Document Type



Theatre, Speech & Dance

Journal Title

Stage Directors and Choreographers Society Journal Peer-Reviewed Section

Pub Date

Spring 2020


Emily A. Rollie and Ann M. Shanahan


SDC Journal

Place of Publication

New York, NY

First Page



In the eighteen years between the play’s opening at the Maxine Elliot Theatre and 1952, Lillian Hellman’s 1934 version of The Children’s Hour undergoes a dramaturgical evolution. As Hellman evolved as a playwright and queer woman, she revisits the play several times, altering character attributes and modifying content. In Pentimento: A Book of Portraits (1973), Hellman describes this process of revision as pentimento writing, “later choice[s], [are] a way of seeing and then seeing again” (309). Hellman’s amendments were the inspiration for the conceptual approach used in the 2018 William & Mary Theatre production of The Children’s Hour—a framework grounded in performative practices within Black Theatre. Paul Carter Harrison states that Black Theatre is a ritual that, “Illuminates the psychic force of symbols in the invisible world which nurture our reality” (Harrison 1989, xx). From a West African perspective, the invisible force permeating The Children’s Hour is rooted in Ọya, the energy of change and transformation. This essay outlines my approaches to reading, casting, and staging the work the using the aesthetics of Ọya and discusses how my reimagining of Hellman’s work, not only illuminates the spiritual forces in operation within the world of the play and key aspects of its dramaturgy, but also supports the idea of Black Theatre as a methodological practice.