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"Doubt": A Story of Faith

A recent production of the play allowed everyone from the audience to the director to feel uncertainty, which the playwright said requires more courage than does conviction.

What do you do when you’re not sure? What do you not do?

Those are among the questions tackled by "Doubt: A Parable," presented by Freed-Hardeman University theatre March 1-3. Directed by Mauricio Miranda, currently a graduate student in Bible, the short play was written by award-winning playwright John Patrick Shanley.

Set in an early 1960's Catholic school and church in the Bronx, "Doubt" explores the effects of accusation and suspicion upon the accused and the accuser.

Set in an early 1960's Catholic school and church in the Bronx, "Doubt" explores the effects of accusation and suspicion upon the accused and the accuser. Sister Aloysius, headmistress of the school, strongly suspects Father Flynn, a priest, of molesting a young boy at the school. A younger nun, Sister James, actually reports what she has seen but is less sure the boy has been molested. Flynn denies the accusation. In addition to child molestation, the play touches on themes of racism and homosexuality.

The issue of guilt or innocence is never resolved. The audience leaves the play not knowing the truth of the accusation. Three out of the four characters in the play also have doubts. Only the priest knows whether he is innocent or guilty. And, according to his director’s instructions, he could change that with each performance. Neither the other actors nor the director knew on any given night which he had chosen, but they had to adapt to his portrayal for that performance.

Steven Laden, cast in the role of Father Flynn, says he came from a background of questioning, but that the play taught him empathy and not to rely so much on your certainties.

Steven Laden, cast in the role of Father Flynn, says he came from a background of questioning, but that the play taught him empathy and not to rely so much on your certainties. "Leave room for other options," he said. A Bible and psychology major, Laden believes theatre, and this play in particular, showed him how to deal in a human way with someone who has problems.

Miranda, a native of Lima, Peru, has a B.A. in Bible and theatre performance from FHU. He worked in New York City as a youth minister and in theatre before returning to FHU to work on his master's degree.

Laden had strong praise for his director, calling him "great." "He hit the right balance between leading actors toward his vision and giving them freedom to develop their character," he said.

Playwright Shanley, a product of parochial schools, believes doubt requires more courage and more energy than conviction. "You may come out of my play uncertain. You may want to be sure. Look down on that feeling," he said. "We've got to learn to live with a full measure of uncertainty."

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