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The Carletonian

Q&A with Jez Bigornia ’20, director of new show Doubt: A Parable

<ubt: A Parable, directed by Jez Bigornia ’20, is playing in the Little Nourse Theater this weekend (you can attend performances at 7:30 p.m. on Friday or 7:00 p.m. on Saturday). To learn more about this production, the Carletonian sat down with Bigornia to hear what the show has in store.

Brynne Diggins: Can you give me a little background information on your involvement with theater (both at and outside of Carleton)?

Jez Bigornia: I am a junior theater and statistics major here and have been involved in many shows throughout the past two years, such as The Laramie Project; Good Kids; Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.; Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue; and smaller projects like The 24 Hour Show. Additionally, I am collaborating with Pig Iron, based in Philadelphia, to devise a theatrical piece coming out mid-winter term. These have all been acting roles, so Doubt is my first attempt at directing, a new and exciting experience. Outside of Carleton, I haven’t done much. I was involved in one act festivals my high school put on and part of the ensemble for The Miser by Molière, and I was part of the California State Summer School for the Arts theater discipline at CalArts in 2015. This winter, I will be externing with The Acting Company in New York City learning about theater management.

BD: What’s your background like with this play? When did you first learn about or see Doubt?

JB: My girlfriend, Ceci Hart, recommended Doubt to me when I was looking for more plays to read. It wasn’t initially my favorite play when I read it, but I knew it was interesting enough to get back to eventually. I had two very different experiences with reading this play. The first time I read it, I thought it was just about abuse of masculine power and the injustice of sexual assault. The second time I read it was so much different. It wasn’t just about challenging masculine power and sexual abuse—these were factors that exemplified what one does when doubtful and uncertain. Here, we see two people treating doubt in different ways: Father Flynn says to embrace it and accept doubt because you are never alone in doubt, but Sister Aloysius suppresses it at all costs to get what she wants.

BD: What inspired you to bring Doubt to Carleton?

JB: Directing Doubt was a means to inform my decision to either act or direct in my theater Comps next year. I have done a lot with acting throughout my theatrical career both here at Carleton and other institutions, but I wanted to explore and take on the roles of the outside—what kind of planning is needed and creative choice is exercised to orchestrate an entire production. For the more recent shows I’ve done, my curiosity grew more and more as I was studying how directors block scenes and work with the tech team to fully bring the idea of a production to life. This term, I finally took the initiative to find this out on my own.
Doubt is a very realist play. Dialogue and character development are key in the strong writing and success of this play. For a first play to direct, I felt that Doubt was very appropriate to bring to Carleton—realist plays attract a wider audience, there is a lot of room for character development for each actor the director can work well with, and the themes are topical, very relevant to what we have seen in our country right now.

BD: What have you learned from directing Doubt? What’s been surprising about the process?

JB: You can spend months knowing exactly what you are going to do and what to plan for your adaptation and direction of a particular play, and it can all shatter and fall apart as soon as you block the first scene. You realize that what you visualized does not translate well to real life. I was surprised about how much more I learned about the play as the rehearsal process went on, from understanding characters more deeply to having different interpretations of specific lines and stage directions. The actors have surprisingly insightful thoughts and suggestions, too, when they work well together. Even though I was the main orchestrator for this whole production, I owe a lot to my stage manager, tech team, and actors for how much input they have given me.

BD: Were there any directorial decisions that you pondered over?

JB: Not to spoil anything for the show, but the audience is left with a big decision to make by the end of the play. When I first read Doubt and began the rehearsal process, I thought that I knew the answer, and my goal for this production was to make it clear. Turned out that I was wrong—the production would be damaged if I gave an opinion or answer. Therefore, I had to be careful to honor as much nuance as is written in the play. I had to take a more widened point of view of the story, and this strengthens the uncertainty in the audience throughout the show.

BD: What’s unique about your production?

JB: Similar to what I’ve answered previously, what’s unique about Doubt is that there is no definite end to this story. Not that it calls for a sequel, but I found myself wanting more information to satisfy my own beliefs and questions I had when the show ended. I finished the play frustrated and confused, but I realized that is the intent. This play is so well written that it knows what exactly it wants from you, and you fall for it without fail. Doubt hits that sweet spot of addressing and commenting on many themes in this play—homosexuality, sexual and authoritative abuse, racism, and gender struggles—without tackling too much in 75 minutes or being too ‘on the nose.’ There are so many interpretations from this play, and I am excited to see what audience members take away from this show and what themes resonate with them most.

BD: Who helped you and guided you in this creative process?

JB: I owe a lot to a few individuals, including Ceci Hart, Kaeden Berg, Trey Alberg, and Ben Capp for their informative and helpful input throughout their visiting rehearsals and run throughs. There’s only so far one mind can get on its own before it needs more pairs of eyes to catch things that might have been previously overlooked. I also thank the actors and stage manager, Evan Allgood, profusely for maintaining my sanity and stress levels as tech week approached.

BD: Are there any directors, actors, or theater companies that you draw inspiration from?

JB: None professional. I owe a lot to directors here I have worked with previously—Tanya Bush, Derin Arduman, and Emma Halper fed my excitement to learn more and to get out as much of a production as I can. I thank these three profusely for inspiring to take on the reigns for this.

BD: How does Doubt speak to today’s political and cultural climate and concerns?

JB: It doesn’t. Doubt addresses some of these problems, from racism to gender struggles to homophobia, but it does not give enough commentary for the audience to believe what the show believes. It simply lays out the problems here that just so happen to be relevant today, and what the audience brings, their previous opinions and stances towards these issues, will inform what the play is trying to say and who is responsible for what.

BD: What do you hope the audience gets out of your production?

JB: Polarization. There is no answer at the end, and it would be nice to see a split 50/50 on what conclusions the audience draws as to what exactly happened—who is in the right, if you will.
The #metoo movement inspired many females to stand up to abusive males in power and punish them for their unjust actions. Since this play takes place in 1964, I am curious about what a 2018 audience takes out of this show in regards to the gender struggles present here.

BD: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

JB: I had two very different experiences from reading the script the first time and the second time, which made me appreciate the multiple facets and meanings Doubt displays. If possible, I encourage people to watch this production twice. I did my best to avoid my personal commentary and opinions on this show, and I would love to hear what themes people thought were most present and what lasting impressions they got. Enjoy Doubt!

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