The Theatre Department and Gender Studies Program partnered together to host a panel discussion about the gender and racial issues Wednesday night in the Multi-Purpose room of the University Union about the gender and racial issues that arose after the play “Doubt” was performed.
At the beginning of the discussion, director of gender studies, Cindy Lacom, posed the question, “How does this play interrogate and challenge hierarchies on sexism and racism?”
Described by the cast members at the discussion, Muller was supposedly being victimized by Pastor Flynn throughout the play. Sister Aloysius suspected this and was determined to go to any length to protect her children and the school. Muller was never shown in the play, only spoken of and that is why he was said to have power over the other characters. He was a character that never had a voice that could tell the truth to help or worsen the situation.
Ayanna Byers, psychology major and gender studies minor said that because there was a hierarchy in the church, Muller had a lot of power to shake the foundation of the church and make it all come apart.
Retired professor of African American Studies at Allegheny College Laura Quinn said that Muller wasn’t shown for a reason and that it was purposeful. She said that race complicates the whole play because no one knows what Muller would have said. Quinn also said the religious beliefs of Catholicism in the play were uncomfortable.
“All of the pressures from Catholicism being against homosexuality presents a big problem in the play,” Quinn said.
Lacom stated that there were certain words never used in the play regarding race and sexuality. She also thought the relationship between the pastor and Muller was bizarre. No one knew what the relationship was between the two the whole time, and that added a factor of suspicion.
The next question that Lacom asked was, “To what extent have things changed, being that it has been 50 years since the play’s time period in 1964?”
Joseph Van Hannak, a counselor for Slippery Rock University said that things have changed, including marriage equality. However, Quinn explained that there needs to be a Black Lives Matter movement and that while some changes have helped, some of them have been more cosmetic than anything. She stated that it is still true to this day that black men in particular are often convicted of crimes without evidence.
Byers claimed that because there are so many rising issues like marriage equality, LGBT and so on, race is being pushed to the back.
“The media will say that everything is fine. Blacks and whites are working together, straight people and gay people are working together, so everything is fine, when in reality, a lot of work needs to be done,” Byers said. “We need to speak up.”
Lacom said that 50 years later, these issues are just as relevant as they were in 1964 and that we need to be the agents of change because we have the power to change it.
Lacom said that she was honored to be able to work with the theatre department and collaborate with them.