8 The Compass Wednesday, March 4, 1998
Players’ talent shines
In February production
of The Children’s Hour
by Chenay Beamon
The University Players ignited
ECSU's Little Theater on Feb. 18 with a
smashing performance of Lillian
Heilman's The Children's Hour, directed
by Leon Rouson.
University Players newcomer Serena
Thompson gave a captivating portrayal
of Mary—a mischievous, spoiled, bossy
and evil child who inflicts havoc on
her teachers, peers and grandmother
because she is not happy at the Dobie
and Wright's School for Girls. Mary is
a conniving bully who lies, hits and
blackmails others in order to have her
The play opens just before examina
tions at the school. The girls are at
tempting to study while Mrs. Mortar
(Dorothy Wills) entertains the students
with a clip from her former acting ca
reer. Mary's manipulative nature is in
stantly seen as she comes in late and
talks her way out of leaving the
grounds in a fake attempt to bring Mrs.
Next Mary becomes agitated because
one of her teachers, Karen Wright (An
drea Harvey) arrives on the scene and
tells Mrs. Mortar that the flowers were
not gathered outside the grounds, as
Mary claimed, but found in the trash
Mary vows to avenge this act. She
pretends to faint, only to be resusci
tated and examined by Karen's fiance.
Dr. Jo Cardin (Shaunell McMillan), who
discovers that she is faking.
While Mary is being examined, Mrs.
Mortar and her niece, Martha Dobie
(Natalie VanHom), begin to argue be
cause Mrs. Mortar feels that Martha is
jealous of Dr. Cardin's relationship with
Karen. She also speculates that Martha
displays unnatural feelings for Karen,
and urges her niece to find a man of
her own. In the midst of their argu
ment, Peggy (Wanda Morgan), is dis
covered eavesdropping on the conver
sation with Evelyn (Leora Thompson)
and is discovered by the feuding pair.
In an attempt to flee from her private
school Mary blackmails Peggy and
Evelyn into revealing what Mrs. Mor
tar and Martha were arguing about.
Vicious Mary then spins evil lies and
rumors about the supposedly unnatu
ral relationship between her teachers,
Martha and Karen, in order to stay with
her grandmother, Mrs. Amelia Tilford
(Marsha Lynn Williams.)
Mary claims to her grandmother that
Karen and Martha make "weird noises"
together in their rooms at night. Mary's
grandmother then tells all the parents
that the teachers are lovers. Mary is
able to blackmail Rosalie (Stacy Brock)
and make her the scapegoat for her
own villainous lies.
Her lies disrupt the lives of Martha
Karen and Dr. Cardin as they are pulled
into a slander suit against Mary's
grandmother, Mrs. Tilford, which ends
with Martha's suicide. Ironically, be
fore Martha takes her life, she tells
Karen that maybe Mary's lie was "a lie
with an ounce of truth."
Driven by a taut plot and lots of sus
Eugene O'Neal photo
Andrea Harvey (at left), Serena Thompson and Natalie VanHom pose on the set of The
Children’s Hour, the Leon-Rousen directed play performed in February by the
pense. The Children's Hour is like a
volcano that builds up and explodes
with Mary's last words. The audience
is totally unaware of Martha's feelings
until the bitter end, before she rushes
into the kitchen and shoots herself.
One of the most memorable and riv
eting scenes occurs when Mary is in
terrogated by Dr. Cardin, Karen, and
Martha. In an attempt to rid Karen and
Martha of the cruel lies. Dr. Cardin asks
Mary what she actually witnessed as
being "unnatural" between her teach
ers. In a ranting rage, Mary claims she
witnessed Karen and Martha kissing
through a peephole, then convinces
everyone that innocent Rosalie was the
person who witnessed the kiss.
The Children's Hour s sparkles through
the contributions of veteran Univer
sity Players performers Shaunell
McMillan, Dorothy Wills, and Marsha
Williams. McMillan's superb perfor
mance reflects the work of a seasoned
actor. Wills' performance is also well-
done; her costumes and vivacious per
sonality enhance her eccentric behav
Williams is easily believable as the
role of a caring grandmother who only
wants the best for her malicious grand
Supporting players Catherine (Tif
fany Newell), Lois (Angela Burrus),
Janet (Stacy Brock), Leslie (Chaka
Ruffin) and Agatha (Dee Thompson)
turned in solid performances. The girls'
conservative jumpers with white shirts
added to the ambiance of the school.
Between acts, Aaron Grosjean played
Leon Rouson, director of For Colored
Girls in 1995, struck gold once again as
the director of The Children's Hour.
Delaney sister's lives span the 20th century
by Angela Burrus and Tiffany Newell
The ECSU Lyceum Committee's first
program of the year was a fitting trib
ute to Black History Month. The per
formance, Having Our Say, The Delany
Sister's First One Hundred Years, tells
the story of two African-American sis
ters' experience over the past century.
The play, performed Jan. 30 in Moore
Hall Auditorium, was based on the
Delaney sisters' 1993 best-selling book.
The sisters' vivid accounts of their lives,
which span an entire century, have de
lighted readers all over the world.
Sarah (Sadie) and the late Annie
(Bessie) Delany were two of ten chil
dren born of a mixed-race mother,
Nanny Logan, and Henry Beard
Delany, who was bom a slave. The
sisters spent their childhood in North
Carolina, and attended St. Augustine's
School. They later moved to New York
City. There Bessie became a dentist and
Sadie was the first black domestic sci
ence teacher in the New York City Pub
lic School System.
Sadie, the elder sister, played by
Amentha Dymally, was the soft
hearted, good Christian girl. Bessie, the
younger sister, was portrayed by
Sharon Hope as a spunky spitfire.
"Sadie's the sugar and I am the spice,
" said Bessie.
Overall, the two contrasting charac
terizations made the play entertaining
and humorous. Their vividly comical
expressions and witty statements made
the audience feel like welcomed guests
in their home as the sisters told their
In one especially memorable scene,
during their days at St. Augustine,
Sadie recalled the time the two sisters
were scolded for walking in town by
themselves. An embarrassed Bessie
excused herself from the room as Sadie
continued the story.
Sadie recalled how she suggested
that they not cry while being spanked
by their father. Bessie, who took her
punishment first, agreed and did not
shed a tear. After Sadie saw the beat
ing her sister endured, she cried so
loudly her father stopped the punish
The sisters' folksy accounts of their
lives evoked a simpler time when reli
gion, and daily readings from the Bible
was a powerful force in shaping val
ues and keeping families focused. "I
thought it (the Bible) was the good
book," said Sadie.
Their father also taught his children
the importance of education, stressing
that "education makes the difference."
The sisters illuminated racial rela
tions as they discussed the hardships
endured by their maternal grandpar
ents for an interracial relationship. Al
though it was illegal for whites and
(See LYCEUM, Page 9)