Director’s Corner: Doubt

Director’s Corner

 

Director Steve Marston literally lives the WCT experience, from top to bottom. In recent weeks he can variously be found presiding over meetings of the WCT Board of Directors as its President, turning his contractor skills to rebuilding the WCT stage and installing innumerable other crucial improvements to the playhouse, building the sets for the opening main stage production of 2020, “Doubt – A Parable”, and also filling the shoes as a first-time director for the show. Along the way, over the past six years he’s appeared on the WCT stage acting in 17 different roles. In a recent interview, Steve Marston took a moment to relax and hold forth with his provocative and timely views of the critical relevance of “Doubt – A Parable” to our country’s present social and political scene.

 

  1. First of all, what does it mean, a parable?
  2. A parable is a lesson, a simple tale meant to explain a larger story.

 

  1. And the lesson in this play?
  2. “Doubt – A Parable” is a rather simple story of a Catholic school in the 1960s, and yet it’s also about the larger story of change and our inability to accept it or our reluctance to entertain opposing views.

 

  1. In 2005, the play won both the Pulitizer Prize for drama and the Tony Award, so it must have been very relevant for its time.
  2. It’s still relevant, maybe even more so. Today we see a lot of people in doubt about religion and our politics. We see some even questioning whether the structure of the church is relevant any longer, or perhaps in need of adjustment. I feel that something must come of these questions instead of everyone turning a blind eye to change.

 

  1. Let’s talk about the play itself and how it’s structure raises these questions.
  2. Father Flynn is young and is witnessing change in the Catholic Church in the 1960s. He sees where the Church after centuries is starting to change. He’s into it being more open. Sister Aloysius is very much old school and very rigid, so there’s the conflict. Meanwhile, Sister James is riding the fence. She wants to be a good nun but she too believes in being open with her students.

 

  1. So what is the gist of the drama?
  2. Flynn gives a sermon that is about doubt. Sister Alyosius questions the sermon. Is he in doubt; she’s certainly not in doubt. Then something happens with one of the young students. An altar boy caught drinking wine. Flynn lets it go, because he doesn’t want to take the boy off the altar assignment. The boy is also the first black student in the school. So Father Flynn really doesn’t want to sacrifice him.

 

  1. Sounds like the situation is fraught from the beginning?
  2. Yes. Sister James has noticed something odd about the boy’s demeanor. The idea comes up that Flynn is protecting the boy somehow. Sister Aloysius immediately assumes he may be abusing the child. They all have a discussion, and it’s very clear what happened. Sister James feels it’s cleared up, but Sister Aloysius isn’t believing any of it, at all. So the boy’s mother is called in.

 

  1. Wow. I’m sure the action becomes even more fraught with the mother’s presence?
  2. Absolutely. This play is about a conflict of culture, a conflict of morality, a conflict of how the church works. The play ends and the audience is effectively left wondering what happened. Doubt is woven throughout. With the question, what do we do with our doubt?

 

  1. The challenge of facing our doubts and opposing views feels pertinent today?
  2. Certaintly it’s a play about the conflict between religion and church policy. But it’s also about societal and even political beliefs, especially when it comes to the opposing sides of an issue.  The issue becomes how they each view their own beliefs. In today’s world, a lot of us are asking the same questions that we see raised in the play. There’s presently in our country a lot of hardline and intractable defensiveness on all sides. So these questions come to us. Have you ever come to a point where you are actually unsure of your beliefs? It’s the question the play asks of its audience, to think, to engage in doubt and the questions about positions on societal issues.

 

  1. You sense that the playwright Shanley intended this result from his work?
  2. I quote Shanley himself about why he wrote the play. “Have you ever held a position in an argument past the point of comfort?” “Have you ever defended a way of life you were on the verge of exhausting.” “Have you ever given service to a creed you utterly no longer believed?” These are the questions we’re looking at in the production.

 

  1. You must feel good that the play wants us to address these key issues of the our times?
  2. Not so much the issues themselves, but our approach to the issues. I personally feel that a hardening of an individual’s beliefs is not good. It only creates further suspicion toward others of an opposing view. Instead, if we could all take a moment and realize how close we are to each other. And how this argument, this wall we have put up, is so much  bigger than who we are. This is our society, our future.

 

  1. The relevance of the play must therefore be about stepping outside our comfort zones?
  2. The current situation and the play’s relevance show us to be a society in doubt. We’re not a unified society. While we tend to be very self-assured individually, we’re unsure of ourselves as a society where opposing views are becoming all the more entrenched. The play tells us that feeling and understanding our doubt is a way of entering the present. We feel doubt like it’s a weakness, rather than showing us the ability to look at all sides.

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