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"Catholic School Girls"

“Catholic School Girls” (1990) Wendy Clarendon, Miki Bone, Carolyn Ryberg (Reis McCormick), Patty Lewis (l-r)

We continue our celebration of Pegasus Theatre’s 30th anniversary with our countdown (in chronological order) of the top 30 shows in our history. Today we feature Catholic School Girls by Casey Kurtti (1990).

It was 1989, time for Artistic Director Kurt Kleinmann to put together the 1989-90 season of shows. We often find new shows to bring down to Dallas by visiting New York, so we booked a trip.

But this time the theatrical well was dry! We scoured the listings for Off Broadway and Off Off Broadway shows that were comedies suitable for a Pegasus season, and we found none. In desperation we visited The Drama Book Shop to spend an afternoon reading scripts, and we hit pay dirt!

Catholic School Girls is a charming memory play, based on the playwright’s experience going to Catholic school as a child. Unlike other plays based on growing up Catholic (Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You by Christopher Durang, Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up? by John R. Powers), Catholic School Girls, while definitely a comedy, was a gentler work, avoiding the skewering of a Catholic upbringing that other works embraced.

We were hooked. It had us laughing and crying, both funny and poignant. We knew it was right for Pegasus! But would it attract an audience? Was it appealing to more than a Catholic base?

It was. The house was packed night after night as audiences took the journey with four intrepid Catholic School Girls through a school year of triumphs and tragedy. There was one moment in particular where the main character tearfully questions the existence of God, addressing her comments directly to the God she doubts. It was one of the most beautiful moments in theatre I’ve experienced. The air in the theatre was thick with anticipation as the audience listened to every word in sacred silence and wiped away tears at this little girl’s heartbreak.

For a show like this, casting was critical. We were privileged to work with four of the most talented actors in DFW: Carolyn Ryberg (now Rheis McCormick), Miki Bone, Wendy Clarendon, and Patty Lewis. These women had the challenge of playing the nuns in charge as well as the school girls of the title, and they handled it all beautifully under the skillful direction of Kurt Kleinmann.

The experience was magical, for us and for the audience. And now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go wipe away a few tears…