Saturday, April 8, 2017

Behind-the-Scenes Look at Quotidian Theatre Company's Production of "Doubt: A Parable"

Quotidian Theatre Company will present Doubt: A Parable, the Pulitzer Prize-winning mystery drama by John Patrick Shanley, at The Writer’s Center from April 7 through May 7. In the interview below, director Stevie Zimmerman shares her unique approach to shaping the play, and also what makes it distinct among Quotidian performances.

Stevie received a Master’s of Arts Degree in Directing from the University of Leeds in England. In the Washington, DC area, she has directed performances for 1st Stage Theatre, Peterson’s Alley Theatre Productions, and Mclean Drama Company. Stevie is also a former Professor of Theater at The Hartt School in Hartford, Connecticut.

TWC: How did Quotidian select Doubt: A Parable?

S: Well, I didn’t choose it myself. Quotidian chose it. I think the impetus behind that was in part because it is a great play. The play is Doubt: A Parable by John Patrick Shanley. It has four main characters. The principle one is Sister Aloysius, who is a nun who runs a school for boys and girls in The Bronx. She has a pretty strict view of her role in the upbringing of these children and the importance of being the moral authority for them. Under her direction is a younger nun, called Sister James, who is a much more innocent, touchy-feely kind of nun who thinks the children should like her.  One of the rectory priests, Father Flynn, is also a teacher. Sister James comes to suspect that he is doing inappropriate things a boy, the only African American child in the school.

TWC: What are the central themes of the play?

S: I believe that there is no one message. That’s one of the reasons the play is called doubt. John Patrick Shanley actually said that he thinks there is a second act to the play—the play is presented in one act with no breaks. He believes that “Act Two” is what happens when you get in your car, go home, and as the questions: Who did what? Who knew what? What did they know and when did they know it? The production that I’m trying to end up with is one where there is no clarity. Undoubtedly, people will have very strong ideas one way or the other, but there is no clarity offered within the play. At the end of the play, we do not know for sure whether the nun is right in her suspicions, or the father is right in his protest of innocence. In terms of a message, I guess that it’s about the importance of being open to the possibility of doubt, being open to investigation, not being as clear-cut and decided as we tend to be.  You can apply that to what’s going on in politics; you’re either with me or against me.

Scene from Doubt: A Parable Rehearsal 

TWC: What is the most remarkable aspect of this piece?

S: I think the play is beautifully written. It’s really elegant. It’s not action-packed by any means, but each scene exposes a bit more about the story and each of the characters. What you learn is that everyone has a history. Everyone has their reasons for doing things. We all make choices in what we believe, what we don’t believe—the actions we take based on that. Most things come with a price. It kind of really makes you reflect on your our circumstances, even if they don’t seem to be directly related. It’s very easy to think,
“This is a play about two nuns and a priest in 1964. What could that possibly have to say about anything in my life?” I really think it does.

TWC: How is this play different from past Quotidian Theatre Company productions?

S: This is my first time working with Quotidian, but I’ve been to several of the shows, and I know they have a very loyal audience. I think Doubt fits in the company’s interest in strong writing within a realistic vein. There are four distinct stories within the characters in the play. Where it may differ is the fact that it doesn’t have clarity of ending.

Doubt: A Parable will run from April 7 through May 7, 2017. Members of The Writer's Center can purchase tickets at a special $15 dollar rate. Tickets can be purchased here. You won’t want to miss it!

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