'Late Nite Catechism' in Blowing Rock
Call it Loretta Young meets Carol Burnett.
Part catechism class, part stand-up routine, the interactive comedy, "Late Nite Catechism," created by Maripat Donovan and her writing partner, Vicki Quade, is one of the longest-running shows in U.S. theater history. The play runs Friday through Sunday, July 8 to 10, at the Hayes Performing Arts Center in Blowing Rock.
Catholic school and Catholicism in general get a gleeful - yet respectful - working over in the show.
Sister, an unnamed nun, teaches an evening catechism class to a room full of "students" (i.e. the audience). She's filling in for Fr. Murphy, who doesn't want to miss his poker night, and she's going to teach the class the way she wants.
Sister has decided she's going to tell the students stories about what it's like to be a Catholic. She says she started teaching when it was a wonderful time to be a nun, back in the heyday of the Catholic Church. She had 52 kids in her first class, who she says, "all knew they were better than the kids who went to public school."
She goes on to weave stories, old jokes and pre-Vatican II dogma into a hilariously funny tapestry of Catholic culture. The show possesses a distinctly Catholic sense of humor, with an ability to laugh at the quirks of the church, while simultaneously embracing them.
You, the audience member, are part of Sister's class, in which she'll take you back to the days of the Latin Mass and meatless Fridays, and remind you about that good old ruler across the knuckles.
Throughout the course of the class, the benevolent instructor rewards the "students" for correct answers with glow-in-the-dark rosaries and other nifty prizes. Naughty "students" may well find themselves on stage sitting in a corner reflecting their actions. Gum-chewing "students" may be singled out and forced to spit out their Trident. However, even the most reluctant "students" will be clamoring to get into this Sister's class.
Playwright Donovan originated the role of Sister in "Late Nite Catechism" and has received rave reviews for her work in Chicago, Boston, Rhode Island, New York, Toronto, Philadelphia, Seattle, Portland, London and Dublin.
When she was very young, Donovan owned a child-sized nun's habit, which she once wore for Halloween. For her work in "Late Nite Catechism," she was nominated for the coveted Outer Critics Circle Award in New York for outstanding solo performance. She was also nominated for two Los Angeles Drama Critic Circle Awards for writing and performance, and won the LADCC for Best Solo Performance in 1999.
Donovan described her childhood as "very religious."
"When I was a kid, growing up on the south side of Chicago, we went to Mass every day and said the rosary on our knees every night, so I have a lot of religious information in my head, and I draw on that all the time," she said. "I'm not a churchgoer today, but I'm definitely what you'd call culturally Catholic."
Tickets prices and times for "Late Night Catechism" are $25, $30 and $40 for Friday, July 8, and Saturday, July 9, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, July 10, at 2 p.m. Ticket prices vary by seat location.
To purchase tickets, call the Hayes Center box office at (828) 295-9627 or visit http://www.hayescenter.org. Tickets may be purchased in person with cash or check.
The Hayes Performing Arts Center is located at 152 Jamie Fort Road (off U.S. 321) in Blowing Rock. For more information, call (828) 295-9627.