Maripat Donovan is a funny woman.
Along with co-writing and staging “Late Nite Catechism,” one of the longest-running one-woman shows, and sequels such as “’Til Death Do Us Part,” the out author and actor has deeply motivated opinions about the holy order, the papacy and cheesesteaks.
PGN: How did you go from owning a contracting company and building sets to becoming a playwright?
MD: I had a degree in theater from Loyola University and would do anything to be involved with the stage. A friend of mine, the managing director of Chicago’s Live Bait Theater, had a late-night series. There was so much theater then, there weren’t enough spaces or time slots. Live Bait needed shows, and knew I was working on an idea about martyrs and saints. We had a good time and they encouraged me to go further, so between December 1992 and May 1993 we developed “Catechism.” Changed my life.
PGN: Sixteen years of Catholic education aside, do you still identify as Catholic?
MD: Here’s the thing. The Catholic Church is not so gay-friendly, but you know that. So I’m not whole-hog within the religion.
PGN: Though “Catechism” and its sequels are beautiful, caustic love songs to holy sisterhood, was there something delicious with you being a gay woman writing about something so sacred?
MD: I was — at first — worried it would screw up sales. I thought maybe people wouldn’t be interested in seeing the show because they weren’t interested in my perspective. It used to make me nervous talking to gay papers. I would ask theater managers in each town what they thought I should do. Most of them were fine with me talking to whomever I chose.
PGN: So you were cautious at first about revealing your sexual orientation?
MD: I was. I can be honest about that.
PGN: When did you loosen up? Was that your comfort level or what you believe is society’s comfort level?
MD: Yeah, it took time, but I got comfortable. I don’t know how things will be with Donald Trump around. We should be OK. We’ll always have Ellen DeGeneres out there.
PGN: What did you know about lesbian nuns?
MD: There was that book of the same name. Did I know women in the sisterhood who might have been gay? I’m going to say yes because there’s a probability. So have you. Have I outed any nuns or did any nun ever out themselves to me? The answer is no. Have I ever been around nuns I thought might be gay? Sure. They’re humans. They love each other and they love you and they love God.
PGN: I know the sisterhood remains crucial to your life because you’ve asked for offerings at the end of each performance — the old-school collection plate — for retired and disabled nuns.
MD: I identified as Catholic for so long because it meant so much to my mother. She put so much into it and having me remain part of it. I have an honorary doctorate at Loyola because I collect money for the sisterhood. It’s the best thing I have ever done and will do: $8 million so far for women who do not get recognized by the men in the church. These women dedicate their whole lives to this, and they have been shit on by the damned men in the Catholic Church who boss them around and treat them like slaves. Pope Benedict XVI had the inquisition about American nuns who he thought were too feminist and independent and not subservient enough. He was a fucking bastard. They asked how much money the nuns had and where was it and what did they own … fuckers.
PGN: You’re not performing as The Sister now?
MD: Two years ago I had small strokes and a surgery that went awry, and haven’t performed because I don’t want to falter onstage. I’m waiting to get right to be funny consistently. We’ll see.
PGN: You’ve penned seven nun shows. Are you up for another?
MD: I’ve been discussing as much with my writing partner, Mike Silvia, thinking about using comparative religions as a starting point. I’d have to be careful, though, so to not insult particular religions too much; maybe I would have to wear a gun under my scapular. OK, a toy gun.
PGN: What do you recall about Philadelphia? You did the show at The Bourse back in the day.
MD: I most certainly did. Every night after the shows, we went to Pat’s for cheesesteaks, eating like pigs. Never ask for mayonnaise, by the way. You can’t beat it; the food was so good. Plus the Italian Market was so nice, such a wonderful, picturesque place. You should make more movies there beyond just “Rocky.”
“Late Nite Catechism: ’Til Death Do Us Part” plays 3 and 8 p.m. Feb. 25 at The Rrazz Room at The Prince, 1412 Chestnut St. For tickets or more information, call 215-422-4580.