From Opera to Catholic Comedy: Dominican Music Instructor Stars in 'Late Nite Catechism'
When the pandemic shut down live performances two years ago, Rose Guccione began questioning her future on the stage.
“As time went on, I was wondering if I should just plan to not perform anymore,” acknowledged Guccione, an actress, opera singer and adjunct instructor in Dominican University’s Theatre Arts and Music Department.
But as productions began to reopen last year and a new opportunity came her way, Guccione, with three decades of opera and theater experience behind her, decided to take a chance and return to the stage — in a role that is vastly different from her days with the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Since October 2021, Guccione has starred as a no-nonsense nun in productions of Late Night Catechism, a comedic and satirical take on Catholic schooling in the Baby Boomer era, at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago.
The one-woman show, created by Vicki Quade and Maripat Donovan, premiered in Chicago in 1993 and has been staged across the country. It is an interactive play, with the audience doubling as “Sister’s” students, just waiting for her to dole out some old-school-style classroom discipline.
“It always gets a big laugh,” Guccione said. “They expect to sit in a corner or face the blackboard and have their name written on it for everyone to see that they are being disciplined.”
On Sunday, May 29, Guccione will star in a special 29-year anniversary production of Late Night Catechism, with a limited number of tickets sold at 1993 prices of just $8. She will also be on stage for performances on May 15 and May 28.
Guccione, who has taught vocal music and music theory at Dominican since 2010, is one of several actresses appearing in the current production and she performs in four shows a month. It was the play’s director, Cecilie Keenan, who invited her to take part, she said.
While Guccione’s performance background has largely been in opera and operetta, she did gain experience in sketch comedy through the Salsation Theater Company in Chicago, making the role of “Sister” a “natural extension” of her career, she said.
“It felt great — and challenging because it’s a show with a runtime of two hours and it’s just you,” Guccione said of Late Nite Catechism. “There is an improvisational aspect to it when it comes to interacting with the audience, but it’s been a lot of fun.”
She’s quick to add, though, that her real-life teaching style is nothing like what she portrays on stage.
“I would never teach my own classes the way I behave in Late Nite Catechism,” she said, laughing. “There are some things that aren’t politically correct today. For example, I would never take one of my students and put their nose to the chalkboard.”
The production features a Q&A component where audience members can ask questions related to Catholicism or share their own stores of receiving a Catholic education. This requires the star to read the supplemental materials that come with the 28-page script and stay on top of current events concerning the church and Catholic topics.
With each production of Late Nite Catechism, donations are collected to support the retirement funds of various orders of Catholic nuns. Earlier in her run, Guccione asked that collections from her shows be donated to the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa.
Currently, donations are being accepted for the Des Plaines-based Sisters of Holy Family of Nazareth to help nuns in their religious order who are working in Ukraine and Poland to provide food, clothing and other items for Ukrainian refugees and citizens affected by the Russian invasion.