"What do you do when you're not sure?"
Father Flynn (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) poses this question to his congregation in the opening scene of John Patrick Shanley's 2008 film "Doubt." He warns them, "Doubt can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty." His sermon propels the rest of the film forward, forcing the characters and the audience to grapple with themes of faith and uncertainty, alike.
Audiences in the Vail Valley will have two opportunities to view, explore and examine "Doubt" in the next few weeks. First, on Tuesday at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards, the Vail Symposium presents a screening of the film followed by a panel discussion with local religious leaders and mental health professionals. Then in two weeks, on Feb. 13, the Vilar Performing Arts Center presents a live performance of Shanley's award-winning stage play, on which the film is based, "Doubt: A Parable," by the Montana Repertory Theatre.
"When we had the opportunity to bring a professional production of the Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning play to our community, it seemed a perfect fit to collaborate with the Vail Symposium to open the discussion to a broader segment of the community than just theater goers," said Kris Sabel, executive director of the Vilar Performing Arts Center. "The story of the play centers around a Catholic school and the suspicions the mother superior has that a priest has had inappropriate contact with one of her students. But the real meat of the story is a fascinating interplay that allows the audience to see all sides of the issue and leaves us with more questions than answers."
Set in the Bronx in 1964, "Doubt" (104 minutes, PG-13) follows a popular priest's ambiguous relationship with a troubled 12-year-old black student. When the school's principal suspects the priest is spending too much time with the boy, she locks into a battle of wills with him, which threatens to tear apart the community with irrevocable consequences. Written and directed by Shanley and produced by Scott Rudin, the film stars Meryl Streep, Hoffman, Amy Adams and Viola Davis.
Film and discussion
The evening's screening will be followed by a panel discussion with local religious leaders and mental health professionals, including Rabbi Debra Rappaport, Father Brooks Keith and Dr. Joan Bornstein.
"VPAC Theatre Manager Gena Buhler was telling me about her experience when the play 'Doubt' premiered in New York, and how a community dialogue sprang up around it," said Liana Moore, executive director of the Vail Symposium. "I thought it sounded like a great opportunity to tie it in with our Speaking Locally series, which features local experts, and hopefully spur a similar dialogue in our own community. (The speakers) all bring some very different perspectives to the program."
Rabbi Rappaport has served as Rabbi and executive director of B'nai Vail Congregation, serving the Jewish community of Eagle County and beyond, since June 2007. In this capacity, she is also an active participant in the interfaith communities in Vail, Beaver Creek, and Edwards.
The Reverend Stuart Brooks Keith III, or simply Father Brooks, leads a dynamic, growing congregation while providing leadership in the diocesan and national levels of the Episcopal Church.
Dr. Bornstein received her medical degree at Michigan State's College of Osteopathic Medicine, and completed her residency in Psychiatry through Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan at Sinai Hospital. She is a diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. She has been a resident of the Vail Valley for 11 years and has a private psychiatry practice.
On stage performance
The conversation started Tuesday night will continue Feb. 13 with the stage performance of "Doubt," which the Montana Repertory Theatre hopes will both entertain and challenge their audience.
According to Greg Johnson, artistic director of the Montana Repertory Theatre, the group is dedicated to producing plays of high literary and entertainment quality, and to examining and revealing the American character. "Doubt" continues that tradition.
"'Doubt' is heroic," Johnson said, "it depicts characters who stand up to authority when there are moral questions to be answered and/or characters who stand up to the worst kind of moral judgments on flimsy and unsubstantiated charges, all depending on how you view the play. If this play is done well, the audience will leave the theater in doubt as to who is right and who has sinned. The world is rarely black and white; it is complex and ought to be seen as such. Those who paint the world in simplistic terms are making a mistake and do not understand the complexity of the grand experiment that is the human experience."
Tracey Flower is a communications associate with the Vail Symposium. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.