'Catechism' star likes to go off script
BY JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer
Sunday, September 23, 2012
9/23/12 at 4:44 AM
When Kimberly Richards decided to take the veil as Sister in the show "Late Nite Catechism," she did something extra to convince the higher powers of her worthiness.
"I brought a picture of me at my first Holy Communion," Richards said. "I figured that would seal the deal."
It's the sort of detail that would appeal to Sister, the nun who has been deputized to run the adult catechism class that is "Late Nite Catechism."
A mixture of scripted comedy, improvisation and audience participation, "Late Nite Catechism" was created in 1993 by writer Vicki Quade and performer Maripat Donovan, who originated the role of Sister.
In the course of the evening, Sister dispenses a colorful and idiosyncratic explication of certain aspects of Catholic dogma, rewards those who can answer her questions about saints and sinners, and corrects improper behavior with a look, a gesture or a pointed phrase.
As long as you're not the object of Sister's disapproval, it's hilarious.
The show continues to run in Chicago, while other productions regularly tour the United States.
Celebrity Attractions first brought the show to Tulsa in 2003, staging it at the Wonderama Theatre (now Wright Career College). That production ran for eight weeks and 64 performances.
The show returns for a one-night-only performance in the Tulsa PAC's Chapman Music Hall.
Putting a one-person show that relies on interaction between the performer and the audience in a 2,400-seat concert hall might seem daunting. But Richards said she's not intimidated by space.
"I've done this show in all sorts of venues," she said. "And no matter what size the hall, you never lose that intimacy.
"Besides," she said, chuckling, "even in a 2,400-seat theater, Sister sees everything!"
And that's where a good portion of the comedy of "Late Nite Catechism" comes - from people's memories of Catholic school, or any other classroom where an authoritarian figure held sway.
"You don't have to be Catholic to enjoy this show," Richards said. "Everyone has had one of those teachers who made sure you knew she was the boss."
Richards herself spent 12 years attending Catholic schools, first in her native Pittsburgh, then in California.
"It's one of the first questions you're asking when you audition for this role - 'Did you go to Catholic school?' " Richards said. "To my knowledge, there's been only one actress who's played Sister who wasn't Catholic. I think the company prefers it.
"And I know people have this vision of nuns being kind of frightening, but my teachers weren't that way," she said. "My character of Sister is a combination of all the nuns who were my teachers. They were strict but fair."
Richards' career began as a dancer, performing for 15 years in Las Vegas as well as in touring productions.
When she gave up working as a dancer at age 30 ("One of the great things about playing Sister is that nuns wear sensible shoes," she said), Richards began working with improvisational comedy and regional theater as an actor, choreographer and director.
She continues to work with theater companies in San Francisco, where she now lives when not on the road portraying Sister.
"I've done all six of the shows," she said. "If I have a favorite, it's probably the second one, 'Sometimes We Feel Guilty Because We Are Guilty.' Maybe it's my favorite because it's the one that gets done the least.
"For this show, we're doing the original script - although even that's a bit of a misnomer," Richards said. "In the 11 years I've been doing 'Late Nite Catechism,' I've never done the same show twice. Whenever you talk to the audience - and I talk to the audience a lot - you're going off script. It's a little like using a Rolodex. If something doesn't quite work, just flip to the next card and go with that for a while."
'LATE NIGHT CATECHISM'
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Chapman Music Hall, Tulsa PAC, 101 E. Third St.
Tickets: $10-$35. 918-596-7111, tulsaworld.com/mytix
James D. Watts Jr 918-581-8478
"I brought a picture of me at my first Holy Communion," says Kimberly Richards of her strategy to get the role of Sister in "Late Nite Catechism." Courtesy