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'Doubt, a parable' at Camelot Theatre

Camelot Theatre Company will present "Doubt, a parable," by John Patrick Shanley, with previews beginning Wednesday, Oct. 7. The play is the story of a strong-minded nun who grows suspicious when a popular priest begins taking maybe too much interest in the life of a young boy at a Catholic school in The Bronx in 1964.

"Doubt" won both the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award in 2005. The play was made into an Oscar-nominated film with Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman in 2008.

This production stars Camelot Producing Director Doug Warner as Father Brendan Flynn, Camelot Artistic Director Livia Genise as Sister Aloysius Beauvier, and Camelot veterans Rose Passione as Sister James and Jade Chavis Watt as Mrs. Muller.

First-time director Don Matthews, who is better known as a singer and a classical music host on Jefferson Public Radio, says that Shanley's work strongly suggests that doubt is the fundamental building-block of both justice and democracy.

"He encourages us to be comfortable with not knowing," Matthews says.

Shanley wrote in his preface to the play that doubt requires more courage than conviction, and more energy — "because conviction is a resting place and doubt is infinite — it is a passionate exercise."

He noted in an interview with Charlie Rose that having and expressing doubt about the wisdom of invading Iraq during the run-up to war was widely portrayed by invasion supporters as being unpatriotic.

The son of a motion picture sound man in a family of stage-hands, Matthews has been around theater all his life. He teaches music at Southern Oregon University, and he sang for several seasons with the San Francisco Opera. He moved to Ashland in 1998 to take a job with JPR and has appeared in Rogue Valley productions such as "South Pacific" with Rogue Music Theatre, "Our Town" with Oregon Stage Works and "Shakespeare in Hollywood" with Camelot.

As a first-time director, Matthews says it's been daunting working with old-time pros in Genise and Warner and relative youngsters in the other two roles.

"But they're directors," he says of Genise and Warner. "They've been helpful. There's nothing like experience."

He says the actors often had strong ideas about their characters, and he encouraged alternatives, or ranges of emotions.

He was struck early in the project by how many different things were on the cusp of change at the time the play is set. It was 1964, and the nation was about to see the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts, the war in Vietnam and the women's liberation and other movements, in short order.

"He puts it at the beginning of priests and abuse, but nobody believes the kids," Matthews says. "They'd never question the priests. Later, in the '80s, we started hearing this was happening."

Matthews was a third-grade student at a Catholic school in Michigan 1964.

"We went to church every day," he says. "It was in Latin. I was very impressed with the old priest. I thought of him as God. I thought I'd be a priest."

Warner has been the Producing Director of Camelot Theatre Company since the 2005 season. He directed the recent "Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks," "Dancing At Lughnasa," "Sockdology" and other plays and often takes the stage as an actor.

Genise has appeared at Camelot as Maria Callas in "Master Class," Irena in "The Music Lesson," Heidi in "The Heidi Chronicles" and the Witch in "Into the Woods." Her directing credits include "Do I Hear A Waltz," "Meet Me in St. Louis," "Cabaret" and other plays.

Passione has been seen on the Camelot stage playing Meg Brockie in "Brigadoon," Giovanna in "Do I Hear a Waltz" and Mrs. Anderssen in "A Little Night Music." She sang in Camelot's "Spotlight on Hoagy Carmichael" and has sung back-up vocals for Lyle Lovett on the Britt Festivals stage and for local favorite Beth Baker.

The set for "Doubt" is by Don Zastoupil; lights by Bart Grady, sound byBrian O'Connor, costumes by Barbara Rains.

The Oct. 7 performance is a fundraiser for Jackson County Sexual Assault Response Team. A pay-what-you-can show is set for Oct. 14.

Reach reporter Bill Varble at bvarble@mailtribune.com or at 776-4478.

Doug Warner as Father Brendan Flynn and Livia Genise as Sister Aloysius in Camelot Theatre’s production of “Doubt, a parable.” - Photo by Steve Sutfin