Interview: Producer of “The Children’s Hour”

Eleanor Metcalf 3 February 2014

Charlotte Chorley, second-year English student, talks to us about her experiences of being a producer in the Cambridge theatre scene. After producing her first show – Dustin Lance Black's 8 – last term, she is now producing Lillian Helman's The Children's Hour, showing at Pembroke New Cellars from Tuesday 4 – Saturday 8 February.

What exactly does being a producer entail?

I look after everything other than the actual acting itself: as soon as the cast step onto the stage, or begin acting, my role ends. So, publicity, props, room bookings, rehearsal schedules all fall under my jurisdiction: it’s kind of like being a child minder on a large scale and having an eye on what everyone is doing. It’s a lot of work, and a lot of organizing, but you really get to see the piece coming together.

How did you get into producing – has it always appealed to you?

I seem to have acquired a reputation for being organized, and my friend John King [director of 8] asked me to help produce 8 last term. I’d never really been into the theatre scene in my first year, but it was a great experience to be involved with the production without actually acting. I found that not being a ‘thesp’, during the audition process and with some of the directing, I could offer an alternative perspective. I was able to take the viewpoint of an audience member much more easily, and it really worked to balance out the theatrical and practical.

What sparked your initial interest in theatre?

I’ve always loved going to the theatre, and just escaping for a while – but I’d only ever been interested in being a spectator. It’s such a relaxing past time and it’s so cool that it is a viable alternative to a night out in Cambridge. I love just being able to drift into other worlds.

What about working on 8 inspired you to produce another show?

Seeing 8 come together, and witnessing the journey from John and I talking about the possibility of putting on a play to the final night where the entire cast had bonded and we’d been really successful, made it worth it and made me want to continue producing. Even though, at times, it can be really stressful trying to balance the play and my essays, the final product always makes it worth it. The cast is really incredible and talented and lovely, and it’s always so much fun working with them!

What are your biggest challenges as a producer?

Probably just the volatile nature of the life of a Cambridge student. Because it can get so hectic so quickly, people can’t really commit as securely as I, as a producer, would like. Rehearsal schedules are always subject to adaptation as you have to manage the lives of about 20 people. But you just have to keep going and make the best of what you have.

What do you hope people will take away from The Children's Hour?

Even though the play is decades old, I still believe it resonates with a modern audience. Childish spite and unrequited emotion are powerful themes to play with, and the complete manipulation of lives by lies is such a fascinating concept. The ending is also incredibly moving!