SM East theatre tackles challenging material with ‘The Children’s Hour,’ debuting Thursday

The cast of SM East's production of "The Children's Hour."
The cast of SM East’s production of “The Children’s Hour.”

Shawnee Mission East’s theatre department on Thursday will unveil its production of a challenging play that has taken its cast and crew more than two months to prepare.

“The Children’s Hour” centers on an all-girls boarding school, and tells the story of what happens when a runaway student tells her grandmother that the two women who run the school are involved in a homosexual relationship.

Though the play is relatively tame by modern standards — “It was written in 1934, after all,” said SM East theatre director Brian Cappello — the East crew has attached a “for mature audiences” label to the production.

“The play is done by high schoolers, so it’s not unprecedented,” he said. “But it does deal with homosexuality and there is so adult subject matter, so we don’t want people to think that, because of the title, this is something geared toward kids.”

Unlike some of the highly stylized material covered by SM East students in previous years, like last year’s “Plan 9 from Outer Space,” this year’s play is a focused character study that forces its actors to master their craft.

“This is a true realistic play, and we haven’t done one of those in a while,” he said. “We’ve done hours of character work, and it’s been fun to see the kids progress. There are a lot of subtleties they have to master. Plays are told by the little things.”

SM East will stage the play at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the Dan Zollars Auditorium.

Tickets for The Children’s Hour are $7 for non-students. Admission is free for students who can show their student ID. Tickets will be on sale beginning at 6:30 p.m. prior to the 7 p.m. show.  Tickets are also being sold at SM East during lunch on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Check out more on the history of the play below:

“The Children’s Hour” – Intriguing History Behind East’s Fall Play from joni cobb on Vimeo.