Photo by Katie Kurka
BY ELLEN KOESTER
Last week, the newly renamed Coleman Studio was turned into a Catholic school from 1964. A pulpit stood against one wall with an archway and garden against the other. In the middle was the principal’s office where most of the action took place.
For the first show of the season, the Drake Theatre department put on a production of the controversial religious drama, “Doubt,” written by John Patrick Shanley and directed by Michael Rothmayer.
“Doubt” follows the story of an accusation and its aftermath. A nun becomes suspicious of a priest who spent time alone with one of the school’s more vulnerable students.
Sister Aloysius, played by senior Ruby Carlson, goes to drastic lengths to get Father Flynn, played by senior Zachary Decker, transferred out of the school.
“She’s not doing ‘innocent until proven guilty,’” Carlson said. “Up to the very end of the show, she doesn’t have the proof, but she has her certainty. Is having that certainty enough to validate what she does?”
Much of the beauty of the character comes from what the audience does not see. Carlson said she really tried to imagine what the nun had lived through, from the roaring ‘20s to the Great Depression to World War II.
“She’s devoted her life to the church and the students,” Carlson said. “She really wants to protect these kids from all the harsh realities she knows about the world.”
By trying to protect the students, however, the character comes off as very strict and rigid.
Sophomore Grace Sopko plays another nun, Sister James. Her character plays is a foil to Sister Aloysius, as James is much more reluctance to confront Father Flynn.
“Her character arc is really fascinating because she undergoes the most change of all the characters,” Sopko said.
A main point of tension in the play comes from the conflict between Sister James and Sister Aloysius.
Aloysius goes to great lengths with her suspicions, even calling in the mother of the student in question.
Mrs. Muller, played by junior Madeline Jones, only appears for one surprising and memorable scene but does not give the audience enough evidence to decipher Flynn’s guilt or innocence.
Father Flynn himself is more like Sister James. He is following the way of the Vatican, which began to be more open-minded around the time of the play.
“He’s a relatively young priest in the grand scheme. He’s more on the progressive side of religion and less about inflicting rules and more about accepting everyone,” Decker said.
Flynn is a more tolerant character faces very serious accusations.
Like Aloysius, almost everyone on stage and in the audience has doubts over the innocence or guilt of Father Flynn. In fact, no one knows whether or not Flynn did anything wrong except the actor playing him.
“The director said that I have to make a choice whether Flynn was innocent or guilty and I can’t tell anyone,” Decker said. “That was pretty difficult, having to keep a secret this entire time.”
Only two people in the world actually know for sure if the priest is guilty or not: the play’s author and one of the first actors to play Father Flynn.
“It’s a show that doesn’t have an end. You don’t know what happened as there’s not enough evidence for either side,” Sopko said. “If people don’t walk out discussing it and disagreeing, we didn’t do our job.”
All the actors agreed that they wanted the audience to talk about the play. Even among the stage crew, there was quite a bit of disagreement about the culpability of Father Flynn.
“You don’t get a clear answer,” Carlson said. “You have to find your own truth in the show.”
It is not an easy thing to do. As Sopko said, there is equal evidence for either side. There is strong evidence that Father Flynn did do it and also that he did not.
“It’s dead even,” Sopko said. “You just have to have faith in your own answer.”