On directing ‘Bad Seed,’ a thriller about an evil child, at Rockville Little Theatre

Director Pauline Griller-Mitchell: ‘It’s been interesting to see how many children start off as bullies and turn into serial killers.’

Prior to the run of Rockville Little Theatre’s production of Maxwell Anderson’s thriller Bad Seed (January 28 through February 6, 2022), the director, Pauline Griller-Mitchell, answered questions about the show.

Have you directed for RLT before?

Yes. My last project for RLT was The Diary of Anne Frank in 2018.

What drew you to directing Bad Seed?

Over the years I’ve become aware of more and more horror stories of children killing children. The original movie fascinated me so that when I was able to submit a proposal to RLT for the stage version, I took it. I was excited to be offered an opportunity to direct the play. Also, I’m an avid watcher of Law and Order – Special Victims. It’s been interesting to see how many children start off as bullies and turn into serial killers.

Morgan Slattery (Rhoda) and Lizzie Bartlett Holman (Christine Penmark) in rehearsal for ‘Bad Seed.’ Photo by L.W. Andruski.

It must have been difficult to cast and direct a show during the COVID-19 pandemic. What precautions has the company taken to be safe and still prepare to do a show?

From day one, the RLT Board, headed by its president, Laura Andruski (who is also the producer), made sure that strict covid protocols were observed. With the latest surge of the omicron variant, we’ve adopted even stricter controls and will continue to do so. Everyone in the cast and the production team has provided proof of vaccination, and with the advice to move from paper masks to N95 or KN95 masks, most of us are now wearing those. RLT is also adopting stricter rules for the audiences. It’s certainly been a challenge, but having come so far we want everyone to feel safe with all of us.

Pauline Griller-Mitchell. Photo by L.W. Andruski.

COVID issues aside, what have been some of the special challenges to directing this play?

First and foremost, finding the right young girl to play Rhoda. We were extremely lucky to have 12-year-old Morgan Slattery audition. She’s been a delight to work with! Morgan’s taken to the role like a duck to water, and her portrayal of Rhoda will amaze our audiences. I think one of the other big challenges is that this is a very wordy play. There’s a lot going on within the story, and it’s not a play that calls for a lot of movement. Keeping up the pacing and not allowing scenes to drag has been a definite challenge.

What do you hope audiences will take away from seeing this production?

Over the course of our rehearsals, the cast and I discussed whether or not a child could be genetically disposed to be evil — could anything have been done to prevent this terrible tragedy? We did discuss that parenting in the 1950s was very different from parenting in today’s world. Parents today, one would hope, would talk to or seek professional help for their child if abhorrent behavior was brought to their attention. It’s pretty clear from early on in the play when Miss Fern is discussing Rhoda’s behavior with Christine that Rhoda is not the perfect little girl Christine thinks she is. What would our audience members do in a similar situation?  A  good discussion to be had after leaving the theater.


The story of Bad Seed is one of realization and dawning horror. Christine Penmark seems to have it all: a loving husband, a beautiful home, and the perfect daughter, Rhoda. But when a child drowns under suspicious circumstances, the whole town starts to speculate about what really happened. Was it truly an accident? Was it a classmate? Who knows more than they are telling? Christine’s secret past is revealed and the fear grows to a chilling finale in this psychological thriller.

Bad Seed will play from January 28 to February 6, 2022. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM. Individual tickets are $22. Group rate discounts are available (10 or more tickets). All performances are at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre located on the grounds of the Rockville Civic Center Park, 603 Edmonston Drive, Rockville, MD.

Tickets are available through the Fitzgerald Theater Box Office at (240) 314-8690 or by visiting.rockvillemd.gov/382/F-Scott-Fitzgerald-Theatre. Box Office hours are 2 to 6 PM Tuesday through Saturday. For additional information, call Rockville Little Theatre at (240) 242-9735.

COVID Safety: Due to the city mask mandate, face coverings are mandatory for all visitors to Rockville facilities. The requirement applies to all staff and visitors aged 2 and older, whatever their vaccination status. Face coverings may be removed only temporarily for eating, drinking, and presenting to an audience.

RLT’s COVID-19 vaccination policy: All patrons will be required to present evidence at the theater that they are fully vaccinated with an FDA- or WHO-authorized vaccine and present a government-issued photo ID or school-issued ID (photo not required). Contact RLT for questions or concerns at RLT-online.org.

Interview by Laura Andruski


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