Jesuit’s fall play dramatizes social justice

Matt Parks ’21
A single black and white poster for Fall Play taped to a wall.

With a keen awareness for topical events, Jesuit High School Drama presents “In the Matter of Scott Daniel Warren, or Scenes and Fragments about a Play in the Desert,” a company-written play that explores and grapples with the realities and morality of immigration. 

In Jesuit’s intimate Black Box Theater, a cast of 17 comprised of Jesuit and other local high school students from Cristo Rey High School, Rio Americano High School and St. Francis High School will examine the recent trial of Scott Warren, a geography professor accused of unlawful aid of two migrants attempting to cross the Arizona desert. 

Told through the lens of the trial, the play shifts in and out of the courtroom in exploration of people and ideas. Jesuit Drama’s Artistic Director Mr. Ed Trafton ’84 finds importance in the confrontation of truth and reality as well as to bring the play’s message into the Jesuit view. 

“We are … exploring the idea of what it means to be neighbor[s] … to help a fellow human being in need,” Mr. Trafton said. “We feel — in line with Catholic teachings on social justice — that Dr. Warren’s trial illustrates the difficulty of trying to reconcile two types of law: human laws and God’s laws.” 

The creation and staging of the play has showcased the talents of the entire company. Mr. Trafton’s and Director of Lighting Design Ms. Sally Slocum’s imaginations in the staging and lighting design builds intimacy between the audience and the actors. The set is minimal, consisting of two chairs with full reliance on the use of projection, which allows central focus on the actors. 

There are notable performances from the show’s leads. Mr. Scott Warren, played by Kevin Sheahan ’20, is honest and pensive, Will Segale’s ’21 lead defense attorney Mr. Gregory Kuykendall is forcefully passionate, and Saint Francis High School actress Ella Chalmers commands as lead prosecutor Ms. Anna Wright. The foundation of the show is grounded in a strong supportive ensemble who breathe life into their characters and sharpen the narrative. 

Stepping into the titular character, veteran actor Kevin expressed esteem for Scott Warren’s courage and humanity.

“I’ve learned so much … throughout the process of being in this fall play,” Kevin said. “[Scott Warren is] a humble servant and spokesperson to these migrants who previously have not had a voice … when I look at all these things I think it’s important to share them and to publicize this great man.”

The script recounts Warren’s actual trial using dialogue from transcripts and incorporates Scripture to challenge the audience to consider the trial from more than a legalistic perspective. 

Mr. Trafton recognizes the dedication of the actors and technicians in their collaborative effort to find the best way to present the nuances of the show’s divisive topic.

“[O]ur outstanding company … has grappled with … how to tell this complicated story in a compelling, informative and as objective way possible, recognizing that [there] are several points of view,” Mr. Trafton said. 

Will describes the difficult process in trying to seamlessly blend truth with entertainment through an objective lens, but feels the show is able to capture both and retain its integrity.   

“The creation of the script was very challenging, as it was difficult to tell what really happened in an entertaining yet understandable way,” Will said. “I think this play offers an unbiased view of what really is going on at the border and the people who are trying to [e]ffect change.” 

The topic of immigration has generated various expectations and feelings about the upcoming play. Mr. Trafton dispels any concerns based on preconceptions and clarifies the importance of the subject matter is reflected in Jesuit’s mission. 

“This is exactly the kind of play that a Catholic, Jesuit school should be doing, and we proudly stand behind it,” Mr. Trafton said. “Come see the show and bring an open mind. And heart.” 

Jesuit Drama excels with thoughtful staging and balanced consideration for the show’s complex topic. The play premieres tonight and runs through Nov. 10 in Jesuit’s Black Box Theater. Performances are Thursday through Saturday this week and Thursday through Sunday next week. All performances except next Sunday’s 2:00 p.m. closing, start at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are being sold at Jesuit’s Box Office and online. Prices are $10 for students and $15 for general admission.

Matt Parks ’21, Copy Editor