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Late Nite Catechism Las Vegas...Sister Rolls the Dice

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Since Late Night Catechism was concocted in 1993 by Maripat Donovan and her then writing partner Vicki Quade, the show has gone on to become a near-cottage industry with performances all over the world. Currently collaborating with Donovan now, director Marc Silvia understands the interactive nature of the show and allows some humorous freewheeling. As sterling as other actresses are who occasionally wear the mantle of Sister, no one can match Donovan for her quick wit and inexhaustible Catholic erudition.

A member of the Sorrowful Sisters of the Weeping Nun, Donovan wears the familiar black and white habit so familiar to older adults, even though Vatican 2 finally permitted regular street clothes. She explains that as a child she went to Mass every day, and she said her rosary every night on her knees. This doesn't appear to be a happy memory even though it surely pays off for her ability to wow the audience with her knowledge.

Originally Donovan created the show as a fund-raiser for Catholic nuns who had no retirement benefits. She found that she could meet audiences with a bucket as they left the show and raise money in that manner. At this production she reported that the show has raised over 4 million dollars, a startling statement when you consider that it's a solo show and the audience members may not be Catholic.

The show takes place in a classroom, and from the first moment Sister lets us know that we are her adult catechism class, and we had better get ready, because we will be involved in a fund-raiser to support St. Bruno's parish. She alludes to Catholic successes at Bingo. She has decided that a Las Vegas night would work well, because gambling, a little drinking, and card playing are perfectly OK for Catholics. She herself favors blackjack.

She  delights in cataloging the sure-fire winners she thinks will work successfully. She performs magic tricks out of a trunk that was bequeathed to her, including one that stars her own little chihuahua. All the while she is alluding to Catholicism in ways that are respectful but often very funny. Audience members are all too willing to share stories and ask questions.

 Q. Is God a Republican or a Democrat?

A.Well, I think he was a Republican in the Old Testament and a Democrat in the New.

This edition of the Sister series spends most its the time on Las Vegas and its attractions, demonstrating things she thinks will draw in the crowds. She exhorts the audience not to pray for winning, claiming that God is not a micromanager. She spends a bit of time on the classifications of angels and their duties. For non-Catholics, it is wickedly instructional.

During the first part of the show she appears to be looking at notes on her lectern, but, as things progress, she hits her stride and is more relaxed, using the audience as a foil for her  humor. She enlists an attractive young woman from the audience to help her with a blackjack game she is playing with a man in the first row. She gets the names of audience members, and at the exit, she remembers them, demonstrating easily how invested she is in the evening's entertainment.

Seeing any of the Catechism series is well worth the price of admission. Exiting the theatre, the crowd is upbeat and generous.

LATE NITE CATECHISM LAS VEGAS: SISTER ROLLS THE DICE will begin performances on Tuesday, June 11 and run through Sunday, June 23, 2013 at the Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road in Laguna Beach.

Performances will be Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays & Fridays at 8pm; Saturdays at 2pm and 8pm; Sundays at 2pm (except for Sunday, June 16). There will be additional performances on Thursday, June 13 & Thursday, June 20 at 2pm. and Sunday, June 23 at 7pm.

Tickets range from $35 - $65 and can be purchased online at or by calling (949) 497-ARTS (2787). Student discounts are available at the Box Office. Group discounts are available by calling 949-497-2787 ext. 229. The box office is open Tuesdays - Sundays: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (open until 8 pm on performance days).

For more information on all shows and programming visit Laguna Playhouse is located at 606 Laguna Canyon Road in Laguna Beach.




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.