Get Schooled With ‘Late Nite Catechism’

Bradenton Herald – If you attend the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre’s humorous production of “Late Nite Catechism,” there are a few things you’ll need to know, per the “Sister”:

First, it is not a show, it’s a “class.”

Second, you are not an audience member, you are a “student.”

And third, you will get schooled in this class-participation production. Report cards won’t be given out though, just prizes. Correct answers from the crowd will be rewarded with items such as glow-in-the-dark rosaries and custom-made dreidels direct from the Holy Land.

After all, “Late Nite Catechism” isn’t just for those with Catholic backgrounds, said Aubrey Manning, who plays Sister. People of all faiths — and those without a faith — are welcome to this one-woman romp that takes a light-hearted look at the Catholic faith.

In the show, er, class, Sister is a nun, in full habit. She teaches the ins and outs of the Catechism, complete with a quiz.

“Sister’s there to teach you about the Immaculate Conception, about some saints,” said Manning.

Plus other religious tidbits. No two “classes” are alike.

“The difference in the show comes from the answers that you get from the audience and how you play with those, how you juggle those,” Manning said. “Some people take it seriously and some people give you flippant answers, which are hysterical.”

But Manning doesn’t make fun of saints or religions.

“I go out of my way to keep it funny and yet respectful,” she said.

The actress has been portraying Sister in “Late Nite Catechism” for about 12 years across the country. Though she was raised Catholic, she didn’t go searching to be a nun — not even for the stage.

In fact, her story on how she received the role is amusing.

She got a job as an acting teacher at a brand new acting school in Seattle. Upon moving her family to the northwest, she wanted to learn more about the region’s auditioning style.

Having auditioned in New York, San Francisco and other major cities, Manning knew that, like those other places, Seattle would have a unique feel for auditions.

“I thought in order to really be able to teach my students how to go out there and get it done, I needed to experience it myself,” she said.

So she found an audition in town and sent in her resume and a photo. Not long after, she was called to come in.

Manning had no intention of landing a role. She just wanted to go through the process of auditioning. But oddly enough, she was offered a role, and it was a paying gig.

She said goodbye to her new teaching job. The show sounded like it would be worth the effort.

“I read the script and laughed through every single second,” Manning said.

“Late Nite Catechism” ran in Seattle for 11 years, making it the longest running show in town, Manning said.

At the beginning of her journey, Manning said she didn’t know what she was getting into. She had no clue the show was interactive or that it was a one-woman gig — two things she didn’t like.

“I saw myself doing everything I have never enjoyed in theater,” she said.

But with a clever script, she grew to embrace it and its challenges.

“‘Late Nite Catechism’ is like nothing else because you’re not free to just interact with the audience about anything you feel like,” she said. “You have to maintain the character of Sister, and everything that means to them and to you and to the script,” Manning said. “And even though you have a script, you do have the flexibility to go off script and do whatever you want.”

Manning said being in the show has been an entertaining lifestyle. It’s also a fun adventure for audiences.

To be sure they get the best possible experience they can, the Sister shared more advice for the “students” who come to her class:

“Don’t come prepared to try to be funny,” she said. “That’s not your job, that’s my job. They have to come with an open mind, and have fun and play.”

Just don’t sit in the back of the class to hide.

“That’s the first place I go,” Manning said. “Nobody escapes Sister.”

published May 28

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