Attend any church Christmas pageant and you'll probably hear the following excerpt from the Gospel according to Matthew: “When (the wise men from the East) saw the young child with Mary his mother, (they) fell down and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.”
While frankincense and myrrh (aromatic resins) would likely have been used for their fragrant qualities, what might have happened to the gold brought to the newborn Jesus? “Sister's Christmas Catechism” is a one-woman show that seeks to answer that centuries-old mystery.
Kimberly Richards has played the title character in the original “Late Nite Catechism” and its sequel, “Sister's Christmas Catechism” for nearly a dozen years. And while the “one-nun comedies” are scripted, they're interactive productions that involve both willing and reluctant audience members.
Richards didn't have to spend a lot of time researching the Catholic Church and its traditions to play a nun. She attended Catholic schools from elementary through high school, a 12-year penance that offered her countless opportunities to observe the personalities behind the habit.
“If I ask someone in the audience if are they are afraid of me and they say yes, my work is done here,” Richards said recently. “I was taught from day one to walk in the door and start admonishing them. You do that and then pat them on the head.”
Seeking volunteers from the audience, Richards creates a living Nativity on stage, a setting that allows her to figure out what happened to the missing gold. She likes to get a heterogeneous mix of participants, and after years of playing the good Sister, she knows who to zero in on.