I am beginning to get a reputation in my family for the unusual opportunities I discover around Nashville. One night when my brother called me, he was surprised to actually reach me. “You don’t a book signing to attend?” No. “The opening of a convention center?” No. “A festival of some sort?”
That’s one of the reasons I love this city. There are a lot of opportunities for fun, culture, and randomness. Sometimes they find me, sometimes I find them.
A few weeks ago one found me.
I was on a panel before the traveling Broadway show Sister Act.
All in a day’s work, right?
The organizer of the panel, Kristin (see above picture), contacted me about the panel because she and I share a hairdresser (and love her. I have the greatest hairdresser and share her with many other great people). Kristin organizes a community outreach event, Arts Appetizers, before the Wednesday performance of any Broadway show that visits Nashville. For a small price, you can come before the show to enjoy appetizers and a panel of cast members and community members with some connection to the show. For Catch Me If You Can, for example, the panel featured someone from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
For Sister Act, they wanted… Sisters. It all came together in the end, but it was touch and go for awhile. Kristin had also asked me to come and speak about Aquinas’ role in the community. For awhile, it looked like it might just be me. So I made sure to wear a non-Sister outfit so no one would get confused. (hence the bright yellow sweater and the black boots. When someone asked me at work why I was dressed like a bumblebee, I responded, “This is my ‘I’m not a nun’ outfit.”)
But in the end, two of the Sisters were able to join the panel! The other members of the panel were two cast members, both playing “nuns” and understudies for the Mother Superior and the main character. They were thrilled to meet “real, live nuns” and had so many questions for the Sisters. The panel discussion was awesome — everyone loved having the “real” Sisters there, and the Sisters were really able to preach the truth, clear up any misunderstandings, and witness to the joy of their life. One of the cast members aptly commented that the Sisters manifested the joy that the nuns in the show only manifest at the end. It was truly a New Evangelization moment.
There were plenty of funny moments too — like before the panel, when the Sisters were in line for food and my friend Manda overheard a husband and wife debating about whether the “nuns” were “real” or were in costume. “It’s just a costume,” one of them insisted. “Look, they’re wearing high heels.” Some of the Sisters do wear lace-up black shoes with a bit of a heel (a solid one, like you might dance in), and sure enough, these two were wearing those shoes. When we told them about it later, Sister laughed and commented, “I’m glad I wore my really high ones tonight!”
The two Sisters on the panel both were theatre majors in college, so they were the perfect ones to tell their story. I think they might have joined us for the show if circumstances had been different… : )
Afterwards my friend Manda and I saw the show from pretty sweet free seats. All in all, not the best representation of convent life or the Catholic Church, but it could be far worse. One of the final songs, “Sister Act,” was actually a pretty good lesson learned about community life. (The show is a little different from the movie and has different songs, due to copyrights and whatnot.)
It was fun seeing the fellow panelists in action, too. All in all, a fun night.