North Texas Daily

Stage production of “Doubt” explores controversial themes

Stage production of “Doubt” explores controversial themes

September 07
21:56 2014

Rhiannon Saegert / Senior Staff Writer

Four theater students will navigate a web of ambiguity and clashing motives this month when they perform “Doubt: A Parable” by John Patrick Shanely.

“Doubt” is set in a fictional Catholic elementary school in the Bronx. The plot is set in motion when the school’s principal suspects a priest of sexual misconduct with the school’s newest student, the first black child to enroll.

Stage production professor and director Andy Harris said he chose the play for practical reasons, but also felt the timing was appropriate.

“It’s set in 1964, and that’s a significant date for us now that we’re in 2014. We just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act,” he said. “In addition to that, the issue of pedophile priests has not gone away.”

“Doubt” will run September 25-28 in the RTFP Studio Theater. Shows will start at 7:30 pm, with a 2 p.m. showing on Sept. 27 and 28.

The script was adapted into a film starring Meryl Streep and Phillip Seymour Hoffman in 2008. Harris said the film is a faithful adaptation but a very different experience than the stage play.

“The play is actually much more controversial and it’s more ambiguous,” Harris said. “It’s not clear in the play who’s right and who’s wrong. The movie, because it’s visual, you get to see certain things you only hear about in the play. The play is more issue-driven; the movie is more about personalities.”

The play only has four characters whose conversations and descriptions let the audience know what is happening without being completely objective or spelling anything out.

“I think this is a very tense play,” RTFP major Nick Canon said. “All these characters have something they want and they’re all pulling against each other.”

Canon plays Father Flynn, the new priest who is described as more relaxed and personable than the school’s principal, Sister Aloysius. He said he researched Catholic beliefs and traditions to better understand his character.

“I think there’s a tendency to play a character like that too rigid, too formal. The kind of person he is is very friendly and approachable,” Canon said.

Theater Senior Lauren Belmore plays Aloysius, the principal of the school who suspects Father Flynn.

“She has a very strong Catholic background and is very set in the old ways of the church,” Belmore said. “She’s very resistant to change.”

Belmore said she was able to draw from her own background to portray Aloysius.

“I had a pre-conceived notion of what a strict nun was,” Belmore said. “I was raised in a Catholic family. She’s very stern, strict, very grounded. She has an image to maintain as one of the last members of the old church and she doesn’t want that to die with her.”

Theater senior Amanda Hopkins said her character, Sister James, begins the play as a wide-eyed and innocent foil to Aloysius, but she finds herself questioning everything as the situations become less and less clear.

“She wants to use teaching to enhance students’ lives,” Hopkins said. “Her world gets turned upside-down in the world of the show, and her character sort of changes.”

This will be computer science junior Brianna Richardson’s first production at UNT. Her character, Mrs. Muller, is the mother of the student who may have been molested by Flynn.

“She’s had a hard life,” Richardson said. “Her one purpose, she feels, is protecting her son at all costs. She would go to extremes, unacceptable extremes in some societies, to do what’s right for her kids.”

Tickets will go on sale Sept. 11 and can be purchased Monday through Friday 1 p.m.-5 p.m. and one hour prior to curtain.

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