Posts tagged ‘Church Basement Ladies’

On the Fourth Anniversary of a Great Show . . .

church basement II

Here I am, four years ago with four talented ladies. This is one of my favorite shows I’ve ever done.

The show was CHURCH BASMENT LADIES; A SECOND HELPING. It is the second in a set of several shows that tells the story about the ladies who run the affairs of the kitchen in the basement of your basic Lutheran church in Minnesota. I played the pastor, who tried to keep these ladies somewhat on task. Let’s start with these four ladies, left to right:

SUE JOHNSON (yes, my wife) played Vivan Snustad, – the head, the leader, the ruler of the kitchen squad. Sue and I have done other shows together, but when we did the first Church Basement Ladies show, we just couldn’t resist when the Pequot Lakes Community Theatre scheduled the second one.

Sue was great! She enjoyed the part, she was funny, she sang up a storm. She brought out all of her tools and gave us one superb church basement lady.

Then there’s DANA GJOVIK RINGLER (she wasn’t RINGLER back then; Happy Wedding, Dana…) who played Beverly. We were stuck early in the casting of the show. We didn’t have someone to play the part of Beverly – and then, Dana was suggested. She was called, she came to a rehearsal, and fit right in – and it was her first community show ever. I sure hope there are more.

Side note: Dana is a former student of mine. One theatrical moment we shared: I directed the one act play for Pillager school one year, and Dana was one of the cast of that show. It was so special to connect again with her heartfelt Beverly, after having directed her in high school.

Like I said, Dana, I sure hope there are more.

Next is KATE DAVIS. She, along with Sue and me, was one of the cast in the first CHURCH BASEMENT LADIES for Pequot Lakes. She again took up the part of Karin, a young lady who is so very dedicated to working in the kitchen, and wants eventually to rise to the station now occupied by Vivian. Kate’s gentle humor and good singing gave a tender touch to the cast.

Kate has become one of the real leaders of the Pequot Lakes group – having been on stage for other shows, and even took on a directing chore, as well as some choreography – Kate, the multi-talented.

And then, there with her Jazz Hands out, is JANIS BEAR. She gave us the character of MAVIS, a lady prone to blurting out comical comments. Janis brings years of experience to the stage, having performed several times in the Brainerd Lakes area and down in Oklahoma, where she’s an English teacher and theater person who also had a good many directing credits to her name.

Janis (and her husband Dave) have been friends of ours for a long time – We go back to the 1980s, for heaven’s sake. Here’s to a friendship and theatrical experiences with the Bears – long may they continue.

I can’t close without mentioning the director of the show – AMY BORASH. Also a vet of stage acting, and of choreography and directing several shows. She led us into the script, taught us the dance steps, all with enthusiasm and positive words of encouragement. Not only that, she brought her girls to be backstage help – so thanks to Sylvia and Libby for all that. Amy also had a hip replaced during the rehearsal of the show, and didn’t miss a single session. Think about that for awhile.

So many others involved in putting on a show … Beth as our stage manager, the cooperation of the Pequot Lakes Community theatre and the Central Lakes College for having to stage the show in Brainerd –

Let me say that this kind of experience is why I’ve done community theatre, and will continue to do so.



Saturday night we wrapped up the final performance of CHURCH BASEMENT LADIES II: A SECOND HELPING, putting away all the props for Tim to take away, sending the costumes off with Lisa and Kate, and giving hugs and goodbyes to the crew of Sylvia, Libby and Caleb – and thanking our directors Amy and Lauren, and our stage manager Beth for wonderful leadership and creativity.  Eight shows, sold out twice, one actress with a broken shoulder for the whole run, sound problems, happy audiences –


We speak of connections – in this show, the cast was a 60-year-old (almost) retired band teacher (me) with no dancing skills but does it anyway…. A 59-year-old who shows on-stage comedic talent I hadn’t EVER seen (especially physical humor) (my wife Wilma) …. A transplanted Oklahoman (Janice) who breaks her shoulder the week before we open and never (almost) missed a beat … a happily married-to-a-cop mom (Kate) who brings a few of her kids along to help.. and a young lady (Dana) in her early 20s who blends in so well that we could hardly tell that this was her first ‘community theatre’ role ever, not to mention that she was a former student of mine.


