Sister Flap

Sister would know what to do about this. A swift whack to the knuckles with a ruler, for starters. Vicki Quade and Maripat Donovan–those good Catholic schoolgirls who created the Sister character 12 years ago, when they launched Late Nite Catechism, and have produced the show together ever since–have fallen into a nasty disagreement. Donovan has written a sequel to the long-running comedy that’s getting booked around the country. Quade, who says she knew nothing about Late Nite Catechism II until it was “a done deal” and wasn’t invited to participate, has a contract she and Donovan signed stipulating that any further development of the character must be agreed to and shared by both of them. Donovan claims she doesn’t remember any such contract and that she’s been working on the sequel for ten years. She says she did it on her own because Quade had become superfluous: “I learned to type.”

Quade traces the trouble to May of last year, when Donovan, now based in Los Angeles, called asking for $40,000 from the coffers of the Chicago production. “It was an amount we didn’t have in the budget,” Quade says. “I explained that, and I think it ticked her off. The next thing I knew, she questioned every dollar I spent on Late Nite Catechism, every pencil I bought.” The two had been friends since they met in 1991, when Quade, then an American Bar Association editor (and occasional Reader contributor), hired Donovan, a contractor with a reputation for being funny, to do painting and repairs in her home. In ’93, Quade set out to write a monologue for Donovan. “She wanted to do a stand-up comedy routine on the lives of the saints at Live Bait,” Quade says. “I proposed that we do something more than that. She came over to my house. I said, ‘Do you just want to stand up there and be Maripat?’ and she said she’d always wanted to play a nun. I established it as an adult catechism class, where Sister comes in scolding. We turned on a tape recorder and started to talk. I took that tape and spent the next three and a half weeks researching and writing Late Nite Catechism. I initially did not have her name on the script. I put her name on it when we were in rehearsal, because she came up with ways to work it. I realize now I didn’t have to, but I did.”

Late Nite Catechism premiered May 28, 1993, as a one-hour late-night show at Live Bait. “We thought it was going to run six weeks, 12 performances,” Quade says. But by the time they were three weeks into it, fielding reservations from as far away as Rockford, “it was clear we were on to something.” After the run at Live Bait they moved the show to the Organic, where it expanded to two hours and played for a year on the main stage, and in ’95 took it to the Ivanhoe, where it ran until the theater closed. In 2000 they moved it to the Royal George, where it’s still running. Since ’95 they’ve also had a deal with a national producer: Quade and Donovan produce the show in Chicago and Los Angeles as Quade/Donovan Entertainment, but New York-based Entertainment Events produces it everywhere else. (Though Donovan still plays Sister on the west coast, many others have stepped into her habit; over the years the show has played 30 major cities and many smaller venues, grossing, by Quade’s estimate, about $25 million.) Quade says they also wrote a sequel together in ’95, but decided not to produce it because “we thought there was so much life left in the original.” She says they have ten more hours of material for the original, which because of its heavy audience interaction is different every night anyway.

“I’m not opposed to having a sequel,” Quade says. “But I’ve just been cut out of everything. This is a show I’m the creator of, that I’ve been the producer of all these years, and this is a person who was my friend. It’s pretty ugly.” Donovan says what she’s doing is within copyright law and that, as coauthor of the original script, Quade will receive money from the sequel. Quade’s attorney, E. Leonard Rubin, says, “It’s not a matter of copyright–it’s contract law. Maripat is not paying attention to the commitments she made when she and Vicki first got together.”

“I love Vicki; she’s a wonderful person, but this is business,” Donovan says. “I don’t need her anymore. God bless her and good luck.”

Send Us Your Poor, as Long as They’re Artists

After 46th Ward alderman Helen Shiller presented her plan for the redevelopment of the CTA’s Wilson Yard property last winter, a portion of her constituency developed a sudden enthusiasm for artists. Residents who’ve come together as the Uptown Neighborhood Council are objecting to Shiller’s plans for two 90-unit apartment towers in the project, which also includes retail, a multiscreen movie theater, and parking. Instead of housing for struggling seniors and other low-income residents, they say, the plan for this property (bounded by Broadway, the el tracks, Montrose, and Wilson) should provide subsidized live-work space for artists.

UNC members including attorney Randall Lehner and real estate broker Mark Zipperer say community input has been disregarded. They say the original plan called for “mixed-income housing” but what they’re getting is exclusively low-income housing, even though the area is already a high-poverty tract. Artists would be a boon to the Wilson Yard development, they say, establishing it as the southern gate to the entertainment district that includes the Green Mill, the Riviera, and the Uptown Theater.

“I think they’re opposed to any kind of affordable housing,” says Shiller, who will roll out final plans for the project at a meeting at 6:30 on September 8 at Truman College. “It’s not honest; they should say what they mean. It’s a great idea to do artists’ housing, but we already have a plan for Wilson Yard. The irony is there’ll probably be artists living there.” UNC has posted an online petition opposing the plan that, at press time, had collected more than 1,200 signatures. The council has scheduled a rally for 9:30 AM this Saturday, July 24, in the Aldi’s parking lot on North Broadway just south of Wilson.


It’s been 70 years since John Dillinger met his maker in the alley outside the Biograph Theater–and it seems nearly as long since Victory Gardens started thinking about buying the place. VG finally announced this week that it’ll purchase the landmark building at 2433 N. Lincoln as its new home, slated to open in the fall of 2005. VG is paying $2 million for the building and will spend another $7 million to carve it into a state-of-the-art 299-seat main stage and 128-seat studio. The city’s contributing $2.5 million; the state’s kicking in $1.5 million. VG will maintain its current home, two blocks south, as a rehearsal and rental space. . . . Was the Grant Park Orchestra busy? Saturday’s inaugural gala concert at its new home in the Pritzker Pavilion will be played by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Robert Drea.