When one of the key aspects of your theatrical performance is interacting with the audience and thanks to COVID-19 there is no live audience in the hall, that’s a problem.
Turns out it’s not overwhelming for tech assistants working for the Stages theater where actress Denise Fennell will once again channel Sister at The Gordy, with a new live show delivered virtually every night.
Starting tonight, Fennell will return again to Las Vegas late night catechism: sister rolls the dice, to play Sister whose church bingo fundraising talents and abilities are now explored to a whole new level.
The audience will interact with the dominant / funny / determined character via Zoom. They will be able to see her on stage and thanks to three large screens, she will be able to see them (followers of The voice will recognize the staging) as it teaches them how to act and how to stay within the principles of Roman Catholicism.
Los Angeles-based Fennell is both happy to be back live and to be in Houston.
“Playing Sister has been one of the most incredible joys of my life. The character is timeless and what’s so beautiful about this piece is that it evolves over time. Even though I’ve been playing the character ever since. almost 10 years now, every The show is brand new to me. Every experience takes place on that day, at that time. It keeps the role really fresh for me and it keeps things really stimulating creatively for me. me as an actor, it’s different every time.
“I have to say I love it even more now. There have been 365 days this year where I wasn’t sure how or when I would come back in front of an audience and I missed it so much,” she says. “I wasn’t sure when the time was right to make people laugh again and just recently we started things over again and I will see it differently for the rest of my life and I will never take a moment for granted on stage. again.”
“Just recently we got things rolling again and I will see it differently for the rest of my life and I will never take a moment for granted on stage again.” – Denise Fennell
Audiences play a big role in making each show different, she says. There is a script that she follows, but depending on audience reaction, Fennell is using her improvisation skills. She says she also spends time in any city she performs in, getting to know the local landmarks (She gave a big thumbs up to Italian grill from Carrabba). “I try to attend local events in Houston so that I can share some of my experiences so that they can understand that Sister is a real person, we have a real dialogue, it happens in real time.”
In this particular Late catechism, in addition to raising funds for the school to help with the maintenance and repair of Saint-Bruno, Sister runs a catechism course “which essentially teaches students to play in accordance with Church directives. Catholic so we don’t all go to hell. “”
Fennell first got involved in Late catechism when she was playing on Broadway in Tony and Tina’s wedding when she meets Maripat Donovan the co-creator (with Marc Silvia) and solo performer of Late catechism. When they met in the halls of the church where they were performing, each one stayed in their character.
Eventually, Donovan called her up, cited her “exceptional” improvisation skills, and asked her to perform her piece. Fennell says she was young and didn’t think she was ready to handle a solo show, but eventually Donovan exhausted her, trained her in the role, and the two became best friends.
Fennell said that during the pandemic she “had finally come to the point that when the theater community was ready to put me back in the play, they would do so in a safe and responsible manner.”
Not having the audience in the room with her at The Gordy made her a little uncertain, but a technical run with a Zoom audience on Monday night allayed all of her fears. “I’m telling you, this is the next level. The folks at Stages have created a virtual classroom for me that is so real. On three sides of me I see seats where members of the audience would be. this case there are giant screens hanging and instead of sitting in the seats the audience members are in giant boxes so i can see each one of them. higher level.
“So it doesn’t look like I’m on TV. It looks like I’m on stage playing live theater. It’s spectacular.”
One difference, she laughs, is that during the technical race some people’s dogs entered the homescreens. “I can now see people’s houses. Last night I got to see some people’s pets. People were holding their dogs. I thought, ‘It’s amazing, I’m learning about my audience that I would never have learned because they don’t take their dogs to the theater.
Asked about the enduring appeal of late Sunday catechism, Fennell says she thinks it’s because “I bring a lot of compassion and love to it and it shows. I believe people are drawn to this reality. I also think people like to be yelled at. a little. They like to be told what to do, ”she adds, laughing.
“The Houston audience knows that, they know that if someone is late there may be a problem. So as soon as someone walks into the room [late]everyone will say ‘Ooooooooh.’ ”
The performances are scheduled at 7:30 p.m. from Wednesday to Saturday and at 2:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays until May 23. For more information visit stagehouston.com. $ 25.