BY KRISTIN HIGGINS
SDR Drama Director
“Why are we doing a religious play?” “Don’t you know about separation of church and state?” “You’re a public school.” “This play is insulting the Catholic church and people who choose to be nuns.” “Sister Act is irreverent.” These are some of the questions and comments I’ve received since considering bringing Sister Act to the School District of Rhinelander this fall. I’d like to address these comments and reassure the Rhinelander community that Sister Act is a play that everyone will enjoy.
Let me explain the process of selecting a play. A team of adults is selected to peruse what’s out there for high school casts and audiences. There are several factors to consider when selecting a play: We have many females audition and not nearly as many males, so we have to look for plays that have lots of female roles. We also need to consider the content; we try to avoid overdone plays or plays that have violence, sexual innuendo or negative stereotypes as much as possible. Then there’s the difficulty of the music, both instrumental and vocal. If we can’t play the music or sing the range, the music does us no good. Royalties are the next consideration. We have to pay the renting company a fee per performance and we have to be able to afford that fee. Lastly, we have to like the play…all the adults on the team have to like the play!
That brings me to Sister Act. After another exhaustive search, our team agreed that Sister Act met all our criteria and we decided to produce this musical because we fell in love with the strong message of sisterhood and friendship. While the setting happens to be a Catholic church and most of the characters are nuns, we have worked to portray the nuns as real people sharing their journey of discovering what it means to be supportive women to each other and their newfound friend, Deloris Van Cartier. We’ve edited out the parts that felt irreverent. We’ve de-emphasized the religious overtones and focused on the friendship and joyous music. The choreographer, Melissa Salaam, has put together amazing dances and the students have prepared songs that the audience will sing as they leave the theater.
If you liked Whoopi Goldberg’s movie, you’ll love the play. The story is essentially the same, but the music is different. All songs in the play are originals written for the Broadway version, by Tony- and eight-time Oscar winner, Alan Menken (Newsies, Beauty and the Beast, Little Shop of Horrors)
Sister Act opens at the John and Dori Brown Performing Arts Center (RHS auditorium) Thursday, Nov.17 and runs through Sunday, Nov. 20. Thursday and Friday performances are at 7 p.m.; Saturday includes a 1 p.m. matinee along with the 7 p.m. evening show; Sister Act concludes Sunday following the 1 p.m. matinee. All tickets are $5.