Then the offstage folks …. A director (Amy) who is a whirling dervish with 2 other jobs and a positive attitude that is contagious in so many ways and brings her ENTIRE family (Dave, Sylvia and Libby) with her for the performances to run the lights and sound as needed, to be the running crew backstage …. A stage manager who is a transplanted Jewish lady (Beth) from Long Island, New York (originally) and organizes all of us into a performing machine … a vocal director (Lauren) who brings us together on the songs by way of her experience in theatre that covers everything from her own on-stage roles to having written her own one-woman show … and all the others that did jobs off-off stage like ticket selling, marketing, printing a program, building the set (a guy (Tim) who could make heaven out of Styrofoam if he ever needed to) …


And God Bless the Audience!  Work partners, friends from church, from around town, from here and there…. Farmers, teachers, medical people, retired folks, students, tax preparers, pastors, dads, mothers, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, people in wheelchairs, in suits and ties, in jeans and t-shirts, clean and unshaven, tall, short, bald, old, young…..


If you ever want to see a social event that encompasses all kinds of folks for the sole purpose of being together in a creative process, check out community theatre.


And yes, I will miss it.  As of Sunday morning, I have no play on my horizon since last August.  I am glad to have that kind of break, but this won’t be the last one by any means.



And may I add… we woke up that Sunday morning to find a rainy night had sent water seeping into our basement  – and our van had decided to treat us to a flat tire.


Nobody ever said it was always smooth, I guess.

Week 22

A Cultural Event on Friday night – Wilma and I attended the Scandinavian folk music festival opening concert up in Nisswa (The NISSWA STAMMAN).  What a fine display of that kind of music!  Fiddles, accordions, nyckelharpas, singing, and a good time.  The event has been going for 14 years now, and has grown into quite the summer event around here.  Here’s a bit of info for you to check out …

I have had it up to here with rain and clouds.  Up to here, and then up to here, here and even here.  We’re supposed to get into the 70s today, which should last for several days.  Let’s hope that summer has actually hit upon the idea that it is ITS turn to face the world.

I did get out on the pontoon to do some fishing.  Everything worked like it was supposed to – the depth finder was accurate, the GPS (a MAGELLAN) that I got back in 2002 – its my exclusive fishing GPS that finds me such fishing spots on the lake like the DISH, THE YELLOW, the FLATS, the VILLWOCK HOLE (named for the fact that it is directly out in front of the home of G. and L. Villwock, who I used to teach with…) and other such gems of fishing spots.  Unfortunately, I am not a very successful fisherman – I just don’t have the touch for finding fish, but I do like getting out on the water and giving it a try…. .today’s action of 1 ½ hours of work?  I boated one whole little sunfish.

I took several pictures as birds as I sat in the yard at the lake…. Red wing blackbirds, chickadees, orioles – but the feature of the day was seeing a Broadwing Hawk fly over – managed to get a few shots of it as it flew over, about 60 feet up.


I also got more perennials put in – Wilma and I cleared a spot by the shed and put in some bleeding hearts and a columbine.  That should jazz up the place.

Rehearsals for CHURCH BASEMENT LADIES II; A SECOND HELPING are so very good.  We finished our musical rehearsals, and tonight we start in on blocking the action on stage.  I find I relish the work of rehearsals – the drill of going over the hard parts, the camaraderie, the feeling of accomplishing something together – I just know that it will be a good production…..


(Wilma, Dana, Janis and Kate, seen above)

The cast, you may ask?  I play the pastor – we never do find out his name.  Wilma is Vivian, the matriarch of the church basement, and KateP is Karin…. we three did these roles 2 years ago when we did the first Church Basement Ladies… adding to the cast is Janis B, a good friend of ours – but we haven’t been onstage with her since we did FIDDLER ON THE ROOF in 1984 …. She plays Mavis… and then there’s DanaG, who plays Karin’s daughter Beverly – Dana is rather special to me, since she’s a former student from Pillager – she was in the first one act play I directed – and she had proven to be a hard worker, a talented singer, and a quick learner.

This is gonna be a good show folks.  Call for tickets as soon as you can…. It will sell out quickly.

So on to another week of June … and I hope beyond everything meteorlogical that the forecasts for 70 degree weather is going to be  fact.

Week 20

And so we start the week with rain, and end with clouds and cold.  Where in the name of anything meteorological is the summer weather?


We’ve had a good start of rehearsals for CHURCH BASEMENT LADIES II: A SECOND HELPING … all music so far, and I have a nice song.  The difference between this show and the first one: a few more touching moments, and maybe not as funny.  The songs are better this time, too, I think.  The show is being  produced by the Pequot Lakes Community Theatre, but due to construction, it is going to run at the Chalberg Theatre at Central Lakes College in Brainerd.

