The Nun With a Gun

“Look Out!” A gun was shot, and a girl fell dead on the floor. The audience squirmed in their seats with complete fear and disbelief as the pistol-wielding nun lowered her smoking weapon and walked towards the fresh corpse. The chilling conclusion of “Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All To You,” directed by Emma Dorsey ’06, captured the audience. Most audience members only had a faint idea of what they were getting into when entering the theater that evening. In an e-mail inviting his friends to the show, stage manager Danny Silk ’07 wrote, “Do not come if you are: easily offended, bringing grandparents who are easily offended, afraid of large animals that spit, scared of very loud and sudden noises, [or] planning on going to heaven.” It was a very accurate foretelling of what was to come. The play told the story of Sister Mary Ignatius (Rosie Dupont ’06), an old nun gone mad, who taught children for decades upon decades and continued to do so. “The sixth commandment forbids all impurities and thought, word, or deed, whether alone, or with others,” replied Charles Francis ’07 when asked by Dupont about the commandment. Playing the role of seven-year-old Thomas, Francis had been brainwashed by Dupont’s teachings. Dupont brought the role of the deranged nun to life with a frightening convincingness. She and Francis made a comic duo in the first third of the play, as she explained to the audience all things concerning Catholicism with elaborate detail, speaking of heaven, hell, and purgatory. She further explained various types of sin as well, fielding prewritten “questions from the audience” about the religion. The setting became even lighter when a small team of performers entered, offering to reenact the birth of Christ. The hysterical skit that followed consisted of Mary, Joseph, a baby Jesus doll duck-taped to a cross, and a large camel managed by two actors. The reenactment involved both song and dance as well as many of Dupont’s familiar sayings inserted within the lines. The tongue-in-cheek humor derived from the less-than-subtle blasphemy within the play exhausted the audience by the end of the production. But just as the audience grew more and more comfortable with the blasphemous humor and began to see the comedy in the crazy nuns, the plot began to dim, growing darker with each line. The actors of the skit revealed themselves as previous pupils of Dupont, now adults, who had come to visit her. The audience grew antsy with anticipation as they waited to find out how Dupont’s students had changed. This portion of the play seemed like a running joke waiting to be explored; yet what happened was funny in a daunting way. A few laughs were inspired by the students’ lack of regard for Dupont’s previous teachings, if not much of the opposite. Each with different shadows in their lives, the twenty-something year-olds admitted to the “sinful” lives that they had found themselves living in. Domino MacNaughton ’06 played the role of a young woman who had two abortions. Ian Schmertzler ’05 played a gay man living in the city. Rebecca Yankes ’07 portrayed a single mother, and Pat Shannon ’05 acted as a depressed alcoholic. While the expression on Dupont’s face as she learned about all this was absolutely hilarious, a heaviness descended upon the theater when the audience learned that she was the likely cause of their misery. Ultimately, the audience discovered that the students had come to insult her and to tell her that she had ruined their lives. What resulted was a cold-blooded shooting of both MacNaughton and Schmertzler. The audience sat in complete silence from the shock. The final lasting image was of Dupont resting in her chair as Francis circled the broken alcoholic, crying for his life on the floor and reciting her teachings – one of the more haunting scenes ever exhibited in Steinbach Theater. “At first we had trouble discerning whether it was a tragedy or a comedy. Eventually we learned to embrace the more important aspects of each to the fullest,” Francis explained. “[It was the] best time I’ve ever had watching someone get shot.” The show had a powerful impact on the entire audience. Most left the show in silence, still spellbound from the performance. The play was not for the faint of heart – but fortunately, the grandparents made it through.