While “The Hours” offers a window into ordinary life, it also explores the intricacies of human existence through three different perspectives, each within the span of one day.
“The Hours,” a play adopted from Michael Cunningham’s eponymous novel, integrates three different periods in contemporary history from the complicated narratives of three different women — Virginia Woolf in 1923 England, Laura Brown in 1949 Los Angeles and Clarissa Vaughan in 1999 New York City. The play explores the three women’s mortality and relationships to the constraints placed by the societal roles that they inhabit, all while grappling with the complexities of existence. The play will run this Thursday and Friday in the Hopper Cabaret.
“I’ve always truly loved the novel ‘The Hours,’ so having the opportunity to work on this show in any respect has been such a privilege,” said Sarah Schlick ’18, the play’s dramaturg. “Michael Cunningham’s writing is astonishing, and so really I think that this production is just working to do justice to his beautiful book and to the lives of these three deeply important women.”
Schlick said that the play, which she described as presenting “stunning meditations” on what it means for women to seek more meaningful lives, is related to Woolf’s iconic novel “Mrs. Dalloway,” which details a day in the life of a London woman as she organizes a party. “The Hours” also presents its trifecta of women within the span of a single day, stressing the troubling everyday aspects present within ordinary life.
While the original novel was adapted as a film in 2002, Schlick said adopting the novel for theater presented a new challenge, as it has never been professionally staged. She said the team has to tackle the question of how to translate the novel into the theatrical medium as well as how to fully actualize the characters in such a context.
Schlick added that the play illuminates the differences in the characters’ social environments. Highlighting these nuances leads to a more distinct and vibrant stage performance, she said, as the same actors play different roles throughout the three periods.
The breadth of these time periods compelled the team to find succinct and coherent ways to represent the thread between the different years and their respective inhabitants. Just like Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, the team has to process a daunting wealth of information about the characters’ lives and preoccupations, adding to the difficulty of the performance.
Maxine Dillon ’17, the play’s stage manager, said she finds a lot of satisfaction in helping the show through all of its technical requirements due to the script, including props, costumes and set design.
“Certainly, one of the challenging parts about theater is how unpredictable it can be, but that’s certainly an exciting aspect,” Dillon said. “It gives us the chance to try new things and grow into the work.”
The original novel, “The Hours,” won a Pulitzer Prize in 1999 and the 2002 movie adaptation was nominated for nine Academy Awards.