‘Doubt,’ ‘Periphery’ two dramas of social issues set in 1960s

Lori Porter’s relatively short time as a member of the Capital Region theater community has for the
Brittany Wafer as Deirdre and Jason Tillery as Eugene in Our Own Productions’ “Periphery,†which opens Friday at the Emmanuel Friedens Church in Schenectady.
Brittany Wafer as Deirdre and Jason Tillery as Eugene in Our Own Productions’ “Periphery,†which opens Friday at the Emmanuel Friedens Church in Schenectady.

Lori Porter’s relatively short time as a member of the Capital Region theater community has for the most part been restricted to comedic roles. That all changes Friday night.

A Saratoga Springs native and Cohoes resident, Porter takes on the role of Sister Aloysius in John Patrick Shanley’s Tony Award-winning “Doubt: A Parable,” presented by the Classic Theater Guild and held at Proctors’ Fenimore Gallery Friday through June 9.

“It’s a tremendous challenge for me because I usually do comedies,” said Porter. “But, having the opportunity to really sink my teeth into this role has been great. Yeah, it’s challenging, but it’s also a lot of fun.”

“Doubt” is set in 1964 in the Bronx, at the fictional St. Nicholas Church School. The theme centers around a conflict between Father Brendan Flynn and Sister Aloysius Beauvier, who suspects the Father, played by Daniel Martin, of having an inappropriate relationship with one of the students at the school. Also in the cast are Jennie Pines as Sister James and Karen Christina Jones as Mrs. Muller. John Birchler is the director.

“There is such dimension to the role of Sister Aloysius,” said Porter. “She can be a mean and nasty nun, but she also has a comedic side, and there’s also a real heart very deep down inside of her. It’s a dream role. Anyone who’s ever seen the movie or the show knows that. All four of the roles are great roles.”

“Doubt” was originally staged off-Broadway at the Manhattan Theatre Club in 2004, and then opened on Broadway in March of 2005. Along with its Tony Award for Best Play, it won three more Tonys, including Best Actress for Cherry Jones, and earned a total of eight nominations. The show finally closed in July of 2006 after 525 performances.

4 actors, 4 nominations

In the 2008 movie, all four of the actors — Meryl Streep as Sister Aloysius, Philip Seymour Hoffman as Father Flynn, Amy Adams as Sister James and Viola Davis as Mrs. Miller — earned Oscar nominations as did Shanley for his adapted screenplay.

Shanley also won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for his work, which Birchler has wanted to direct ever since he saw the movie.

’Doubt: A Parable’ and ’Periphery’

‘Doubt: A Parable,’ by the Classic Theater Guild

WHERE: Fenimore Gallery, Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady

WHEN: Opens 7:30 p.m Friday and runs through June 9; performance times are 7:30 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday

HOW MUCH: $17.50-$14.50

MORE INFO: 346-6204 or visit www.proctors.org

‘Periphery,’ by Our Own Productions

WHERE: Emmanuel Friedens Church, 218 Nott Terrace, Schenectady

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through June 9

HOW MUCH: $15-$13

MORE INFO: 227-0154 or www.ourownproductions.com

“It’s powerfully written with very carefully drawn characters,” said Birchler. “It’s a play that has always intrigued me. It forces the audience to think about the implications of the things they saw. When I first heard about it, I was thinking it was about how the Catholic church has gone bad, or the priests going bad, but it’s actually about a whole lot more than that.”

While the play’s title might suggest an ambiguous conclusion, that doesn’t concern Porter.

“It’s a story that’s thought-provoking, and it’s something you’ll be talking about on the drive home,” she said. “Sister Aloysius is someone who has clear convictions, but she changes during the show, and it’s that doubt that makes this such a great play.”

Porter has only been acting for about five years, but she’s been performing on stage much longer as a member of the women’s barbershop chorus, the Sweet Adelines.

“I think I was in a play in fourth grade and that was it,” she said. “I have been singing with the Sweet Adelines, but acting was something I always wanted to try. I decided to give it a shot, and I went to auditions all over the place and finally landed a small supporting role. That got me started and now I like to do about two or three shows a year.”

Porter, who works in the computer field, performed in supporting roles at the Colonial Little Theatre in Johnstown and the Albany Civic Theater, and then landed the lead in “I Remember Mama” in February of 2012 for Our Own Productions.

“I wish I had started a lot sooner,” Porter said of her leap into theater. “Real life kind of gets in the way, and while it’s never been a way for me to pay the bills, I am passionate about it now.”

Martin has worked at Schenectady Civic in “Arsenic and Old Lace,” and more recently played John Proctor in “The Crucible,” and Randle P. McMurphy in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” both for Classic Theater Guild.

Pines was in “The Laramie Project” earlier this year at Albany Civic Theater, while Jones directed the Classic Theater Guild production of “A Soldier’s Story” last month, and also starred in “A Raisin in the Sun” last year with Our Own Productions.

‘Periphery’ opens Friday

Also opening Friday is Our Own Productions of Ed Simpson’s “Periphery,” a docudrama about the historic 1960 sit-in demonstrations at the Greensboro, N.C., Woolworth’s lunch counter.

Simpson, a professor at High Point University in High Point, N.C., was commissioned to write the play in 2008 by the Community Theatre of Greensboro to help commemorate the city’s bicentennial celebration. The show will run over two weekends at the Emmanuel Friedens Church in Schenectady.

Doreen Watson is directing the production, which focuses on ordinary citizens that were not central to the story but were there witnessing it and reacting to it.

In the two lead roles are Brittany Wafer as Deirdre and Jason Tillery as Eugene. Wafer has performed in “Ragtime” for the Schenectady Light Opera Company, “Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” for C-R Productions in Cohoes, and “The Wiz” and “Music Man” for Our Own Productions. Tillery’s resume includes “A Soldier’s Play” for the Classical Theater Guild last month and “A Raisin in the Sun” in 2012 for Our Own Productions.

Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or [email protected]

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