JENNA-LEY HARRISON, STAFF WRITER
East Lincoln High Schoolâ€™s drama program presented its first performance of the year Thursday night with a production thatâ€™s been labeled one of the â€œraciestâ€ scripts in school history.
The Childrenâ€™s Hour first hit movie screens in 1961 as Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine and James Garner brought Lillian Hellmanâ€™s controversial tale to life.
According to drama and choir teacher Brian McSwain, whoâ€™s been over both programs since 2005 and choir for much longer, the playâ€™s title is â€œa bit deceiving,â€ considering the storylineâ€™s adult themes of lesbian love and suicide.
Although he noted that his students often prefer productions with comedic elements, theyâ€™ve taken a liking to their current playâ€™s adult script.
â€œWeâ€™ve been known to push the envelope,â€ McSwain said.
McSwain likes to fit various types of productions into the school year and even had students perform Cinderella Wore Combat Boots the end of last year, a story that he called â€œpolar oppositeâ€ from The Childrenâ€™s Hour.
However, he doesnâ€™t characterize the adult script as offensive in nature and revealed how it never actually mentions the word â€œlesbian.â€
Throughout the school year, the drama class tries to perform at least one comedy, drama and childrenâ€™s tale among four total productions. Students began work on The Childrenâ€™s Hour the second week of class.
For senior drama student Rebecca Burgess, who plans to attend Gardner-Webb University next fall and take theater classes, The Childrenâ€™s Hour is the first play sheâ€™s ever directed.
The job required that she handle the casting, choose prop arrangement and color, run 80 percent of rehearsals and design most of the actorsâ€™ â€œblockingâ€ or stage movement, McSwain said.
â€œItâ€™s very nerve-wracking because you have to tell people how to say their lines,â€ Burgess noted.
However, McSwain had nothing but confidence and praise for his student director.
â€œSheâ€™s really taken this on as her responsibility,â€ he said. â€œSheâ€™s an incredible kid.â€
Burgess has been acting in East Lincoln drama productions since she was a freshman and noted that she may even have plans to become a high school drama teacher one day.
The six students whoâ€™ve been cast in The Childrenâ€™s Hour include seniors Chelsey Green, Zack Jensen and Bree Ayers-Cook and juniors Megan Bales, Stephanie Spittle and Kelsey Keeton.
For Green, being a part of the drama class means being a part of every production, whether itâ€™s in the limelight or behind the scenes.
â€œEveryone does something,â€ she said.
Green plays the part of Karen Wright, a teacher at an all-girls school who must endure the â€œirreparable damageâ€ caused by a studentâ€™s accusation that she and teacher-friend Martha Dobie, played by Bales, are gay.
Jensen, who plays Wrightâ€™s fiancÃ©e Dr. Joseph Cardin, enjoys acting, but heâ€™s also interested in following in Burgessâ€™ shoes and student directing a show before he graduates.
All costumes and props used for The Childrenâ€™s Hour were either purchased at Goodwill or accumulated by the drama program and picked up in various locations over the years.
â€œSometimes we take our principalâ€™s couch,â€ Bales said laughingly.
McSwain noted that the playâ€™s set and props were built in just two days.
â€œWe got that down to a science,â€ he said. â€œEverybody grabs a hammer and a drill.â€
Throughout the year, he most enjoys watching certain students â€œcome out of their shellâ€ after acting in front of their peers.
He particularly noted his admiration for a student who chose to take drama this year in order to overcome a speech impediment.
In addition, drama students noted how they become like family over time.
For Burgess in particular, drama class is her â€œsafe place,â€ somewhere that makes her feel accepted.
â€œItâ€™s such a diverse group,â€ she said. â€œYou get to know people you usually wouldnâ€™t.â€
Students are encouraging the public to â€œcome out and see the showâ€ and have no doubt that each nightâ€™s audience will be intrigued by the playâ€™s surprise ending and taboo topics.
Tickets can be purchased in advance or at the door. Adults are $10, students are $5 and teachers are free. Show time each night is set for 7 p.m. at East Lincoln High Schoolâ€™s
drama room. For more information, contact the school at 704-736-1860.