Same nun, same classroom, same premise — but a whole different script.
That's how Mary Zentmyer, the actress who plays Sister, describes “Til Death Do Us Part: Late Nite Catechism III.” The show opens Friday at the Omaha Community Playhouse for a monthlong run.
Zentmyer also played Sister in “Late Nite Catechism” in the summers of 2008 and 2009 at the Playhouse. The show, which gives people a chance to relive — or discover — the experience of Catholic school in the 1960s, began 20 years ago in Chicago and is playing there still.
In fact, it's so popular that creators Vicki Quade and Maripat Donovan now have seven different shows on the theme, which have played coast to coast. Zentmyer does three of the seven.
“Til Death Do Us Part” centers on the sacraments of marriage and anointing of the sick, and Sister becomes a feisty marriage counselor. The second act will include a game show similar to “The Newlywed Game.”
Whatever the theme, Sister expects you to sit up, pay attention and spit out your gum during this combination of improv, audience participation and scripted comedy.
Zentmyer grew up in an Irish Catholic family in Chicago and still lives in her childhood parish, Immaculate Heart of Mary. Her aunt was a nun, and an uncle was a priest.
“None of it is foreign to me,” she said of the script's patter about matters of faith and Sister's quizzes about saints, sacraments and the Baltimore Catechism.
What's changed, she said, is that audience members now try to cheat by looking up answers on their cellphones. Woe unto you if you get caught praying to Saint Google.
“They think I can't see that their laps are glowing,” Zentmyer said. “People have forgotten to be in the now, to have conversation, make eye contact. We're going back to a simpler time of chalk and No. 2 pencils.”
Zentmyer said she loves playing Sister, a no-nonsense, down-to-earth gal who is strict but fair, never mean-spirited and a joyful teacher. Audiences, she said, love a blast from the past, whether they're Catholic or not.
A collection will be taken after each show for retired sisters in the Omaha area. The schedule: Sisters of Mercy June 14 through 23, Servants of Mary June 26 through 30, Notre Dame Sisters July 10 through 14, School Sisters of St. Francis July 17 through 21.
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