Struggle for Power Consumes Characters in ‘Doubt’

Senior theatre arts majors Stephen Tyler Howell, left, and Tonya Free will star in the award-winning play "Doubt" April 14-17 in UT Arlington's Mainstage Theatre. (Photo by Michelle Harvey.)

The power struggle between a nun and her priest is what drew director Dr. Natalie Gaupp to the award-winning play, “Doubt” — the story of a priest accused of abusing a student in a New York Bronx Catholic school in the early 1960s.

“Doubt,” presented by the Department of Theatre Arts, will open April 14 in the Mainstage Theatre and run through April 17. General admission tickets are $10, while tickets cost $7 for senior citizens, students with ID, and UT Arlington faculty and staff.

“What pulled me into [the story] was the power struggle within the play,” said Gaupp, Senior Lecturer. “The decisions that are made by the principal of the school [Sister Aloysius] aren’t based on objectivity as much as her ambition to administer in her school. She wants to hold the reins, wants to call the shots. She is a woman in a man’s world. What I find fascinating is the struggle for power between her and the priest, Father Flynn.”

Senior theatre arts major Tonya Free plats the part of Sister Aloysius while senior theatre arts major Stephen Howell performs as Father Flynn. Both students take on roles made famous by Meryl Streep and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, respectively, in the critically praised 2008 film adaptation. Playwright John Patrick Shanley wrote and directed the film version, which Gaupp said was “as true as you can get” to the original material.

Gaupp also said she didn’t dissuade her actors from viewing the film as they shaped their performances. “If they want to look at someone else’s performance, I don’t see that as being a huge problem,” she said. “A good actor is not going to try and become the puppet version of what was done before. They will go on and create their own.”

The stage version finds only four characters struggling with the issues and accusations. Rounding out the cast are junior theatre arts major Kathryn Ivey, who plays Sister James, a young nun caught in the middle of Sister Aloysius’ wrath, and Camialle Wesley, a senior theatre arts major, who performs as Mrs. Muller, the mother of the boy at the center of the controversy. Gaupp said the audience will witness a discovery of strength by some characters and an adherence to selfishness by others.

“It’s interesting to see how [the characters’] journey to become powerful people is often manipulated by the need to be right — even when it flies in the face of the facts,” she said. “We find out at the end, after all of these noble beliefs, the final decision was in the manipulation of powers. We see that Sister Aloysius is not as pure as the driven snow, but willing to observe her own agenda.”

Performances start at 8 p.m. April 14-16, and a 2:30 p.m. on April 17. For tickets/reservations, group rates, or further information, please contact the UT Arlington Department of Theatre Arts Box Office at (817) 272-2669.

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