A new Blue
New faces of the Blue Room Theatre debut with Doubt: A Parable
Chico, CA 95928
After a springtime shake-up that found longtime Blue Room Theatre artistic director Joe Hilsee and his core group of actors moving on to start their own theater company, former Chico State Theater Department veteran Gail Holbrook is making her way through the settling dust to pull the curtains aside, introducing the venerable theater’s new season.
Even with the absence of many of the familiar faces to which dedicated patrons have become accustomed over the past decade, Holbrook maintains that the mission of the theater hasn’t changed.
The Blue Room’s new executive artistic director said it’s her goal to increase attendance by attracting a more diversified audience
“I want to continue doing a mix of compelling dramas and intelligent comedies, but I also want to uphold the tradition of the Blue Room ‘pushing the envelope’ from time to time,” said Holbrook, who became a theater professor at age 25 and has directed more than 60 shows since. “I firmly believe that the audience is one of the three important elements for creating theater, along with great plays and great performers. If they aren’t sharing the experience with us, who are we doing it for?”
From its inauspicious start as a backyard theater troupe, through metamorphosis into The Cosmic Travel Agency in the cocoon of an abandoned Masonic temple atop Colliers Hardware, the Blue Room Theatre (as it came to be known) quickly built a reputation for quirky, cutting-edge and adventurous stage play.
From the sound of things, that is not about to change. Holbrook said the turnout for auditions has been strong, and a new group of volunteers has been working hard to clean up, organize and re-furbish the theater.
The new season begins with the Chico debut of Academy Award-winning writer (for Moonstruck) John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt: A Parable, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, in addition to a Tony Award for Best Play.
In fact Shanley’s newest play, Defiance, which is set on a military base and deals with questions about faith, loyalty and honor, is already on Holbrook’s list for next season. “He’s a prolific writer who knows how to write intelligent, provocative dialogue about thorny issues.”
Doubt: A Parable is set in the mid-'60s and follows a nun of the old school, the head of a Catholic grade school who suspects that one of the “new generation” teachers has made inappropriate advances toward the young male students. She enlists the help of a young nun to gather evidence and lay a trap for the popular priest.
“Tension and suspense build through a combination of scenes that reveal multiple points of view from four very different characters, including the mother of one of the young boys who happens to be the first black student in the school,” Holbrook said. “Ultimately the conflict is between certainty and doubt and how should we handle ourselves when we are not sure.”
Holbrook first saw Doubt on Broadway in 2005 and said she found it compelling and timely.
“Although the playwright set his parable in 1964, it is very relevant today with the problems of the contemporary Catholic Church and social issues like pedophilia and racism,” Holbrook said. “I read and see plays all the time, and I find very few that I think are really masterpieces that will affect every person in the audience. This one is and does just that.”
The cast of Doubt includes Gail Beterbide as Sister Aloysius and Quentin St. George as Father Flynn. Both are veterans of the local theater scene, with resumes including previous roles with the Blue Room, Shakespeare in the Park, Chico Cabaret and Theatre on the Ridge.
Lara Tenckhoff plays Sister James. Tenckhoff, currently a Butte College student, has also done six years of local children’s theater as well as productions for Theatre on the Ridge and Pleasant Valley High School. The role of Mrs. Muller is played by newcomer Nicole Collado, who grew up in Chico and is a recent graduate of PV and currently a student at Butte College.