Donovan played Sister for the first two years but gradually took over the job of selecting actresses and directors for new productions.
The first show staged outside Chicago opened in Boston in the 1990s, and since then has appeared in “every country in the world,” Donovan said.
The first key in choosing someone to play Sister is that she has to be comfortable doing improvisation.
“You have to be able to hold up the show by yourself,” she said. “And you gotta have some kind of contact with nuns, or they’ll know it’s not real. You know you’ve done your job as a performer if, on the way out, they ask you if you were a nun.”
Colleen Moore, who lives in New York and will appear in “Late Nite” at the Larcom shows, has been playing Sister for 13 years.
“If anyone had told me when I was going through Catholic school that I would play a nun, I would have laughed,” she said. “I was one of those kids who was constantly in trouble.”
Moore had 12 years of private Catholic education, which gave her an understanding of the culture that, like Donovan, she feels is integral to the show’s success.
“The doctrine is correct,” she said. “It’s all the stuff around it that makes it fun.”
Moore said she doesn’t overdo the interaction and over time has learned to sense when audience members would rather be left alone.
“If somebody is literally looking at their shoes, I don’t pick on them,” she said. “I’ll pick on somebody who’s acting like they want to interact with Sister.”
Moore has also learned, over the years, to recognize when there are actual nuns in her audience.
“I’m pretty good at picking them out. They are so cute, first of all,” she said. “They always look like somebody’s aunt, whether they are in habit or not.”