A night of penance | VailDaily.com

A night of penance

Shauna Farnell
Photo special to the DailyMary Pat Donovan, who co-wrote "Late Night Catechism," warns sinners of what they might face should they not follow a virtuous path. "Late Night Catechism II," starring Kimberly Richards as Sister, brings two nights of comedy to the Vilar Center Wednesday and Thursday night.

BEAVER CREEK – No walking into the theater late or gum-chewing allowed. Or else. There might be hell to pay.The mortal lessons and consequences are back with “Late Night Catechism II,” the one-woman comedy starring Sister the teacher.”It pretty much sold out both times it was here and people loved it,” said Vilar Center director Kris Sabel of “Late Night Catechism,” which appeared at the Vilar Center in the season of 1999-2000 and ’01-02. “I grew up Catholic and went to a Catholic School, but even people who weren’t Catholic loved it. We have to provide the props, so last time, we called the Catholic church in Minturn and had to explain that it’s a comedy but there’s nothing irreverent about it. The priest came to the show and really enjoyed it. It’s really about the interaction between the sister and the audience.”Maybe you’re wearing a skirt that’s too short. Maybe you forgot to shave. Maybe you’re talking when you should be listening. Sister will punish you.Kimberly Richards, who grew up Catholic and attended Catholic school, has many characters in her memory after which she models her role as Sister.

“Sister has to be strict, but as soon as she finishes beating you up, she’ll pat you on the head,” said Richards, who lives in the Bay area and auditioned for the part as Sister in the first Late Night Catechism almost four years ago.”The show came to San Francisco, and they were auditioning for local actresses,” she said. “My agent called them and they said, ‘Well, it’s too late. The producers are leaving in an hour.’ I said, ‘I went to Catholic School. My aunt’s a nun.’ They said, ‘We’ll wait for you.’ They wanted a monologue and a joke. I had plenty of time to think during the (half-hour) drive. I brought my first Holy Communion picture. They were like, ‘Oh, this is better than a head shot.'”Richards started her entertainment career as a dancer in Las Vegas several years ago. Then she moved on to aerial acts, stand-up, improv and finally, acting.”I really have gone full circle,” she said. “Now I’m a nun. Before I did ‘Catechism,’ I did another show where I almost exclusively played the cop, which is like being a nun in a different outfit.””Late Night Catechism II” differs slightly than its prequel in that the subject is penance and how one can get into heaven. It is the audience’s job to be good students and to ask informed questions while behaving angelically.”‘Cat II’ is a little more relaxed,’ Richards said. “‘Late Night Catechism’ makes audiences feel like they’re in the third grade. We’re not quite the same. If someone answers a question and doesn’t stand up and say their first, middle and last name, we’re a little calmer about it. You don’t have to participate … unless you show up late, or are chewing gum. You might get charged a dollar. In the old days, you’d get a ruler across the knuckles. We don’t do that. But, fining is still allowed. You can always spot the Catholics right off the top. The Catholics are just peeling dollars off to hand over.”

Of course, it doesn’t take a Catholic to appreciate “Catechism.””It doesn’t matter if you went to Catholic school or any other school,” Richards said. “If you remember a teacher who is strict, the show will ring a bell. It’s never the same show twice, so it always has a huge repeat audience. On a level, it’s very cathartic. There’s a therapeutic element to going to laugh at what tortured you as a child. We poke fun at it, but we’re never inappropriate. We don’t make fun of nuns. I’ve had many nuns who come to the performance and love it. If anything, it’s a tribute to them and to the Catholic church.”Richards pulls off her role convincingly, and she says, while teaching Catechism might be exhausting, she’s always energized after every show.”I’m cranked,” she said. “I’m up for hours. It’s very energizing when you see people having fun and laughing at themselves. You always get wonderful compliments. People will come up to me afterward and say, ‘We have a bet going. Are you a real nun?'”

Staff Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 610, or sfarnell@vaildaily.com.Vail Colorado

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