Fairfax High’s upcoming play, “The Children’s Hour,” is about two teachers in a private school in 1930s New England. But when one student accuses them of having an affair with each other, chaos ensues.
“This piece is incredibly important in society nowadays because it tells a story of what a lie can do and how much it can consume a person’s life,” said junior Mikhail Goldenberg, the assistant director. “We want to make the audience ponder the power of words – plus peer and societal pressure – and, ultimately, how these things can affect someone’s mental wellbeing and lead to their downfall.”
With a cast of 55, show times are Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 21, 22, 23, at 7 p.m.; and Sunday, Nov. 24, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 via www.fxplayers.org or $15 at the door. Because of the serious nature of the play and its mature content, it’s not recommended for children under age 13, with parents’ discretion.
“The show focuses on the accusation about the teachers, which leads to both the audience and the teachers questioning what’s reality and what can be mistakenly perceived as reality,” said Goldenberg. “We’re bringing this vision of the play to life in the way we portray the characters’ contrast in tone and words in each scene, so that – as the show progresses – the audience won’t know what to believe.”
ONE OF HIS FAVORITE PARTS is when Mary – the schoolgirl who made the accusation – is telling her grandmother about what she saw and heard. “But the audience never finds out what she’s saying, so it’s left up to them to interpret,” explained Goldenberg. “It’s a critically pivotal moment of the show.”
It’s his first time directing, and he loves learning from Theater Director Erich DiCenzo. “I’ve found out how much purpose every, single decision has behind it to help the production go full-circle, and how much preparation goes into a show,” said Goldenberg. “It’s been an eye-opening experience.”
Portraying teacher Martha Dobie is senior Melissa Trivett. “She’s high-strung and nervous, and as a child, she was shielded from the world, so she’s pretty naïve,” said Trivett. “But she’s a good person and wants the best for her students.”
Enjoying her role, she said, “Martha’s a dynamic character with a lot in her past to explore. And every, single thing said to her, or that she says, builds up to the play’s final scenes, and it’s interesting to live through that.”
Trivett described Dobie as more innocent and naïve than she is and said they also process anger and sadness differently, so she must really put herself in her character’s shoes to play her. And she said the audience will be “enraptured” with the show, from the start.
“They won’t know where the story is going to go, and the actors’ talents will capture their attention and be a deeper cut than the audience will expect from high-schoolers,” said Trivett. “And some of the themes explored – lies, betrayal, secrets and identity – can be mirrored in modern-day life.”
Senior Kamila Adamczyk plays the other teacher, Karen Wright. The two educators were college classmates before opening a school together. “Karen is very poised, is engaged to a doctor and embodies the old-time ideals of a wife,” said Adamczyk. “She’s kind to her students and cares about them – even Mary who, at times, can be difficult. She only wants the best for them.”
Adamczyk “fell in love” with her character when reading this play and especially likes Wright’s caring nature. “Even those who don’t want the best for her, she wants the best for them,” said Adamczyk. “I found it tragic to watch her perfect life and plans crumble right before her eyes. And I enjoyed exploring the challenges of playing someone so sure of themselves and their destiny – and then having it all quickly taken away.”
She said the audience will like how the play makes them “feel so many different emotions, and the way it tugs at their heartstrings and makes them connect with the characters.”
PORTRAYING Wright’s fiancé, Joseph Cardin – who’s also Mary’s uncle – is sophomore Trevor Sloan. “He’s a happy man, makes sarcastic but funny remarks and jokes, and always tries to see the best in situations – even if he’s just ignoring the facts of the matter,” said Sloan. “He tries to be a good guy, although it doesn’t always work out, and stresses can change him.”
Sloan’s having fun playing Cardin because he’s previously played side characters and comic relief. “It’s a welcome challenge to play a more serious role,” he said. “The most interesting characters are the ones who aren’t outright villains but are flawed and react to situations the way real humans would. He gets angry and frustrated and says things he probably shouldn’t.”
Regarding the audience, Sloan said, “They’ll enjoy the language used by the playwright and how it’s almost poetry – and that’s a powerful, emotional statement. And this show will make them think about their own biases and actions.”
When DiCenzo became Fairfax’s theater director, seven years ago, the first FCPS theater production he saw was Langley High’s production of this same play. “I was taken aback by, not only the talent onstage, but the maturity in the execution of such dramatic content,” he said. “I’ve wanted to do this show since then, and it’s only now that the right cast has come along.”
“Each member has dived into the script with curiosity and intelligent interpretation of their individual characters,” continued DiCenzo. “This is our first, non-contemporary drama, so audiences may be surprised by our veer from lighthearted comedies and big, song-and-dance musicals. But it’s been an important, educational experience for the students, as well as for me, as a director.”