Best of Phoenix

Nun Sense

For the past six years, Patti Hannon has been starring in both Late Nite Catechism and Late Nite Catechism II at Scottsdale Center for the Arts. "I love playing Sister," she says of the grouchy nun with the soft spot for Catholic school kids, a character with whom she's spent the past decade of her life. Others love Hannon as Sister, too, thanks to her mastery of improvisational comedy, a talent that comes in handy in this frequently hilarious homage to holiness. Hannon paces the stage, swinging her rosary beads and cracking wise about Christ and his cronies in what amounts to a prolonged improv sketch during which Sister lobs funny answers to any number of (often unfunny) questions — about the genesis of Catholicism, how it spawned other religions, and the current status of souls in Purgatory — posed by the audience.

She Isn't Really a Bride of Christ, But She Might Be a Saint
[I've been working in] a program called Cultural Connections, and it's great for the kids. It was established by the Scottsdale Cultural Council to address all the cutbacks in the schools, because of course the first thing to get cut is always the arts programs. Cultural Connections offers weekly classes in music, art, drama, and dance to seventh graders in local public schools, and I'm the resident acting teacher. The thing about acting is that it teaches people to ask basic questions about themselves. That's a skill we can all use in life. Acting also teaches kids to train their minds in a more creative way.

On Doing Three Nun Shows At Once
I've played Sister longer than anyone else other than [Late Nite author] Maripat Donovan. I play her in two shows, Late Nite Catechism and Late Nite Catechism II, and now we're in rehearsal for a third one. It's got a holiday theme, and it's called Sister's Christmas or The Mystery of the Magi. I get to do some forensic work in this one. Maripat wrote it, and I have the same director, Marc Silvia. It opens right after Thanksgiving, and it's great to have some new material for Sister, but don't ask me where I find the energy.

On How She Narrowly Missed Being a Fake Nun
Ten years ago I said no to the part in Late Nite Catechism. I said, "I went to Catholic school, I've been all these years trying to forget those nuns!" But I eventually said yes, and I played Sister for four years in Chicago before moving to the Valley. I'm glad I let them talk me into doing this show, because now I own a house here, and I love being Sister. There are worse ways to make a living. I'm working, and when I'm not, I'm out helping kids, and for this old nun there's nothing better.

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela