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'Nunsensations' cast develops characters on trip to casino

"Sister Mary Hubert" (aka Kathy Hopen) and "Sister Mary Amnesia" (Jean Beck) attempt to acquire tokens for the arcade since "Reverend Mother Mary Regina" (Rita Dalzell) forbade them to enter the casino. (Submitted photo)

Men and women of the cloth have historically sought out the darkest corners of society to render salvation to sinners.

But the nickel slots? Surely this can't be the gateway to hell.

Sunday six local nuns invaded the Northern Lights Casino at Walker. Was it acting research or the evolution of bad habits? The six-pack all have parts in Long Lake Theater's upcoming "Nunsensations."

They blackened the doorway of the casino to bond with each other, develop their characters and get some promotional photos, because the musical takes place in a Las Vegas casino.

The divine premise is as follows: Promised a $10,000 school donation, the nuns leave their cloistered surroundings for the debauchery of the Vegas strip amidst a $50,000 side bet they'll never appear. Sequins and sinning ensue as the sisters become apostolic show girls.

The Hubbard County nuns were banished to the arcade, to the chagrin of the gamblers delighted with their appearance. The casino doesn't allow photos near the gaming operations, Mother Superior notwithstanding.

"We turned a few heads," said one of the nuns.

"Everyone was very nice," said musical director Juliann Kjenaas. "Most of them thought we were what we dressed as."

Only under pressure did individual members of the flock fess up and invite gamblers to the show. Otherwise they stayed in character.

Was that a sin?

"I'm not Catholic," Kjenaas laughed. "Many of the people asked if it was our first time gambling and they gave us tips."

When one startled gambler asked "Sister Amnesia" if the group was really nuns, she replied, "Today we are."

"It was just an acting exercise," insisted Kjenaas. "Nuns are people, too."

In the musical, the nuns interact with the audience, so engaging the casino gamblers was simply a form of rehearsal, she said.

Then the group embarked on some improvisation. They took their unscripted act on the road to Companeros, where they ordered a round of margaritas. It sure beats communion wine. And the not-so-sacred host? Chips and salsa.

The play, the sixth in the highly successful "Nunsense" series, begins its Long Lake Theater run on July 8.

May the pieces of eight be with you.