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Off-Broadway's "The Divine Sister" to Benefit AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland


Entertainer Charles Busch's rollicking musical theater send up
of all things
"Hollywood nuns" will benefit the AIDS
Taskforce of Greater Cleveland (ATGC) with a performance in Parma
Heights, Ohio.

  • Monday, August 20th"The Divine
    Sister" at the Cassidy Theatre in Parma Heights (8:00 pm)

Northern Ohio audiences are invited to spend an evening with the nuns of
St. Veronica's when the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland (ATGC)
presents its seventeenth annual benefit production "The Divine Sister"
by Charles Busch, which will be performed on Monday, August 20, 2018,
at The
Cassidy Theatre
in Parma Heights. All proceeds from the August 20th
performance will benefit ATGC.

Performed Off-Broadway in 2010, "The Divine Sister" is a
rollicking tribute to every Hollywood movie involving nuns. Master
satirist and drag performer Charles Busch brings together plot elements
of "The Bells of St. Mary's," "The Trouble with Angels," "The
Sound of Music
," "Agnes of God," "The Nun's Story," "Black
," and even "The Da Vinci Code" to tell the story of
St. Veronica's.

It's 1966, and Mother Superior is trying her best to keep St. Veronica's
convent and school open as a bastion of traditional values in a changing
world…but it's not easy! Her best friend, Sister Acacius, is starting to
behave strangely. The new postulant, Agnes, claims to have visions and
heal the sick. The convent building is crumbling around them, but local
philanthropist Mrs. Levinson won't give her a dime to help. The
mysterious Sister Walburga is visiting from Berlin and keeps going down
into the cellar. And now, on top of everything else, her long-lost love
Jeremy shows up with a tempting offer. What is a singing nun to do?

As in past years, the benefit production is presented by an independent
team of local theatre professionals, under the leadership of director Curt
. In addition to the annual benefits, Arnold has directed,
performed or stage managed at a number of area theatres, including both
Cassidy Theatre and Weathervane Playhouse. Baldwin Wallace University
Conservatory of Music professor Herbert Marshall will music
direct the production, which features costumes by Jenniver Sparano.
Marshall will be joined in the orchestra by drummer Gregory Cross.

The cast of "The Divine Sister" brings together veteran
performers from the Cleveland theatre community, all of whom have
appeared in previous AIDS Taskforce benefit productions as well. Actor,
director, and teacher Jonathan Kronenberger, who has appeared
onstage in numerous productions at Beck Center for the Arts and Blank
Canvas Theatre, takes the role of Mother Superior, originally performed
by Busch himself. Joining him in the convent are Rachel Spence,
best known for her comic turns in local murder mysteries, as Sister
Acacius and Pat Miller, who most recently appeared in the title
role of Near West Theatre's production of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame,"
as Agnes. Brian Altman, fresh from Beck Center's acclaimed
production of BENT, appears as both Jeremy Templeton and the
mystical albino monk, Brother Venerius. Also taking on two roles, Trey
subtly portrays Scottish housekeeper Mrs. MacDuffie as well
as the mysterious Sister Walburga; Gilpin also appears this summer in
Ohio Shakespeare Festival's "The Three Musketeers, An Adventure with
." Tim Keo, a longtime actor-teacher with Great Lakes
Theatre who has appeared onstage as the bass player for every ATGC
benefit since 2003, steps out from behind the bass to take on the roles
of wealthy Mrs. Levinson and sensitive lad Timothy.

The annual ATGC benefit production is presented as a semi-staged
"concert production," inspired by New York City's "Encores" series.
Although the performers do wear costumes, there are no sets and minimal
props, and cast members carry scripts when they are not dancing.
Director Arnold explains that this approach allows the team to raise as
much money as possible. "We don't have a lot of production costs," he
noted. "We beg and borrow props and costumes from other theatres where
we can and pay for royalties and any other expenses out of pocket. That
allows us to give 100% of the ticket price to the agencies that we are

The concert staging puts the emphasis on the talent of the performers,
and also creates a less structured atmosphere, allowing the actors to
feed off the energy of the audience. Each evening also features an
intermission raffle – including the chance for a walk-on role in the
second half of the show – and the auction of a signature costume piece
at the end of the performance. "Of course, raising money for the AIDS
Taskforce is our goal with this Parma Heights performance," said Arnold,
"but we want our cast and audience members to have as much fun as
possible together while doing it!"

Tickets to the August 20, 2018 performance of "The Divine
are available from Rebecca Strong at the AIDS Taskforce of
Greater Cleveland at 216-235-3417, or on-line at
Tickets are $25 each and seating is general admission. The performance
is at 8:00 pm. The Cassidy Theatre is located at 6200 Pearl Road,
in the Greenbriar Commons complex, Parma Heights, OH 44130. For more
information about ATGC, please visit

The AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland (ATGC) is a community-focused
nonprofit HIV/AIDS Service Organization (ASO) that offers a
comprehensive continuum of non-medical HIV/AIDS services in Cuyahoga and
five surrounding communities. As Greater Cleveland's oldest and leading
ASO, the Taskforce provides vital "safety net" support services and
prevention education for those at greatest risk. It also leads public
policy initiatives, ensuring equal rights and opportunities for people
living with and disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS.
Approximately 700 people with HIV/AIDS and their families are directly
served by Taskforce support services, and many thousands more are served
through prevention and advocacy initiatives. The Taskforce's mission is "To provide
a compassionate and collaborative response to the needs of people
infected with, affected by, and at risk of HIV/AIDS.
This is
accomplished through leadership in prevention, education, supportive
services, and advocacy."

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