anything more.
SFF: When did you begin preparing for the show? What has the process been like?
SS: I have really been dreaming of this show since I was a freshman here at USF. Once it was selected last spring, I began dreaming about how this show could actually get on its feet. It has been a much harder process than I expected. Realizing that I only have $500 to work with has been a challenge. There is so much to buy! The show is also much longer than originally planned. I had expected to cut a good chunk of it and then decided that cutting it would be a disservice to the writing of such an amazing playwright. Not cutting the show means it takes more time to block and stage it. Plus I’m working with 12 women and one man. The larger the cast, the more time it takes to develop each character. I’m honestly loving every minute of it. There are some really complex relationships in the show and it makes each night of rehearsal very unique and thrilling.
SFF: How has directing “Children’s Hour” compared to directing the last show you did, “Medea Redux?”
SS: Directing “Medea Redux” was an incredible experience. It was a one woman show staring Ashley Stewart. Ashley was a terrific actor to work with and really made my job easy. She played a woman recently arrested and booked for killing her child. The play takes place during her confession of the murder. “Children’s Hour” has been much more challenging to direct. Though both shows have difficult subject matter, “Children’s Hour” is a much longer show with a much larger cast. As a director I really love to explore the character with the actor and really dig deep into the person they are portraying. That becomes more challenging when you have a large cast to work with.
SFF: What can we look forward to from you next semester?
SS: Next semester I will be overseeing “Vagina Monologues” and working on passing on the torch to the next executive producer. I’m also very excited to be working on the first annual College Players New Works Festival. The festival will be April 5 and we already have three spectacular artists presenting work. Everyone should come check it out!
“The Children’s Hour” will be performed Dec. 12 and 13, Friday and Saturday at 8:00p.m.
Studio Theater on Lone Mountain
Admission is FREE