'Sister Mary Ignatius . . .' lays it out in black and white
By MICHAEL SMITH, 11/07/2004
Liz Masters is 42 years old. She's happy to be 42, proudly 42.
One of Tulsa's best comic actresses is now old enough to put on a habit and deliver the sister act that she's been waiting two decades to perform.
"I saw 'Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You' 20 years ago, and I had been in one play at that point, but I knew I wanted to play that role someday," Masters said of the role that requires an actress of at least 40.
"So I guess there's some benefit to aging," the veteran of 50-plus plays said with a laugh.
"Sister Mary" is playwright Christopher Durang's pitch-black comedy about the difference between the lessons taught and the lessons learned in Catholic school, an irreverent satire that aims its barbs at organized religion.
Sister Mary is absolutely convinced that her every opinion is absolutely right, and that's the end of the discussion.
The opening of this one-act play will find Masters as Sister Mary lecturing the audience about the wages of sin.
"I was laughing with someone who asked about this character, and I said, 'Well, basically, she's an old-fashioned nun whose view of the world is as black-and-white as her habit. There is no gray in Sister Mary's world, or in her clothing.'
"I am so very much not like that myself that it seemed so appealing to play her."
Sister Mary is later joined on stage by various former students who are happy in their own lives -- lives that repudiate all of Sister Mary's teachings.
The play is a comically cautionary tale of someone allowing dogma to overtake their humanity, Masters said -- and not intended to be a swipe at the Catholic church.
"It's not that Sister Mary doesn't care about her students, but she cares more about the rules, what is right and wrong -- and if that has devastating effects on her students, that's their fault for not following the rules. I have a hard time with that kind of black-and-white.
"It really is about how you treat people as much as following the rules. That's the lesson I'd want people to take away from this."
The play is paired with another of Durang's one-acts, "The Actor's Nightmare," and the two productions are double-cast, with Masters joined by Rich Bentz, Heather Brooker, Veronica Combs, Mike Grove and Will Hedgecock.
"Sister Mary" is directed by Gary Dean Sweeney, while Susan Webb helms "Actor's Nightmare." The stage manager is Michael Prada, costuming is by Tara Treiber and Kris Adair is the light designer.
In "The Actor's Nightmare," Grove portrays George, a man suddenly forced onto a stage to replace an ailing actor. Trouble is, he's never certain exactly what his lines are, or even what play is being presented.
Every time he thinks he has a handle on what's happening, it changes again.
"Anyone, whether they've been on stage or not, can identify with those panicky dreams in which you show up for the final exam and you never went to any of the lectures," Masters said. "I've had three actor's nightmares since we've started rehearsals. Everybody gets that feeling."
"SISTER MARY IGNATIUS EXPLAINS IT ALL FOR YOU" and "THE ACTOR'S NIGHTMARE"
8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, also 8 p.m. Nov. 18-20
Nightingale Theater, 1416 E. Fourth St.
$10, 557-8012, email@example.com