Sister Maripat Donovan

Late Nite Catechism in Chicago

Late Nite Catechism is the kind of title that sends an intelligent person running. “Oh, no. Not another show about Catholic nuns. Please. Whoopi was enough.”

Don’t run too fast. Yes, Late Nite Catechism is a religious comedy. Yes, it features a woman dressed in a black habit. And, yes, just like Sister Mary Ignatius, she explains Catholicism to the unindocrinated. But the similarities stop there. Late Nite Catechism is refreshingly different from most plays about religion, and those differences make this one-woman show a topnotch comedy.

For starters, playwrights Vicki Quade and Maripat Donovan have a deep, nostalgic respect for their subject. It’s not the blind respect of a child who’s never thought about religion. It’s a mature respect born out of diligent scholarship and a bit of reflection. The attitude seems to be encapsulated in Quade’s program bio, which says, “She grew up thinking the nuns in her school were the product of a dangerous liaison between humans and angels. Later, when four nuns picked her up while she was waiting for a late night bus, she knew they were okay.”

Second, Late Nite Catechism is gloriously funny. Donovan, who plays the nun, has the natural comic genius of a class clown. She also plays a real nun, not a stereotype, not a satire of one. Her character tapes Star Trek every week and, more important, has a strong sense of humor about herself and her faith.

In less compassionate hands this play could deteriorate into a cheap slam of all things Catholic. 

The scene is an adult catechism class in Chicago, 1993. Sister is filling in for Father Murphy, who doesn’t want to miss his poker night, and she’s going to teach the class the way she wants. (After all, she says, she’s been teaching religion for more than 25 years.)

Sisters 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, she says, “who 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 hilariously funny tapestry of Catholic culture.

At the risk of stereotyping, perhaps only an actress with a name like Maripat Donovan could do this so well. She has a distinctly Catholic sense of humor, an ability to laugh at the quirks of the church while simultaneously embracing them. (I’m not sure you need to be Catholic to enjoy this show, but Catholics will undoubtedly enjoy it more.)

In 1993, when authors Vicki Quade and Maripat Donovan created their hit comedy, Late Nite Catechism. little did they know their little comedy would go on to become the longest continuously running show in Chicago history, the longest one-character comedy in off-Broadway history, and one of the most beloved comedies of all time.

Watch and enjoy these two short videos featuring original founder, Maripat Donovan below… “Sister Strikes Again!”

Now watch this – ‘Til Death Do Us Part

Comments from viewers on You-Tube:

What is really funny is that the Catholics among us who have been taught by sisters just like this are the ones laughing at this show. These are “IN” jokes for us.  No wonder people who never had nuns like this don’t get it. This woman is hilarious. I have a strong enough faith to be able to laugh at my own religion once in a while. You go Sister!

As a Catholic school survivor, it’s finally GREAT to get a laugh from a nun. LOL!!

I sure wish she had been my Catechism teacher!

Maripat Donovan was born in Chicago, attended Catholic grammar school and high school on the South Side of Chicago, and Loyola University on the city’s North Side.

After working in both her high school and college theater departments, often building and designing sets, she developed her own construction company and renovated houses for a number of years.

In 1985, she returned to theater as an understudy in Portrait of a Shiksa, a role for which she earned a Jeff Citation for Best Supporting Actress. She earned another Jeff Citation for her work in the ensemble of The Good Times Are Killing Me.

In 1993, Maripat created Late Nite Catechism with her writing partner, Vicki Quade. She also originated the role of Sister in Late Nite Catechism and has been the star of virtually every production in the United States, London, Dublin and in Toronto.

Now watch “Sister’s Easter Catechism: Will My Bunny Go To Heaven?” — as she answers the time worn question, “Why isn’t Easter the same day every year like Christmas?” Sister answers questions about pet heaven and the significance of those adorable baby chicks… and of course those yummy Easter Peeps!


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