Oh Nunny

Sometimes, it’s the friendships we least expect that make us feel the most seen. Rita Kelly ’20 monologued the story of her friendship with “Nunny” for the 2020 New Playwright’s Festival.

Fitting for a pandemic. The first time a student took the stage solo at SCU’s New Playwrights’ Festival, she did so while home alone on her personal computer. Rita Kelly ’20 was also the only one to mention quarantine in her meta monologue, “Oh Nunny.” “My friendship with Nunny developed along with the pandemic,” she says, “I wanted to show how unsettling the times are but through a story that uplifts.”

Nunny is the nickname of the neighbor with whom Kelly struck up an improbable friendship during her time at Santa Clara. Though on paper it made no sense—an inquisitive-bordering-on-nosey college student who talks a mile a minute and a shy, cardigan clad elderly woman mistaken for a nun—Kelly treasured the relationship, delighting in discovering ways to get Nunny to open up.

Dog and Cat-Nun Illustration
Illustration by Landis Blair.

In her one-act play, the New Orleans native talks about how the pair exchanged reading recommendations and small tokens of affection, pretty polka-dotted seashells plucked during quiet, contemplative beach trips. It’s a rare gift to feel authentically seen by another, regardless of who that other is. To find real connection should be treasured, like a perfect, intact sea shell.

“You ever hear about those unlikely friendships. You know like the cat and the dog, the saint and the sinner. Pope Benedict and Pope Francis. Oh come on, we’re at a Jesuit school, y’all should get that. But the kind of friendships where you wouldn’t expect it but it just kind of works? Unlikely but magnificent. She was so humble, so gentle, you know? Peaceful. The kind of person where you can just look at them and tell they have a kind soul.” —Rita Kelly ’20, “Oh Nunny”

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