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A shadow of doubt

Southwest Minnesota State University theater department to present John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama

February 12, 2011
By Cindy Votruba

MARSHALL - A stern nun who is the principal of a school in the Bronx suspects a young progressive priest of molesting a young boy.

She is also led to have many doubts.

The Southwest Minnesota State University theater department is presenting "Doubt" at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 17-19, 25-26 and 2 p.m. Feb. 27 in the SMSU Fine Arts Theatre.

Article Photos

Photos by Cindy Votruba
Southwest Minnesota State University student Amy Giesler and SMSU theater professor Nadine Schmidt rehearse a scene from the upcoming production of “Doubt.”

The show is being directed by Sean Byrd, a guest director from Normandale Community College, Bloomington.

Byrd, who is on a year-long sabbatical from Normandale, said he and SMSU theater professors Nadine Schmidt and Sheila Tabaka are colleagues, knowing each other from the Kennedy Center Theater Festival.

One of the things Byrd proposed with his sabbatical project was seeking out other opportunities in theater and learned that the SMSU theater department hired a guest director fairly regularly.

"This is part of my sabbatical project," Byrd said. He is working on a screenplay as well.

He said that he, Schmidt and Tabaka were talking about shows that would complement Schmidt as one of the characters. "Doubt" was the first show that came to mind.

"We collaborated on the choice," Byrd said. "It's a really fantastic play and I thought it's the right one for her (Schmidt). Nadine and I have been close, that's a comfortable working relationship." Schmidt is portraying Sister Aloysius.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning play is set at a Bronx school in 1964. Sister Aloysius is the school principal who must deal with an incident in which a young priest is accused of acting inappropriately with a student.

Byrd said he's always wanted to do "Doubt," but the time wasn't right. Then he held off when the movie version starring Meryl Streep and Phillip Seymour Hoffman came out.

Now the timing is right, Byrd said, and he has an interesting cross-section of students in the show.

SMSU student Jason Shores plays Father Flynn, and Byrd said he knew right from auditions that he was right for the role.

"It helps balance out the scenes between him and Sister Aloysius," Byrd said. The show also stars Amy Giesler and Christy Ellis.

To flesh out the character of Sister Aloysius, Schmidt said she did her homework, researching the time period, the 1960s and the Sisters of Charity order.

"What does she want in each scene and how she goes about getting and what's at stake," Schmidt said.

Schmidt said she and Byrd have not seen the movie and don't plan on it until after the run at SMSU.

"I certainly wouldn't want anyone else's approach to the character," Schmidt said, unlike the way she was developing the role.

Schmidt said that every two years, she tries to act in a show alongside her students, with her last appearance in 2009's "The Secret Garden."

"I hope it's mutually beneficial because I certainly enjoy working with my students (in that way)," Schmidt said. And she hopes the students like sharing the stage with her as well.

Schmidt said she likes working with a guest director, which allows her to learn more.

"It helps me grow as an artist," Schmidt said.



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