Arts & Humanities Society & Culture

University Theatre explores ‘Doubt’ about church reform, scandals

University Theatre “Doubt” Zack Byrd
The cast of "Doubt: A Parable" includes Zack Byrd as Father Brendan Flynn

Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia Theatre will begin its 81st season with John Patrick Shanley’s play “Doubt: A Parable” on Sept. 19-20 and 24-27 at 8 p.m. with matinee performances Sept. 22 and 29 at 2:30 p.m. in the Fine Arts Building Cellar Theatre. A panel discussion will be held after the Sept. 24 performance.

The play, directed by UGA’s Ray Paolino, won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for drama and Tony Award for best play.

“Doubt” is set in 1964. In a parallel with the present moment, new Pope Paul VI is shaking up the Catholic church by pushing a series of reforms, reaching out to other faiths to make the church more inclusive and vowing to “clean house” in the Vatican.

At St. Nicolas Catholic Church and School in the Bronx borough of New York City, conservative principal Sister Aloysius, played by department of theatre and film studies associate professor Kristin Kundert-Gibbs, begins to suspect the progressive Father Flynn, played by masters of fine arts performance student Zack Byrd, has having improper relations with one of his male students. To complicate matters further, the boy is the school’s first African-American student.

Sister Aloysius is known for being paranoid about everyone and everything, and others begin to doubt her suspicions. As the nun digs deeper and uses ever more extreme tactics to try and prove this abuse, even she becomes doubtful of whether her accusations are actually true.

“This play is about power. It catches the shifting paradigm regarding men, women, authority, tradition and rebellion, a process that continues even to this day,” said Paolino, an associate professor and director of theatre in the department of theatre and film studies. “The play asks us to question how sure we are of anything we believe—about ourselves and about the world around us.”

As playwright Shanley suggests, “it is Doubt (so often experienced initially as weakness) that changes things. When a man feels unsteady, when he falters, when hard-won knowledge evaporates before his eyes, he’s on the verge of growth.”

“Doubt” opened off Broadway in 2004 and moved to Broadway in 2005, where it was met with strong critical and audience approval and has since been adapted into a major film.
“Shanley weaves the muscle, hurt and brawn of his New York roots with a stark elegance of words that evoke the best of poetry,” Paolino said. “This mixture of street and sensitivity is a strength that runs through all his work.”

Tickets are $16 for the general public and $12 for students. They can be purchased at, by phone at 706-542-4400, in person at the Performing Arts Center box office or at the door before the show.

Additional “Doubt” cast members are masters of fine arts performance students Jessica Kovalski as Sister James and Vallea Woodbury as Mrs. Muller.

For more information on the UGA department of theatre and film studies, see