Sister will set you straight at ‘Late Nite Catechism’

Mary Beth Burns stars as Sister in “Late Nite Catechism” Aug. 23 at Raue Center.  |  submitted
Mary Beth Burns stars as Sister in “Late Nite Catechism” Aug. 23 at Raue Center. | submitted

Spit out your gum, silence your phones and tuck in your shirt … class is in session.

“Late Nite Catechism” comes to the Raue Center for the Performing Arts for two shows at 3 and 8 p.m. Aug. 23. It stars Mary Beth Burns of Chicago as Sister.

Written by Vicki Quade and Maripat Donovan, “Late Nite Catechism” is an interactive show that is part catechism class and part stand-up comedy routine. It started in Chicago in 1993 and is now the longest-running one-woman show in the city’s history.

Burns, who was born and raised on Chicago’s north side, has been wearing the Sister’s habit for 11 years now. It’s produced by Entertainment Events in New York.

“It got the name ‘Late Night Catechism’ because it’s a 10 o’clock show,” she said. “It’s a one-woman, highly interactive show. The premise is the audience is the class. There is a script, and everything happens in real time. If anything happens — if people come in late, if a phone goes off — I’ll just stop whatever I’m doing and address it as the character of Sister. It removes the fourth wall completely. If someone is rummaging through their purse I stop the show and acknowledge it.

There have never been two shows that are exactly the same.”

As an actress, this kind of show is “tons of fun,” she said.

“In addition to doing theater in Chicago, I was a member of the touring company at Second City, so my roots are both in improvisation and acting, so it’s a beautiful hybrid of both,” she said. “I got hired for the job when I was out in L.A. working on a different project with a different theater company and somebody saw me and said I should talk to Maripat Donovan.”

When she got back to Chicago, she sent in her head shot and resume and got a call a week later.

“They said, ‘You’re exactly what we’re looking for. You have the acting background, the improv background, you’re Irish, you’re Catholic and you’re from Chicago,” she said. “The rest is history.”

She does between 30 and 50 shows a year.

“I travel all over the country with it. I’ve been in about every state,” she said. “The show has a large appeal to it. It’s really a great show because a lot of people use it as fundraisers for their parishes. I’ve performed to houses of 50 to 60 people, then I’ve done beautiful theaters of 1,100 people and everything in between, and it’s always very well received. And you don’t have to be Catholic to enjoy it.”

After the show, she takes up a real collection for actual retired sisters, and she talks to the audience.

“I’ve had people say to me, ‘I’m a Lutheran, but I loved it.’ I’ve performed for a couple of Lutheran groups,” she said. “Jewish people, Protestants, everybody. Everybody enjoys it.”

The show she will perform in Crystal Lake is the original show (there have been spinoffs.) In it, she will talk about basic Catechism, but in a very humorous way.

While the show is appropriate for people of all ages and all faiths, people who went to Catholic school will probably appreciate it the most.

“It’s a show that appeals to everybody,” she said. “It’s a whole lot of fun. I just tell people to spit their gum out before coming to class or suffer the consequences.”

‘LATE NITE CATECHISM’

Aug. 23

Raue Center, 26 N. Williams St., Crystal Lake

Tickets, $30

(815) 356-9212

rauecenter.org

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