Previews: THE CHILDREN'S HOUR at Allways Lounge

Two staged readings to be performed at Allways Lounge Twilight Room on May 12 at 7 p.m.

By: May. 11, 2023

Two staged readings focusing on women who love women will occur at the Allways Lounge Twilight Room on May 12 at 7 p.m. The rehearsed readings include "The Children's Hour," written by New Orleans native Lillian Hellman, and the short one-act "Something Unspoken" by Tennessee Williams.

The purpose of the staged readings is to gauge audience interest in the plays and build a possible team of collaborators on a project without the commitment of a full production, according to Director Jaclyn Bethany.

"So the focus is really on the characters and the text," Bethany said.

"The Children's Hour" takes place in 1930s Massachusetts at a girls' school, where a young girl accuses the two teachers who run the school of being lovers.

"This was in a time where homosexuality was not spoken of and considered entirely unnatural," said Bethany. "Many homosexual couples were persecuted under the sodomy laws in the United States."

"The Children's Hour" will be paired with a reading of Williams's "Something Unspoken." It follows the story of Cornelia Scott, who has a relationship with her secretary Grace which may or may not be romantic or/and sexual. Tensions come to a height while the Daughters of the Confederacy elections occur.

"They both deal with women being under fire for their sexuality," Bethany said. "And both female characters cannot comfortably speak or even act on it. Because of the subject matter, much of it is ambiguous. In both plays, the eroticism and homosexual nature of the relationship are hinted at subtly but has an entirely different context being performed today. We can express our sexuality, and these women did not. And many people today struggle with their sexuality for different reasons or their gender - the themes in these plays are timeless. If you think about it, these plays were written in the 1930s and 1950s - Lillian Hellman and Tennessee Williams were ahead of their time. Hellman's writing is quite brave for a woman at this time in America. She mounted the play successfully on Broadway, which was not easy."

The staged readings feature Fallon Goodson, Lauren Wells, Mary Stieffel, Sarah Schuler, Elizabeth Yeoman, Shelby Bradley, Ayla Miller, Lin Gathwright, Kaytlin Borgen, Violet Turnbough, Nadia Eiler, Berkeley Belle Rue, Logan MacRae and Brecken Ellis. Bethany had seen many of these women work in TV, film, and on the stage and felt the itch to create this opportunity and experience for them.

"I am grateful to all the women that responded to be a part of it and helped me put it together," Bethany said. "All of them are so talented and passionate; it has been amazing seeing the young high school actresses just as deeply engaged and passionate as the adults. I have done one show here and through that met who I will be acting with in "Something Unspoken," the very talented actor Lin Gathwright."

According to Bethany, working with Gathwright gave her the idea to expand the evening and include "The Children's Hour" because of the similar themes to "Something Unspoken."

"I think that these texts deal with important issues that are often glazed over because we are focussed on these types of experiences through the male gaze," Bethany said. "I want to highlight the struggles women have faced nearly 100 years ago that are still relevant today. I was surprised to learn not much of Lillian Hellman's work is produced here in New Orleans. She is from New Orleans. I think it's beautiful to uplift these works, writers and performers in a new, fresh way. This emotionally packed evening shouldn't be taken for granted or glossed over."

According to Bethany, she would love for this to be the first in a series of readings at Allways Lounge.

"Or just to continue making ensemble-based theatre derived from new interpositions of classics or more contemporary works," Bethany said. "I'd love to do a full production."

Bethany is a writer, actor and director. She is a graduate of the American Film Insitute with an MFA in Directing, MA an MA in Screenwriting at London Film School, and studied Theatre and Fordham University. Her theatre and film work has been screened and performed worldwide. She is the writer/director of feature films Indigo Valley (2020, Giant Pictures), Highway One (Santa Barbara Film Festival 2021 Critics Pick, Indican/Bohemia Media), The Falling World (Cinequest 2022), the Emmy award-winning digital series The Rehearsal (2020), and three upcoming feature films including Tell that to the Winter Sea (Kaleidoscope UK) co-written with Greta Bellamacina, to be released over the next year. Her work focuses on the complex female psyche and stories from the queer female-identifying gaze.

"I have done lots of films in the NOLA area in the past decade, but just as an actor," Bethany said. "I wasn't actively producing or directing my work, which I've been doing in different places and even countries for the past couple of years, so it feels so cathartic to bring that back to the South where I am from and get to know such beautiful performers. It feels like a rebirth of sorts. Although this is a reading and some parts are bigger than others, I tried to give each woman a voice. There is a can-do, all-hands-on-deck attitude here, which I think comes from the creative environment of New Orleans and each performer has gone above and beyond. I hope I get to work with all of them again."

Admission for the staged readings is $10. Tickets can be purchased at eventbrite.com/e/the-childrens-hour-something-unspoken-tickets-628804550337. The event will run for about two hours, with a brief intermission.



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