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Easter Catechism

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What’s the difference between a religious fanatic and a faithful devotee?

The former will stop short of nothing to convince another of his point of view, while the latter suggests ecclesiastical commitment but not necessarily stoicism or fire-and-brimstone pulpit pounding.

Maripat Donovan’s Sister persona – wherein the comedic actress and playwright, Donovan, dons a habit and portrays a nun – is on stage again. This time she’s appearing in Sister’s Easter Catechism – at the Laguna Playhouse, through April 8.

Easter Catechism fits clearly and comically into the latter category: Sister is sincere about her allegiance to Catholicism, but she has a hilarious way of framing it for us in the audience.

Sister’s debut was twenty years ago at a storefront theater in Chicago. Show times were at 11 p.m., so the improvisational play was titled Late Nite Catechism. Two decades later, and after several sequels and spin-offs, Sister’s Catechism has become a franchise. Yes, Donovan has actually incorporated two other “Sisters” to perform in several editions of the show in order to carry the catechistic comedies forward in her absence.

In Easter Catechism Donovan, sprightly directed by Marc Silva, expounds upon Easter and its place in the compendium of annual Catholic ritual events and celebrations.

Did you know, for instance, that Easter is the premiere Holy Day according to church doctrine? Or, are you familiar with the liturgical notion of the “Wheel of Time”? (“The Wheel” constitutes the idea that time is cyclic and consists of epochs that repeat themselves, time and again.) It’s a concept that’s trans-denominational and is noted as an original precept to such Eastern religions as Hinduism and Buddhism. Catholicism, too, embraces this notion of a cosmic repetition.

Given the lucid theological lessons on display in Sister’s act, it would be easy to think of this two-hour performance piece as a mere lecture on theistic ontology. It is not. What Easter Catechism resembles, more than anything, is classic improvisational comedy a la The Second City or Saturday Night Live. With delightful dollops interspersed with big doses of audience participation and interaction (there’s even an open Question/Answer session between Sister and theatergoers), Donovan is consistently witty and spontaneous in a manner that ranges from amusing to laugh-out-loud funny.

Donovan offers an easy mix of papal didacticism and earthly amusement here. Sister’s demeanor appears dogmatic, but she doesn’t shy away from the complexities or the absurdities of the faith either: Immaculate Conception? It’s a topic in the show. Contraception among Catholics is also a subject addressed. Even the age-old query “Will my bunny go to heaven?” is answered. Sister even goes so far as to refer to church doctrine as “the company line…”As for the company line on the “bunny question,” see the show to get the answer(s).

Sister’s Easter Catechism continues at the Laguna Playhouse – 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach – through April 8. Show times are Tuesday – Saturday at 8 p.m. There’s also Sunday evening performances at 7 p.m. Matinees are at 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, with 2 p.m. Thursday matinees scheduled for March 15, 22, 29, and April 5.For reservations, dial (949) 497-2787, For online ticketing and further information, visit



Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”


Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.