A packed house turned out for the privilege of being abused by a ruler-wielding nun as "Late Night Catechism," the longest-running play in Valley history, celebrated its third anniversary Friday night at the Scottsdale Center of the Arts. And they came not only from Scottsdale, but from the farthest points of the the Valley.

Violette Dence, who was celebrating her 90th birthday, traveled all the way from Sun City with her daughter Judi Yarling and son-in-law John Yarling, both from Goodyear. She wanted to see if everything she's heard about Patti Hannon's madcap performance as Sister is true.

"I'm a brand new Catholic and I want to make sure I'm doing it right," quipped Dence. "My daughter has seen ‘Late Night Catechism’ three times, and she told me it would give me some good tips on how to behave like a nice Catholic girl."

Some of Sister's tips: Don't chew gum or Sister will make you spit it into a Kleenex; don't talk while Sister's talking or you will be publicly humiliated; don't wear low-cut dresses, or Sister will give you even more Kleenex to cover up the offending flesh.

And you sure as heck better know who's a saint and who isn't.

St. Veronica? Maybe, although Veronica's anorexia and habit of eating offal does trouble Sister, she prefers to give her the benefit of the doubt; after all, the girl did try pretty hard. St. Joseph was most definitely a saint. You can tell, because if you're trying to sell you house, all you have to do is bury a figurine of St. Joseph upside down in your back yard, and you'll get your asking price. Just make sure you don't have St. Joseph pointed towards your neighbor's house — your neighbor will get a great deal, and you won't.

Sister also explained why nuns resemble inner-city gangs.

"They hang out together, and there's a strong rivalry between orders," Sister said. "And believe me, you don't EVER want to find yourself in a dark alley with a Sister of Mercy."

Towards the end of the evening, the Pope (Alan Prewitt) showed up, dressed in full papal robes. He thanked Sister for faithfully teaching her adult catechism class for the past three years, although he did, at times, forget where he was and what he was doing there. But Sister was very kind, and quickly showed him the door so that she could continue intimidating her audience.

Only at the end of the anniversary performance did Sister break role and turn into actress Patti Hannon.

"This has all been such a surprise to me," Hannon said, to her cheering audience. "Three years, doing the same show! No one would have ever dreamed that this would happen, certainly not an actor. We're so used to performing for a few nights and then moving on.

"But I've fallen in love with this community and this city, and I've even bought a house in Scottsdale. So not only have I finally found a wonderful role, I've found a wonderful home."

As Sister, Hannon knows everything. But as Patti Hannon, she forgets things.

When asked how many "Late Night Catechisms" she has performed in the past three years, she said, "I haven't the faintest idea. A lot, though."

Then, remembering where she was and the habit she was wearing, she added, "But bless you for asking that question, my child. Now sit down before I come over there with my ruler!"


What: ‘‘Late Night Catechism,’’ starring Patti Hannon

Where: Scottsdale Center for the Arts, 7380 E. Second St.

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 5 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays.

How much: $32

Info: (480) 994-2787

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