The Children's Hour - Audition Notice

The Children's Hour – Reading and Audition Notice


Reading:    Sunday 24th November, 6.00 pm (Foyer, Hampton Hill Playhouse)

Audition:   Sunday 1st December, 7.00 pm (Coward Studio, Hampton Hill Playhouse)

Performance Dates:  Sunday 16th March – Saturday 22nd March 2014


The Children's Hour, written by Lillian Hellman, was inspired by the 1809 true story of two Scottish school teachers whose lives were destroyed when one of their students accused them of engaging in a lesbian relationship.  At the time of the play's premiere (1934) the mention of homosexuality on stage was illegal in New York State, but authorities chose to overlook its subject matter when the Broadway production was acclaimed by the critics.  It is a drama set in an all-girls boarding school run by two women, Karen Wright and Martha Dobie. An angry student, Mary Tilford, runs away from the school and to avoid being sent back she tells her grandmother that the two head teachers are having an unnatural relationship. The accusation proceeds to destroy the women's careers, relationships and lives.

Although the children are aged 12 – 14 I will probably be looking for actresses in their late teens or very early twenties to play these roles.  

Primary characters (in alphabetical order)

Agatha (age 55-65)  A no-nonsense, middle-aged maid in the employ of Amelia Tilford. She is stern and straight-laced with Mary, who calls her ‘stupid’, although Agatha clearly sees through Mary’s deceptions. Agatha’s attempts to make the child into a ‘lady’ are frustrated by Mrs Tilford, who is deaf to the maid’s common-sense observations. Agatha also attempts to support Martha and Karen in their efforts to convince Mrs Tilford that Mary concocted her story to destroy the young teachers.

Dr Joseph Cardin (age 30 - 40)  Cardin is a relaxed and amiable doctor and Karen Wright’s fiancé. His casual dress reflects his warm, easy-going nature. He is also gracious and humorous and seems ideally suited to Karen.

Karen Wright (age25-35)  Karen Wright is Martha Dobie’s close friend and partner in the Wright-Dobie School. She is attractive, warm, and outgoing. She is admired and respected by her students, for whom she has a genuine affection. She is also an emotionally stable woman, at ease with herself and others.

Martha Dobie (age 25-35)  Karen Wright’s friend and co-owner of their school, Martha is about the same age and is described as ‘nervous’ and ‘high strung’ and is certainly far less composed and self-assured than her friend. It quickly becomes obvious that she greatly depends on Karen’s emotional stability and good sense to provide her with the confidence needed to make a go of their school.

Lily Mortar (age 45-55) Hellman describes Lily Mortar as ‘a plump, florid woman’.  She is Martha Dobie’s aunt and teaches at the Wright-Dobie School. A self-centred woman, she lives in romanticized delusions of her past triumphs as an actress. She is also vain and very susceptible to flattery, an easy patsy for a conniving student like Mary Tilford. She refuses to grow old gracefully, dying her hair and dressing too fancifully for her reduced circumstances.

Mrs Amelia Tilford (60s)  A wealthy widow, Mrs Tilford is a dignified woman in her sixties. She has been an influential supporter of the Wright-Dobie School, where her granddaughter, Mary, is enrolled. Although she is a fair and generous person, she lacks good judgment when it comes to matters concerning her granddaughter. She recognizes that Mary is both spoiled and manipulative, but she dotes on the child and is utterly blind to the girl’s vicious nature. 

Mary Tilford (12-14)  The spoiled granddaughter of Amelia Tilford, Mary is a problem child at the Wright- Dobie School. She appears ‘undistinguished’, but she is clever and used to having her own way with her doting grandmother. She also attempts to manipulate everyone at the school, resorting to a variety of tricks, including flattery, feigned sickness, blackmail, physical intimidation, and whining complaints.

Rosalie Wells (12-14) Rosalie, a student at the Wright-Dobie School, appears first in the hectic scene opening the play, having her hair badly trimmed by Evelyn Munn. Unlike Peggy and Evelyn, she is not cowed by Mary Tilford, whom she does not like.

Other characters

Helen Burton (12-14)  One of the girls at Karen and Martha’s school, she plays a limited role. It is her bracelet that classmate Rosalie Wells ‘borrows’, an act which allows Mary to blackmail Rosalie into confirming Mary’s lies about Karen and Martha. Helen is one of the first to be pulled out of the school when Mrs Tilford begins spreading the fiction that Karen and Martha are lesbian lovers.

Catherine (12-14)  Catherine is one of the students at the Wright-Dobie School. She appears only in the first scene, where she attempts to help Lois prepare for a Latin test. The Latin lesson contributes to the chaotic lack of discipline in Mortar’s classroom, revealing Lily’s incompetence as a teacher.

Lois Fisher (12-14)  Another of Karen and Martha’s students, she receives Lain tutoring from Catherine at the play’s opening, conjugating Latin in hectic counterpoint to Peggy Roger’s reading of Portia’s ‘Quality of Mercy’ speech from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice and Lily Mortar’s languid criticism. Like Catherine, she plays no significant role in the rest of the drama.

Grocery boy The unnamed grocery boy makes a very brief appearance in the last scene, carrying a box of groceries into the school’s living room. He is almost mute, but his puerile gawking and giggling are indicative of the damage done to the reputations of Karen and Martha as a result of Mary’s accusations.

Evelyn Munn (12-14)  One of the girls at the Wright-Dobie School, Evelyn is first encountered in the opening scene, in which she mangles Rosalie Wells’ hair with a pair of scissors. Evelyn, who lisps, is relatively quiet and timid. With Peggy Rogers, she overhears the conversation between Martha Dobie and Lily Mortar; the overheard conversation becomes the keystone in the malicious arch of lies that Mary Tilford constructs. Like Peggy, Evelyn is a victim of Mary’s intimidation, which, at the end of the first act, turns to physical abuse. When Mary attempts to extort money from Peggy, Evelyn tries to interfere and is slapped in the face for her efforts.

Peggy Rogers (12-14)  A student at the Wright-Dobie School, Peggy, like Evelyn Munn, is easily intimidated by Mary Tilford. She appears in the opening scene, where, under Lily Mortar’s tutelage, she tries to read Portia’s famous speech on the quality of mercy. Unimaginative, she shows little interest in Shakespeare.  Her grandest aspiration is to marry a lighthouse keeper. Peggy is with Evelyn when they overhear the fateful conversation between Martha Dobie and her aunt. Thereafter the pair confide in Mary, who immediately puts her malicious scheme into operation by extorting money from Peggy, who was saving it for a bicycle

I hope to see you all at the reading on Sunday 24th November at 6.00pm or the audition on Sunday 1st December at the slightly later time of 7.00pm (not as previously advertised).

If you are unable to make either of the above dates but would like to audition please feel free to contact me.

Dawn Lacey (Director)


Contact Details:  To get in touch with the director before the Reading/Audition, please use the Contact page of this website and your message will be forwarded.

NOTE:   We have an open casting policy:  anyone can audition for our productions and, if cast, will then be required to join as a Full Member. 




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