Preview: Catching up with 'Late Nite Catechism' nun Kimberly Richards

Kimberly Richards as Sister in 'Late Nite Catechism.'

Courtesy Photo

Kimberly Richards as Sister in "Late Nite Catechism."

IF YOU GO

What: Catholic nun leads an education class with audience as students

When: 3 p.m. Sunday

Where: Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall, 13350 Edison Parkway, Fort Myers

Cost: $54 & 47

Information: Call 481-4849 or go to bbmannpah.com

Something Else: Show involves heavy audience participation

On the Web: More theater news at The Stage Door blog

Kimberly Richards is a nun on the run. Literally.

The first time I called, she was on an airport shuttle, headed out for a swing that would see her perform four of the six versions of "Late Nite Catechism" within the next ten days.

"Sometimes, it gets to the point where I ask 'what show am I doing today?'" Richards said later from an airport gate. "I've spent ten years on the road!"

That road runs through Southwest Florida. "Late Nite Catechism" plays a single matinee at 3 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 10 at Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall in Fort Myers. Tickets are $54 & $47.

"Late Nite Catechism" features a Catholic nun leading an evening catechism class; the audience represent the pupils. Misbehavior WILL NOT be tolerated. No drinking. No gum-chewing. No talking. Sister WILL PUNISH YOU.

"They really love watching someone else get in trouble," Richards said when asked about the appeal of the show. "They get an idea something different is about to happen."

Ten years in "The Convent of Catechism" leads to all sorts of "something different." While the show has the framework of a script, every single performance of "Catechism" will be different because of interaction with the crowd.

Richards hauls out one brilliant bit involving an elderly woman at the very rear of the audience who repeatedly kept digging through her purse during the show. Sister worked her way back and asked what the woman was looking for.

"She didn't miss a beat," Richards laughed, "… looked up at me and said 'stool softener.'"

"Did you bring enough for everyone?"

That spontaneity attracted Richards to the show.

"If you get two people in a room, something is going to happen," she said.

Still, "Catechism" remains touching, moving, educational and very, very smart. Non-Catholics are welcome. Non-believers are especially welcome. Even the Catholics might learn something.

"The show is not irreverent," Richards said. "Nothing can be farther from the truth."

The actress should know. She spent 12 years in Catholic school, has an aunt who's been a nun for 60 years and had priests compliment her theology.

Beyond the laughs and the spiritual brush-up, Richards hopes audiences take a little knowledge away from the show.

"It's a lot easier to get along if we just try," Richards said. "It doesn't matter who you are, there's a common ground there."

Touching down in Fort Myers will also be a bit of a homecoming for the actress; years ago she performed at the now-demolished Naples Dinner Theatre.

"Oh I'm gonna cry," she says when I inform her of the building's passing. "That was such a fun place." Then, she launches into anecdotes of her time in Naples.

"They had this stage on hydraulic lifts," she groans.

They didn't have anybody to operate it, so they get the busboys back and I'm posing on top of a hot pink chair. They miss the lock and send the stage into the audience," she rattles off.

"Oh boy, I've got some Naples Dinner Theatre stories," she warns.

But those will have to wait. Sister's "Late Nite Catechism" class convenes first. Don't be late. Don't chew gum. Don't make noise. Don't make Sister angry. You won't like Sister when she's angry.

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