FEB. 19, 2001

CONTACT: Mike Stepanovich, 661/664-2456, mstepanovich@csub.edu


Play to open at CSUB


A play that sparked controversy when it was first written and still packs a powerful punch today opens Thursday as the second play in California State University, Bakersfield's 2000-01 Theater Fest.

"The Children's Hour" by Lillian Hellman is scheduled for a four-performance run in CSUB's Dore Theater. The curtain rises opening night at 8 p.m., with performances Friday and Saturday night at 8 p.m., and a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m.

The play was originally written in 1934. It's about a spiteful child who, angry with a teacher at her school, spreads ruinous gossip. The lie she tells ultimately destroys the lives of all whom she is associated with.

The play was made into a movie in 1936, and again in 1961. The 1961 version starred Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacLain and James Garner.

"It's a powerful play that still has intense meaning nearly 70 years after its opening performance," said CSUB theater professor Anita Dupratt, who directs the play. "Hellman is a major American playwright known for her carefully crafted plays. The play also caused considerable controversy because of the implication that the two school teachers were lesbians.

"The play deals with the power of a lie and how a lie can destroy people's lives, and how we don't always know who we are," Dupratt continued. "Ironically the lie helps Martha, one of the two teachers, understand who she might potentially be. Mary, the child, says she's seen the two teachers kissing. That is a lie. Mary's grandmother makes the lie public, and the two teachers lose everything. Martha realizes she loves Karen, the other teacher, and might have the feelings the lie implies, but it's still a lie. It's one of those situations where we don't actually know where the truth is.

"'The Children's Hour' is an American classic, a tragedy. It's tragic because the lie has an ounce of truth. It's a very powerful play, and a powerful performance by some talented Cal State Bakersfield students. It's riveting."

The cast of CSUB students features:

· Katie Rose McGauhey as Mary, the girl who tells the lie.

· Mary Crane as Karen, one of the teachers.

· Sarah Martin as Martha, the other teacher.

· Alissa Morrow as Mrs. Tilford, Mary's gullible grandmother.

· Charles Pratt as Joe Cardin, Karen's fiancé.

· Morgan Leckie as Rosalie Wells, a schoolgirl drawn into the lie.

· Lauren Kirk as Mrs. Mortar, Martha's aunt.

· Patricia Boyles as a schoolgirl and maid.

· Lisa Eckman as a schoolgirl.

· Dorian Towns as a grocery boy.

· Heather Ennis as a schoolgirl.

· Adina Rubin as a schoolgirl.

CSUB theater professor John Swanson designed the set.

The powerful play has touched the actors, who see "The Children's Hour" as a challenge.

"It's a very powerful piece," said McGauhey, a sophomore. "I've never been involved in something of this caliber, so it's a challenge. It's less controversial now than in the time it was written, which makes it easier to put on. It's mostly about the power of a lie and how it affects everyone involved."

What does she think about Mary, the character she plays? "She's evil," McGauhey said. "I think she does what she does to protect herself. She doesn't tell the lie with the intent to cause trouble. She is more interested in saving herself. She just basically wants to get out of school, and pulls things out of nowhere to create this lie. She'll really just stop at nothing to get her way."

Crane, also a sophomore, agreed with McGauhey. "It's a powerful play, and definitely shows a lot of emotion," she said. "It's very draining, very hard. You carry off some of the emotions with you. You walk off that stage and want to go into a corner somewhere and cry for awhile because it's so powerful. It's a very intimate show."

Dupratt is delighted with her cast and with the growth of the theater arts program. "We have five new theater majors who, except for one, are from local schools," she said. "It's very exciting for us."

Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for students with ID, $8 for senior citizens, CSUB faculty and staff. The box office opens at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and at 1 p.m. Sunday. For more information, please call 661/664-3150.

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