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'Children's Hour' Community Theater

Syntax Arts Society began life as the Cultural Activities Committee of the Hillhurst/Sunnyside Community Association. One of the first projects we initiated for the association was a presentation of Lillian Hellman's play "The Children's Hour" in 1981, in our community centre. The play was directed by Stephen Shipper, who is currently directing at Startford, and all parts were played by community residents.

Calgary Sun (Fri. Jan. 30, 1981)
by Louis B. Hobson

Lillian Hellman's The Children's Hour is a remarkable play. Even given an amateur production, It is a compelling, devastating piece of theatre.

Though the subject of lesbianism is no longer theatrically shocking, Hellman's portrayal and study of pure evil has few equals in contemporary scripts.

The Children's Hour is a difffcult and dangerous play for a fledgling company such as The Hillhurst/Sunnyside Community Theatre to produce. It is a play better left to professionals who have the craft to deal with the absolute realism Hellman demands. That this group did so admirably is due largely to the guidance and direction Steven Schipper has given it.

Schipper is a meticulous director who is able to create striking pictures on stage.

The opening scene, and other group scenes, are tableaus which, with just the slightest movement, are able to shift the entire emphasis from one character to another. More experienced actors would have been able to bring these tableaus to life with greater speed and agility.

Schipper's physical casting for the two teachers, whose lives are ruined by a malicious lie, could not have been better.

Lynee Purvis is frail and whispy as Karen Wright, and Jane Allison 1s strong and commanding as Martha Dobie. Purvis has difficulty entering a scene, but once she is in full swing she has some very powerful, convincing moments. Allison needs more varince in her character to create more tension.

Julie Stephens' frightened, manipulated Rosalie Wells and Catherine Quinn's flipant housekeeper are highlights of the production. Nancy Seeman, though undeniably effective, is not nearly evil enough to be truly despicable.

Sharon Bakker's guest cameo appearance as the meddling granndmother is a beutiful example of absolute control and understatement. It is the approach necessary to prevent the Children's Hour from becoming melodramatic.

The show should start lighter and funnier. It is too evident too soon that thls is going to be a raw and wrenching drama.

The show also needs quicker, tighter pacing throughout, not to make it work, for it is good solid theatre, but to make it soar and to make Hellman's aim as direct and deadly as it should be.