Stages of ‘Doubt’

For John Patrick Shanley, “Defiance” comes after “Doubt.”

That’s true literally, in that the scribe follows up his Pulitzer- and Tony-winning Broadway hit “Doubt” with “Defiance,” a new play starring Stephen Lang that bows Off Broadway at Manhattan Theater Club Feb. 9.

But it’s also true thematically: Shanley has decided that “Doubt” and “Defiance” are two installments of a planned triptych about American hierarchy.

“I knew it would turn into a trilogy just when I started to work on ‘Defiance,’ ” he says.

He finished the first draft of the play, about Marine Corps officers at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, the night before he won the Pulitzer in April.

“First, an individual experiences personal doubt,” he says. “Then it gets social or cultural, and its expression is often defiance.”

He calls defiance a “necessary but transitional phase. Living in permanent defiance is like living in permanent adolescence. You have to move out of it. That’s how I know there’s going to be a third play.”

Asked if the success of “Doubt” has brought Hollywood calling with greater frequency, he says, “The movie people are like certain migratory birds whose patterns no one has figured out.”

On his slate are projects for Rob Reiner, Norman Jewison and Scott Rudin.

As for the third play in his trilogy, he’s not sure where or when it will be set, or even whether it, too, will have a single-word title beginning with a D.

But “Doubt” came directly from his experience at a Catholic school in the Bronx, and “Defiance” grew out of his time at Camp Lejeune in the 1970s.

“So I know what the third one’s about in that I know what happened to me,” he says.

‘Wonder’ years

Pretty soon it won’t just be the legit cognoscenti listening to the tunes of composers Jason Robert Brown (“The Last Five Years”), Michael John LaChiusa (“See What I Wanna See”), Andrew Lippa (“A Little Princess,”) and Robert Lopez (“Avenue Q”). In 2006, toddlers will be singing along.

“The Wonder Pets!” an animated series about three classroom mascots who rescue animals around the world, has employed Brown, LaChiusa, Lippa and Lopez to score several of its 40 11-minute episodes. The show preems March 3 on Nick Jr.

Josh Selig, the “Sesame Street” alum who created and exec produces the series, calls “Wonder Pets” a big musical step up from the simple, synthesized soundtracks more common to kids’ TV. Each seg of “Pets” has an original score played by a 25- to 30-piece orchestra.

The appeal for composers is two-fold.

“An opera for kids. How can you beat that?” says LaChiusa, whose next tuner, “Bernarda Alba,” bows at Lincoln Center in February. The tunesmith has scored two episodes, which he says have a “jazzy, Broadway sound.”

“You’re not offered to do adult musical things for TV,” he says. “That doesn’t happen anymore.”

And, unlike theater, “television is steady, consistent work,” Selig adds.

“Wonder Pets” is not the first crossover between the worlds of Broadway and children’s TV. John Tartaglia and Stephanie d’Abruzzo, the two Tony-nommed stars of “Avenue Q,” both worked on “Sesame Street.”

And Tartaglia now fronts a kids’ show, “Johnny and the Sprites,” whose five-minute segments on Playhouse Disney proved popular enough that this year the show is being developed into a half-hour series.

“The two communities are very close,” Selig says. “The talent pool is becoming integrated.”

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