With a Pulitzer Prize, Oscar and Tony on his resume, there’s no doubt that John Patrick Shanley knows how to create wonderful theater, and Ben Katagiri is thrilled to be part of it.
“I have rarely read a script that is this well-conceived and articulate,” Katagiri said of Shanley’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winner from 2005, “Doubt.” “His writing is so precise. You might usually make the analogy that it’s like a surgeon’s knife. But with Shanley’s script it’s more like a laser point, and if you’re an actor in one of his plays, he does a lot of the work for you.”
Katagiri will be playing Father Flynn in the Schenectady Civic Players production of “Doubt,” opening Friday at the Schenectady Civic Playhouse and running through March 26. Tom Templeton is directing the production, while Cristine M. Loffredo is playing Sister Aloysius, Meigg Jupin is Sister James and Angelique Powell is Mrs. Muller. The story centers around a school principal, Sister Aloysius, who suspects Father Flynn of improper relations with one of his male students.
“Doubt” opened on Broadway in March of 2005 and ran for just over a year. It was nominated for eight Tony Awards and won four, including Best Play and Best Actress (Cherry Jones). The play also earned Shanley a Pulitzer, and when the Hollywood movie came out in 2008 with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep, he wrote the screenplay, earning an Oscar nomination. Shanley had won an Oscar for his screenplay for “Moonlight” back in 1988.
“I saw the movie when it first came out, but I’ve intentionally not watched since I got this part,” said Katagiri. “I want to own what I do on my own, and not worry about how Philip Seymour Hoffman did it. Hey, I’m not Philip Seymour Hoffman, but I’ll judge myself accordingly and I’m enjoying this whole experience.”
A Greenville native who teaches philosophy, anthropology and global history at Greenville High School, Katagiri has kept fairly busy lately doing plenty of performing. He’s worked with several local theater troupes, including the Theater Barn, Curtain Call, Home Made and Creative License. Most recently he was at the Albany Barn (for Creative License) doing a one-man show by Doug Wright, “I Am My Own Wife.”
“It’s about a German transvestite who survives the Nazi regime,” said Katagiri. “It’s something I felt deeply about, and I really wanted to do it myself. I thank Aaron [Holbritter] and Casey [Polomaine] at Creative License for giving me the opportunity to do it.”
Katagiri is also busy producing, writing and starring in a web series with a couple of friends called, “Mix & Master.”
“We have one 20-minute pilot episode on YouTube, and then we also put up a couple of shorts, maybe four or five minutes long,” said Katagiri. “It’s all volunteer stuff right now, but we’re hopeful of picking up some steam. When we started out we had this grand vision of getting picked up by a streaming service like Netflix. We realize that quite often that isn’t reality, so our top priority right now is to have fun and produce good, quality work.”
“Doubt” marks the first time that Katagiri has been on stage with Loffredo, one of the busiest actresses in the Capital Region. She got rave reviews for “Rapture, Blister, Burn” at Schenectady Civic in 2016 and for “Love, Loss and What I Wore” at Curtain Call earlier last year.
“I had never worked with her before, but it was obvious that she knows what she’s doing,” said Katagiri. “She has definitely taken ownership of her performance. It’s been wonderful working with her.”
WHERE: Schenectady Civic Playhouse, 12 South Church St., Schenectady
WHEN: Opens Friday and runs through March 26; performances are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $20
MORE INFO: www.civicplayers.org, 382-2081