Holy roller keeps audience rolling in aisle

— image credit:
Sequim Gazette

A staple of the Seattle stage comes to Port Angeles for a one-nun, one-night performance on Feb. 12.

Barbara Manning, “Sister” on stage, performs the latest of the “Late Nite Catechism” series “’Til Death Do Us Part: Late Nite Catechism 3” at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church.

In this iteration of the nationally known show, Sister turns her attention to love, marriage and death.
Manning said this show differs from previous versions, with the first half of the performance an interactive lecture and the second half a Catholic version of the “Newlywed Game.”

Manning started the Sister act in June 1999. The show’s 11-year history made it Seattle’s longest-running stage attraction.

“They only closed because the producer made such a wonderful living that he retired to Paris, France,” Manning said.

She feels her version of Sister has changed over the years.

“At the beginning, I was trained very one-dimensionally and I acted strict and more fear-ridden,” Manning said. “That’s not part of my personality. After a short amount of time, I became more of a kinder sister.”

She doesn’t pick on people or cross any religious lines on stage.

“I want it to be as inclusive as possible,” Manning said.

Becoming a sister
Before Manning’s long run in Seattle, she worked in Los Angeles, Calif., but wanted a different life in the Pacific Northwest. She opened a talent agency, but within a year the movie industry collapsed and little work was to be found nearby. A teaching job at an acting studio opened up, so Manning took it.

To help her students prepare for auditions, Manning went to a few on her own. For the “Late Nite Catechism” gig, she was called back a day after the audition and offered the role.

“They told me there was no one else in Seattle who could do the show,” Manning said.

In 11 years, she needed an understudy only once. While filling in at a performance in Portland, Ore., Manning fell and injured her foot in the airport. She did the show that night but discovered that her foot was broken and she needed crutches. Manning was prepared to do the show the next night, but a producer stopped her.

For weeks, she performed in a walking cast.

On the road
Sister and the “Catechism” have been on the road many times to earn money for local parishes. She performed for St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Sequim a few years ago. Manning said the priest at the time wanted to unite the parish with the community.

The February show, supporting Arts Northwest’s college scholarships, will be her first in Port Angeles.
She’s a big “Twilight” fan and said she looks forward to seeing Bella Italia, where the characters Bella and Edward had their first date.

After Port Angeles, she has performances as Sister in Wenatchee, Bothel, Bellingham and Medford, Ore.
“Every place (show producers) send me is unique and wonderful,” Manning said.

“It’s the best job I’ve ever had. Being an actor sometimes is a selfish profession, but by doing ‘Late Nite Catechism’ I give back. It’s fun, it’s educational. You can’t ask for better.”

At the end of each show, she asks for support of Sisters of the Holy Names, a group that supports aging nuns.

Coming up

Once the tour is over, Manning will go back to Los Angeles to seek out acting opportunities. Her resume includes film, commercials, television, theater, cruise ships and more.

The film industry has dried up in Seattle, she said.

“If you live in Seattle, the best thing you can do is go to L.A. and hope to be sent to Vancouver (British Columbia).” A film in which she was cast still is seeking funding.

Recently Manning filmed an episode of “House,” which will air Monday, Feb. 14. Manning plays a receptionist in an elementary school.

“Hugh Laurie is an amazing man,” Manning said. “I worked with him for four days. My scene was all improv because nobody told me it was all in the script.”

Laurie shook her hand afterward and commended her work, saying what she did was very difficult.
Manning and her husband, Rob, have two sons, Dylan and Dashiell.

For more on Manning’s upcoming performance, visit or call 457-9290.

Reach Matthew Nash at



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