Interviewing Father Flynn of Doubt: A Parable – Sam Rigerman

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Samuel Rigerman is a freshman enrolling in Business Administration, with a dual certificate in Musical Theatre at GCC. Doubt: A Parable was his 17th theatre production so far, having participated in 9 shows during high school and a few other at Harvester 56 Theatre and Rochester. Last semester (Fall 2019), he portrayed Brad Majors in the Richard O’Brien’s musical The Rocky Horror Show. at GCC’s Stuart Steiner Theatre.

(You can read a summary of Doubt: A Parable here.)

Sam Rigermand and Lucine Kauffman as Sister Aloysius during rehearsal.

For an actor, auditions are always nerve-wracking, “especially with this show, I really wanted to work with director Marianne because she’s an amazing director and this would probably be my one-and-only shot at this time. So I really did all my homework to maximize my chance of getting the role.”

In preparation for the role of Father Flynn, Sam went to different Catholic Churches to watch prescript sermons, “some of the sermons were really boring ’cause they weren’t very good at delivering it, but I learned a lot and took away what I want or did not want in my sermons to apply my own tweaks to Father Flynn’s sermons.” He added, “to prepare for the storytelling section of the Father Flynn’s first sermon in the play, I sat in at the local Richmond library and listened to the women there reading stories to the kids. I tried to learn how she relates to the kids, projected the story so I can take that into my sermons and differentiate between story telling and giving a sermon.”

Some of his difficulties during rehearsals were delivering sermons, where he had to act as if there’s an audience listening when there is no one. The cast didn’t have a real audience until the first performance. “I also struggled a little with the second scene where Father Flynn teaches basketball to the kids, two things of which I don’t know how to do: playing basketball and talking to kids.

He said he also loved the intense scene between Father Flynn and Miss Aloysius. They were verbally battling each other back and forth: Father Flynn criticizes that she has no evidence, but Miss Aloysius is so adamant that she has him cornered and he just trying to get away from it. Sam added, “I love the actress Lucine Kauffman who played Miss Aloysius, she was so fun to work with. We created a bitter connection and really made the scene our own.”

(Photo: Mark Gutman / Daily News) Sam Rigerman as Father Flynn during his first sermon.

On deciding whether Father Flynn was innocent, Sam explained, “After I was cast, director Marianne told me to craft a ‘Who Am I’ statement. It took me a very long time to decide that Father Flynn was innocent. I had to keep reading the script, dig for different clues and find little things that indicate ‘Oh, he did do it’ ‘Wait no, he didn’t do it.’ I kept building on the clues, I finally concluded that he did not do it, and I acted throughout the show with the mindset that Father Flynn is innocent.”

“My reasoning for his resignation after hearing Miss Aloysisus ‘s threat is that he might have had a dark history that he does not want to be revealed. So he simply withdrew and transferred to avoid any further troubles, but he is innocent regarding matters with Donald (the kid suspected of being abused by Father Flynn)”

Sam’s analysis and portrayal of Father Flynn’s character partially correlates to his own personality, “I try to see the good in people, and the same goes for character Father Flynn. Even when someone is accused of something, I’d try to think of a possibility that they didn’t do it. I am aware that such horrific incidents of sexual misconduct have been brought up / revealed over the past 50-60 years in Catholic Churches, which is really hard to process.”

“If I were to play the character again, I’d still portray him as not guilty, but it’d be interesting to pursue the role in the opposite direction, that he is guilty and being manipulative toward sister James. But I would definitely have discomfort portraying him as guilty because it’s a very real and horrible incident that kids are subjected to at such a young age.”

Contrasting his portrayal of Father Flynn in the show versus Philip Hoffman’s portrayal of Father Flynn in the 2008 film, “I think Philip Hoffman portrayed Father Flynn as guilty. But for my portrayal, I wanted the audience to walk away with their own inner conflict of did he do it or did he not do it. One of the great things I think we succeeded at was that people walking out of our show not knowing if he did it or not. That’s the whole point of the show, that you’re filled with doubts about him.”

(Photo: Mark Gutman / Daily News) Sam Rigerman as Father Flynn and Alyssa Young as Sister James

Of the two production he had done so far this year, Rocky Horror and Doubt, Sam feels more attached to the production of Doubt and character Father Flynn, “Rocky horror was a lot of fun with many great musical scores, but Doubt, for me, was much more personal, especially when the cast was so close to the audience who sat on stage watching it. I am more attached to Doubt because the plot is real, it’s based on something that realistically happened in real life.”

Through Doubt, he was able to learn and apply many new techniques on character development and analysis, “Unlike character Brad Majors I played in Rocky Horror Show where the single-dimensional character only had one goal: being terrified and trying to get out of the Frank-n-Furter house, Father Flynn in Doubt is a more complex character where he pursues different small objectives in each scene to serve a bigger one. With Doubt, I learned more in-depth about creating a character and analyzing a script by finding the operative word, breaking down each of my monologue/scene into beats of action, I didn’t have to do that for Brad in the Rocky Horror.”

(Photo: Facebook) Sam Rigerman as Brad Majors and Runo Suzuki as Janet Majors during The Rocky Horror Show

Summarizing his experiences here at GCC so far, Sam shared that his favorite theatre course was Theatre 103 – Fundamentals of Acting, taught by Instructor Maryanne Arena, who was also a co-director of Doubt along with her daughter, Jamie, who teaches theatre at Geneseo College. “We learned about audition techniques, character development and a ton of super fun improv games, which is something I didn’t learn from high school theatre or community theatre. I also love my business courses, especially BUS 101 & 213, because Instructor Lauren Paisley of both of those courses is an awesome teacher. “

“I initially chose GCC because it’s close to home, it’s affordable and I can still stay at my job at Starbucks. Another major factor was because I auditioned for and was cast as Brad Majors, one of the lead roles, for Rocky Horror show last May when I was still in high school, so I decided to come here.”

What’s next for Sam? He’s preparing for the play Jack and the Beanstalk in this upcoming May and still has another year with GCC until his graduation in Spring 2021. “After GCC, I plan on transferring to Geneseo College or Colombia University with a BA or BFA/MFA, definitely with theatre component attached with it. My dream job is acting, but if that doesn’t work out, I will pursue a career that connects social media and theatre.”


Little fun facts:

  • The original set design planned that Father Flynn would be giving his sermons among the rows of audience off-stage, instead of on-stage where Sam was standing, but that didn’t work out so the audience sat directly on stage.
  • For his character Father Flynn who had long nails, Sam, who had never worn fake nails before, wore and kept on long acrylic nails everywhere he went (to class, to rehearsals…) the weeks before the performances.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

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