Doubt, by John Patrick Shanely, has been lauded with accolades such as the 2005 Tony Award for Best Play, the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the New York Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play.

Doubt runs March 13 – 29 in the Johnson Theater at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, 505 Deaderick Street.

“Doubt is a finely crafted, richly textured script,” says René Copeland, producing artistic director for Tennessee Rep. “The craft and texture in the plot is in the almost delicate way it unfolds — you are led to understand what is going on by way of the perfectly natural and totally believable dialogue between characters, without a hint of heavy-handed exposition or contrived revelations. That’s harder to do than you might think.”

“What do you do when you're not sure?” Father Flynn asks the audience in the opening line of this play, setting the stage for a story of suspicion and moral certainty.

His colleague, Sister Aloysius, is an old-school nun who insists that her students not be coddled: “Every easy choice today will have its consequence tomorrow. Mark my words.” Flynn, following the Second Vatican Council’s directive, believes the clergy should be more accessible to the parish and be thought of “as members of their family.”

These two schools of thought come into direct conflict when Aloysius suspects Flynn of “interfering” with Donald Muller, the school's first black student. Sister James, an inexperienced but enthusiastic young nun who has been an indirect witness to the dealings between Flynn and Muller, is subsequently confronted by Aloysius, and the play's central conflict is set into motion.

Doubt is currently in production to be transferred to the silver screen, and Tennessee Rep is pleased to offer Middle Tennesseans a glimpse of what the movie may have in store. The screenwriter and director for the movie version of Doubt is none other than Shanley himself. In addition to his many accolades as a playwright, Shanley has dabbled in screenwriting before, most notably Moonstruck for which he received a best original screenplay Oscar.

The movie—tentatively to be released in late 2008—is certain to generate buzz based on its star-studded cast. Academy Award-winners Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep are set to play Father Flynn and Sister Aloysius, respectively, while up-and-comer (Academy Award nominee) Amy Adams will play Sister James. Viola Davis, a Tony Award-winner in her own right, will embody the role of Mrs. Muller.

Says Copeland, “One of the other wonderful things about the texture of the script is the revelation of character in the dialogue. You absolutely know who these people are by the way they talk—their word choices, the quirky things they may say, the rhythm of the sentences, the tone of their response to each other—a careful study of the dialogue will be the actor’s best guide to understanding their characters. Consequently, I think it will be really excellent to see what a good filmmaker and good film actors will be able to do with a movie version of the script. One of the advantages of our doing the show in the Johnson Theatre, which is the smaller black box theatre at TPAC, is the close proximity of the actors to the audience. So much will be contained in subtle nuances in the spoken word or the hint of a personal gesture that you can pick up better when you’re closer. So considering John Patrick Shanley’s experience with screenwriting, and the terrific lineup of actors on the movie project, I can imagine that it will translate in an exciting way to the screen, where everything is up close and personal.”

The cast assembled by Copeland is as impressive as that of the movie and features Rona Carter, Jessejames Locorriere, Jenny Littleton and Delali Potakey. As with all Tennessee Rep productions, Doubt reflects a local product, with local actors, sets that have been designed and constructed locally and costumes that were designed and crafted locally.

Performance Schedule:

  • Thursday, March 13, 6:30 p.m.
  • Friday, March 14, 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 15, 7:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, March 19, 6:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, March 20, 6:30 p.m.
  • Friday, March 21, 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 22, 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, March 26, 6:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, March 27, 6:30 p.m.
  • Friday, March 28, 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 29, 2:30 p.m. (signed performance) and 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $10-$40; some restrictions apply. Tickets are on sale at the TPAC Box Offices (at 505 Deaderick Street in Downtown Nashville and at Davis-Kidd Booksellers in the Mall at Green Hills) and at all Ticketmaster outlets. Tickets are available by phone or Internet order at (615) 255-ARTS, www.ticketmaster.com or www.tennesseerep.org.

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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