April 26, 2013
LIMA — How many nuns does it take to control a Civic Center-sized crowd? According to Mary Zentmyer, one sister can easily control, and teach, the crowd in Late Nite Catechnism, coming Saturday to Veterans Memorial Civic Center.
“This is a one-nun show,” Zentmyer said in a phone interview last week with The Lima News. More nuns than that might not be fair to those attending the show.
For this one performance, the audience becomes a classroom in this interactive performance. The premise of the show is that there are too many saints in the Catholic faith, and some must be eliminated.
“This show is about 80 percent scripted, and the rest plays off the audience,” said Zentmyer, who has studied with Second City to learn the art of improvisation.
“I have had women come on stage, and I’ve measured the length of their skirts. If anyone in the audience is chewing gum, or comes in late to the performance, they’re called out,” Zentmyer said. And God help the student who leaves a cell phone on during the show.
“Yeah, for that one I’ll say something like, ‘would the brave soldier of Christ sitting next to the ringing phone raise their hand,’ and they always do,” Zentmyer said.
Growing up Catholic, Zentmyer said her “Sister” is a conglomeration of the nuns who taught her, with a pinch of her own personality tossed in the mix.
“They were always strict and tough, but fair. I think people relate to this because it’s all true. You can’t make this stuff up,” she said, recounting pagan babies and ruler-whacking.
But even for those not growing up in a parochial school, Zentmyer said the laughs keep coming. “A lot of this is just growing up with strict teachers. There’s no profanity in this show, and it’s really funny,” she said.
Zentmyer has performed the role of Sister on-and-off for 17 years of the plays’ 20-year existence.
“I remember early on wondering what would happen if the audience stumped me with a question. I grew up Catholic, but that doesn’t mean I know everything about it. Then, I picked up a trick from the Sisters and began saying on those hard questions, ‘if you’re so interested, you can do a report on it that I want to see on my desk in the morning. And don’t forget JMJ at the top. That’s Jesus, Mary and Joseph.’”