Reclaiming Women’s Expressive Rights: Japanese Adaptation of Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour


Lillian Hellman’s play, The Children’s Hour, with its implicit reference to lesbianism, has invited multiple interpretations. However, very little attention has been paid to how the play has been adapted outside the United States. The Children’s Hour was staged on Broadway in 1934 and made into a film twice: first in 1936, and then again in 1961, starring Audrey Hepburn. In Japan, the play was performed under the title Uwasa no Futari (“the couple people gossip about”) in 1980, taking its title from the 1961 Hepburn film that was released as Uwasa no Futari. What is interesting about this Japanese adaptation is the casting of the actresses who play the two heroines, Karen and Martha, who are accused of being lesbians. It premiered in 1980 featuring Ineko Arima and Yoko Minakaze, former couple stars of the all-female Takarazuka Revue theatre. Arima and Minakaze were female and male role players respectively in Takarazuka’s romantic musical productions. This casting, I suggest, added a deeper layer of complexity to the theme and tone of the Japanese version of The Children’s Hour. This paper argues that former Takarazuka actresses—who performatively unsettle the order of gender and sexuality—significantly changed The Children’s Hour from a tragedy of two women into a drama to reclaim women’s expressive rights. The Japanese adaptation, as I hope to show, can be read as a radical feminist play portraying women’s empowerment in a Japanese oppressive patriarchal context.

Author Information
Chiemi Aita, University of Tsukuba, Japan

Paper Information
Conference: ACCS2019
Stream: Feminism / Black Feminism

This paper is part of the ACCS2019 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon