Scenes for Young Females in "The Children's Hour"

A play by Lillian Hellman

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Finding acting scenes for 2 or more young females can be a challenge. E +

The Children’s Hour by Lillian Hellman has multiple scenes that feature only female characters, many of them young girls. The scenes are described below by identifying the characters, the line that begins the scene, and the line that ends the scene.  Evelyn Munn, Mary Tilford, Peggy Rogers, and Rosalie Wells are all young girls between the ages of twelve and fourteen. Karen Wright and Martha Dobie are young women—approximately 28 years old.

To learn more about the characters, settings, and circumstances, read this article“The Children’s Hour.”

Act I: 5 Scenes

1. Characters: Mary Tilford and Karen Wright

Karen Wright catches her pupil Mary in a lie about some flowers she says she picked for another teacher, Mrs. Mortar. Karen knows that Mary got the flowers out of the garbage can. She tries to get Mary to admit to her lie and understand why her continual lying is a problem. Mary does not back down and Karen issues her punishment.

Begins with:

Karen: “Mary, I’ve had the feeling—and I don’t think I’m wrong—that the girls here were happy; that they liked Miss Dobie and me, that they liked the school.”

Ends with:

Mary: “I’ll tell my grandmother. I’ll tell her how everybody treats me here and the way that I get punished for every little thing I do.”

(1 page long)

2. Characters: Mary Tilford, Karen Wright, and Martha Dobie

After hearing her harsh punishment, Mary claims to have heart pains and difficulty breathing.

Karen takes Mary to another room. Martha enters and she and Karen discuss Mary’s history of lying. They discuss some ways of dealing with this problem child and then their talk turns to another problematic female in the school—Martha’s aunt, Mrs. Mortar. (To see a video of a portion of this scene, click here.)

Begins with:

Karen: “Go upstairs, Mary.”

Ends with:

Martha: “You’ve been very patient about it. I’m sorry and I’ll talk to her today. And I’ll see to it that she goes soon.”

(2 pages long)

3. Characters: Karen Wright and Martha Dobie

When talk turns to how Dr. Joe Cardin is on his way to the school, Martha expresses surprise and annoyance as she learns of some decisions that Karen and her fiancé have made. Martha reveals some of the resentment she feels about the changes that Karen and Joe’s marriage will mean for her and for the school.

Begins with:

Karen: “Did you get Joe himself on the phone?”

Ends with:

Karen: “ You haven’t listened to a word I’ve said. You are not going on alone.”

(1 page long)

4. Characters: Evelyn Munn, Mary Tilford, Peggy Rogers, and Rosalie Wells

Mary expresses her anger over her punishment and declares that if she cannot go to the boat races, she will see to it that her friends cannot go either. Mary then pressures Peggy and Evelyn to tell her about an argument they overheard between Martha Dobie and her aunt. In the midst of this, Rosalie enters and Mary bullies her into following some orders she gives.

Begins with:

Evelyn: “Don’t do that. She’ll hear you.

Ends with:

Mary: “A lot of people don’t—they’re too ugly.”

(3 pages long)

5. Characters: Evelyn Munn, Mary Tilford, and Peggy Rogers

Mary announces that she is going to walk right out of the school without permission, go to her grandmother’s house, and tell her about her mistreatment by her teachers. She is out for revenge, but she needs money for a taxi ride, so she extorts it from her classmates. She bullies, threatens, and strikes them until they comply.

Begins with:

Mary: “It was a dirty trick making us move. She just wants to see how much fun she can take away from me. She hates me.”

Ends with:

Mary: “Go on. Go on.”

Act II:  1 Scene

1. Characters: Mary Tilford and Rosalie Wells

Rosalie has been sent to Mary’s grandmother’s house to spend the night. Mary threatens to tell what she knows about Rosalie’s possession of a classmate’s bracelet.

Mary frightens Rosalie by convincing her that if anyone knows she has the bracelet, the police will throw her in prison for years and years. Horrified and petrified, Rosalie gets Mary’s promise not to tell by swearing an oath to obey Mary.

Begins with:

Mary: “Whoooooo! Whoooooo! You’re a goose.

Ends with:

Rosalie: “I, Rosalie Wells, am the vassal of Mary Tilford and will do and say whatever she tells me under the solemn oath of a knight.”

(2 pages long)

Act III: 2 Scenes

1. Characters: Karen Wright and Martha Dobie

Karen and Martha lost the suit for slander against Mrs. Tilford. They have not left their house in eight days. They discuss their disgrace in the town and the toll it is taking on their spirits.

Begins with:

Martha: It’s cold in here.

Ends with:

Martha: “I won’t.

(2 pages long)

2. Characters: Karen Wright and Martha Dobie

Karen tells Martha that because Joe did think that the women had been lovers, she has broken their engagement. Martha is upset for Karen and, as the scene continues, she finally confesses to Karen, “ I have loved you the way they said.” Karen protests and tries to get Martha to stop what she is saying. Martha leaves the room and a few moments later, a gun shot is heard. (To see a video of this scene, click here.)

Begins with:

Martha: “Where’s Joe?”

Ends with:

Martha: “Don’t bring me any tea. Thank you. Good night, darling.”

(3 pages long)