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The Student News Site of Niles West High School

Niles West News

The Student News Site of Niles West High School

Niles West News

Niles West Theatre Presents Thespian Show “Doubt”

Emma Schieffer
Henry Riley, sophomore, as Father Flynn and Amelia Gottschalk, junior, as Sister Aloysius arguing in her office regarding the accusation of Flynn having an inappropriate relationship with a student.

Niles West Theatre’s Thespian Troupe presented the first performance of the year, “Doubt,” which tells the story of an accusation by Principal Sister Aloysius against priest Father Flynn for having an inappropriate relationship with a young child at a catholic school in 1964. The show centers on this accusation and in response, how we as people react to these situations when the truth is questionable and not certain.

“Our question for this show is, ‘what do we do when we’re in doubt?’. The show is really about, ‘what do we do when we are questioning what’s right, what’s wrong, [and] we don’t have evidence to back up our beliefs.’ What do we do in those scenarios? That’s kind of what we’re examining with this production,” director Sam Rosenfeld said. 

The show leaves the interpretation of whether Father Flynn was correctly accused up to the viewer and doesn’t definitively answer the question at the end of the performance.

“I personally don’t believe he did it because there’s no evidence in the show, but depending on how you watch it, it could be perceived [either way], and that’s the interesting thing about it because if you watch someone’s production you could come away with a completely different takeaway than you would if you watched another one,” sophomore Henry Riley said. Riley played Father Flynn.

Rosenfeld has taught the show in upper theatre classes, and he chose it because he felt it was fitting as the election season is coming up in the US. He feels aspects of the story of “Doubt,” reflect the current state of the country in certain ways. 

“With a democracy that’s as fragile as ours, we’re kind of seeing a parallel in this school in the play of [how] the school is in a fragile state and the leadership in that school is very polarized and I think it is a really good metaphor for where we’re at right now,” Rosenfeld said. 

The theatre department begins every school year with their Thespian show, which allows only Thespian Troupe members to participate in both the cast and crew. The Thespian Troupe is an international honor society that honors students who have participated in over 100 hours of shows on both cast and crew. New thespian members and the thespian show are announced at the end of the school year in May.

“Our thespians at the beginning of the year get the opportunity to work on this show that kind of a really really quick process. We move very fast, we do some work over the summer so it’s more of a realistic time period as you would in a professional theatre setting. We usually tackle a piece that is a little bit more mature, a little bit more intense in some way, whether that’s comedy or drama,” Rosenfeld said. 

Thespian shows in the past few years have had between three to six people. The small number of cast members gives Rosenfeld and the actors the ability to dig deep into the script, the message and the characters. There is a deeper level of trust with these actors who have experience, which allows them to work on shows with more mature themes.

“I’ve gotten to know these people and there is a trust already there that you don’t really have to develop like you do with other shows so it’s a lot easier to be vulnerable in rehearsals and to really talk about the show you’re doing. It’s a heavy show and nice when you have peers to talk and conversate with,” Riley said. 

With mature themes comes the potential fear of public opinion. In a play such as this one, which deals with topics that are still relevant in today’s society, the cast members were cautious about the opinions of the audience.

“It’s stressful because there is the public opinion. We are doing a pretty deep show about a lot of sensitive themes, so I’m hoping that the public reception gets what we’re trying to show that this doubt can be terrible and not take something else from it,” Riley said. 

For a show with only four actors, there is a lot of behind the scenes that the audience doesn’t always think about. 22 crew members have put in the work during the performances and during rehearsals to bring the world of “Doubt” to life, from the stage, costumes, props, sound and lighting. The crew team is fronted by senior and stage manager, Ava Checke. As stage manager, Checke calls all cues for lights, sound and actors to help the production run smoothly.

Learning and processing shows are different among cast and crew, especially in a show like, “Doubt,” which handles such tense and mature topics.

“I’m definitely focused more on my cues rather than the heaviness of the show. In a way, I feel like focusing on the technical aspect of it makes the show a little bit easier because it’s such a hard-heavy show. I think it’s a message people need to know but it’s definitely on the heavier side,” Checke said.

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