Interview: Morgan Urbanovsky of DOUBT: A PARABLE at Georgetown Palace

A shining directorial debut with a critically acclaimed play, now showing through Jun 2nd, 2024.

By: May. 22, 2024
Interview: Morgan Urbanovsky of DOUBT: A PARABLE at Georgetown Palace
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Morgan Urbanovsky is a graduate of Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi with a B.A. in Theatre, Acting/Directing. She is now a Theatre Teacher at a public charter school in Georgetown, TX and teaches for the Education Department at the Georgetown Palace Theatre. Her most recent directing project, Doubt: A Parable, is currently running at the Georgetown Palace Theatre from May 3-June 2, 2024. Her recent acting credits include The 39 Steps, The Play That Goes Wrong, and Around the World in 80 Days. 

I had the pleasure of speaking with Morgan over the phone last week about her directorial debut at Georgetown Palace, a theatre she calls home, having previously graced its stages as an actress.

What attracted you to this project, Doubt: A Parable?

I love acting in comedies. But when I'm directing, I prefer to work on hard-hitting, sometimes controversial pieces. My directing history reflects this preference. The projects I've directed often tackle challenging themes and controversial topics that leave the audience with a message or something to discuss, hopefully changing someone's perspective.

Did you choose the piece or did the Palace have the piece picked by the time you were hired? 

When the house hires you, they hire you for a piece they've already chosen for their season. That's how it usually works. In most professional or community theatres, they pick the play before they pick the director. So, that's how I got this piece.

Is this your first time with the Palace (directing) or have you worked on other projects here?

This is my first time directing at the Palace, even though it's my eighth show there. It's funny because the cast is mostly newbies, except for one actor, Halli, who was previously in "She Loves Me." The other three are making their debut at the Palace. It's been great getting to know and work with these new faces. I love working at the Palace, and it's exciting that for many of the actors, this is their first time here too.

How did you prepare to work on this particular play? 

Like I previously said, it’s definitely a thought-provoking and potentially controversial piece, especially considering the audience's various connections to the church, whether Catholic or another denomination. I didn't take this lightly, knowing many viewers would have personal experiences with the church. Although I don’t come from a Catholic background myself, I knew I had to do a lot of research and listen to people who did.

I spent a lot of time talking to those who grew up in the church to stay true to its depiction on stage. But it’s important to note that this play isn’t solely about the Catholic Church. It’s a story that anyone can relate to, even if they didn’t grow up with or know much about the church. I did extensive research to ensure accuracy, but I didn't want it to be a show just about the church but rather a show about doubt and the emotions it can unleash.

Are there any people in your life that you drew from to develop the characters in the play?

For some of the characters, I didn't have anyone specific in my life to draw from, but the role of Sister Aloysius, played by the lovely Trish Avery, really resonated with me. During the rehearsal process, I could point at her and say, "I know someone like her." The same goes for Sister James and Mrs. Muller, the mother of Donald Miller, who is central to the story. I found myself recognizing pieces of people I knew in each of them.

What makes their performances so powerful is that each character has relatable traits. The audience can see parts of themselves in these characters, both the good and the bad. It's always impactful to see yourself reflected on stage, making the experience more engaging and thought-provoking.

What do you think is the most challenging part of bringing this renown play to the stage?

Taking on this challenge came with a couple of key considerations. First, "Doubt" has an iconic movie adaptation, and if you haven't seen it, it features greats like Philip Seymour Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Viola Davis, and Amy Adams. I tried not to watch the movie before working on this project because its reputation can be intimidating. Additionally, the play was recently on Broadway, so there are big shoes to fill in terms of character interpretation.

However, we set those pressures aside to make the production our own. The play has won numerous awards, including Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize. Knowing we were working with such an acclaimed script was reassuring. It meant that the material itself was already proven to be great, allowing us to focus on delivering the message rather than worrying about the script's quality. This backing gave us the confidence to interpret the characters in our own way and concentrate on how we wanted to convey the story.

How did you do that? 

I have to say, having such an award-winning script was a huge help. We all knew we were working with something incredible right from the start. The script speaks for itself—it's renowned for being excellent. Unlike some Broadway productions with elaborate sets and effects, "Doubt" is all about the characters and their interactions. There's not a lot of flashy lighting or fancy techniques to rely on. It's just the actors, fully immersed in their roles, engaging with each other.

In a way, this simplicity made it easier for us. We could focus on portraying the characters authentically without distractions. Watching the actors bring these characters to life was a joy—it felt natural and unforced.

Is there anything that you want the audience to take from this show?

As I mentioned earlier, I aim for shows that leave the audience with something to ponder or a new perspective. However, I don't necessarily want them to walk away with a specific message that I've imposed. It's not my place to dictate what they should take from the experience. Instead, I want them to feel compelled to share their thoughts and feelings about the play as soon as the lights dim and the show ends. Whether they discuss it right away with their seatmate or wait until they're in the car, as long as the conversation continues, I feel like we've succeeded.

How did you decide to become an actor and director? 

I'm pretty typical in the theatre world. My story starts with seeing my first Broadway musical in middle school—it was "Wicked," and it left a huge impression on me. From there, I was all in. I attended theatre camps, started performing in high school, and was involved in every show possible. I even co-president of the theatre club. Theatre consumed my summers too.

After high school, I jumped straight into the theatre program at Texas A&M Corpus Christi, majoring in acting and directing. After graduating, I became a theatre teacher for a while before deciding to pursue my Master's degree in Commerce. Come August, I'll be finishing up that degree and then diving straight into a Masters of Fine Arts at the University of Idaho. It's been a journey, but I've loved every moment of it.

Fantastic, congratulations! If you could choose a favorite project, what would that be?

I love what my stage manager always says—that her favorite project is the one she's working on at the moment. It might sound like a bit of a cop-out, but it's true. It's hard to pick just one favorite when you're immersed in the creative process.

My background is definitely in controversial and introspective work, where I aim to challenge the audience and make them think. Working on this project was challenging. We put the show up in just a month, and it flew by. It's tough to pause and reflect on the moment when you're in the thick of it, but it's important.

This project holds a special place in my heart—it's my first time directing at this level. I've directed high school shows before, but this was different. I got to collaborate with an amazing team of talented individuals, from the set and lighting designers to my incredible stage manager. It truly took a village to bring this production to life, and I couldn't be prouder of the result.

What is next for Morgan?

I'm planning to dip back into acting for a bit. It's a bit easier to land acting gigs compared to securing directing opportunities, especially if you're not already attached to a Theatre. But I'm also continuing my education—I'll be wrapping up my MFA in about two years. My goal is to keep teaching Theatre to young people across America and hopefully inspire them to love it as much as I do. We need more kind, caring people out there, whatever path they choose.

In the meantime, I'll be doing some more acting gigs in the area and hopefully lining up another directing project down the line.

Interview: Morgan Urbanovsky of DOUBT: A PARABLE at Georgetown Palace
Cast (and undestudies) of Doubt: A Parable
Georgetown Palace
PC: Georgetown Palace

Click here to read our Review of Georgetown Palace’s Doubt: A Parable.

DOUBT: A PARABLE

Written by John Patrick Shanley

Directed by Morgan Urbanovsky

Georgetown Palace, Playhouse Stage

810 South Austin Avenue 

Georgetown, TX 78626

Now playing through June 2nd, 2024

Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm

Sundays at 2:00pm




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