Information at


Wilma and I headed over to Aitkin on Friday – we heard tell of a ‘going out of business sale’ at a hardware store.  We picked up a few things, but nothing fancy at all.  On the way out of town, we stopped at the unclaimed freight store there – the big score was a cordless weedwacker… no more cord stretching across the yard!  SCORE.


Earlier this year, Wilma and I joined a current events discussion group called GREAT DECISIONS.  We meet once a month for 9 months on topics of world interest – the first one covered information about the Euro.  This week is was about Egypt.  I sure am learning a great deal about that part of the world.


I hosted the Men’s Bible Study group out at the lake place on Wednesday.  It was nice to sit in that atmosphere and share our thoughts about the Bible verses for the upcoming Sunday service – and it is SUCH a good group of guys….


Saturday found us up at the lake, finally putting in the docks.  Our lake association has over 35 members, so putting in the docks is quite the undertaking: 300 feet of dock, 30 lifts, and all the accompanying slips that come with it… then there’s launching the boats – well, we have a pontoon boat, and with the wind we had, it was impossible to just walk out the boat from the landing, get it around the dock (remember – 300 feet out – and yes, the water IS shallow that far out….) and then get it into the lift.  Got it done with some help – and thank God there was help.


Lots of tragedy in the country.  Tornados have always scared the bezonkers out of me – It is sort of like wanting to see a car accident for me – I want to experience one, but I don’t want to be there when it happens.


Leave us hope for some warm weather.  I have plants to put in the ground – and some fish to catch.  Please!

Week Nineteen

Golf… that magic time when I can be outside and allowed to hit things on purpose.  I got out for the second time of the year (Eagle’s Landing … my favorite course….) with a new friend – Craig of Pequot Lakes.  He and I performed in DIARY OF ANNE FRANK last fall at the community college in town, where we found we’re both fans of old TV shows and that we also know the same trivial stupid things.  Anyway, off to golf we went on a very nice morning.  It had started out all cloudy and rain-threatening, but most of our 18 holes were in a nice sunny day, enhanced by a nice breeze.  I did fairly poor the first nine, with a 62… improved a whole lot better on the back with a 51, including two pars.  I hope Craig and I get out more as the summer passes.


And speaking of plays, we started rehearsals for CHURCH BASEMENT LADIES: THE SECOND COMING.  Wilma and I are in the cast along with Kate, Janis, and a former student of mine, Dana…. We had really struggled to find the right person to play the daughter, and then after a conversation with a friend at my former school, we came up with Dana… and she’s a perfect fit!!!  I play the pastor, Wilma is Vivian Snustad, Kate is Karin Gilmerson, Janis plays Mavis the farmer’s wife, and Dana serves as Karin’s daughter Beverly.  The show will be running in the first two weekends of July … I’ll have more info here as time passes.


Lots of rain this weekend… and we need it.  I find myself nearly paranoid as the rain starts… not out of fear, but out of wanting to keep our basement dry.  It all started when Wilma and I moved in here in 1989 – and had water in the basement on our first day.  Since then, I have made a private vow to myself that water will not again show up in our basement… and I haven’t always been successful.  So, I spend almost every rainstorm looking out the front door, making sure the gutters are running – and then I find myself out on a step ladder clearly the down spouts…. There’s gotta be a better way.

some of the teachers in their medieval garb

some of the teachers in their medieval garb


Thursday was interesting.  One of the local elementary schools sent their third graders out to a local Boy Scout camp, where an actual castle has been built.  We spent the day walking the kids through the life of medieval days – sampling foods, trying on costumes, playing games, archery, catapults, the life of a Viking – and I played a trumpet call to announce the change of each session.  Pretty amazing stuff….


I had an emotional response to some of the stuff online about presidents and umbrellas… wrote a blog item for it, too.  You can read that later on in my blog….


So here comes the end of May … and Memorial Day.



Week Seventeen

So let’s get the ordinary out of the way.  Bowling is over for the year with a mediocre performance at the city tournament.  It was fun, though to have a cheering section.  Wilma was there for me, and there were a few other family members from my other team members, and they really got into it.  So bowling will now become an occasional activity until the fall, when we start up again…


Due to sagging eyelids, which run in the family, I will be getting an eyelid lift sometime this summer.  Date to be determined based on insurance pre-approval and a few other factors…. Including the following:


Wilma and I have been cast in CHURCH BASEMENT LADIES: A SECOND HELPING.  The show will run the first two weekend of July.  She’ll be Mrs.Snustad again, and I’ll be the pastor.  We really enjoyed doing the first edition of that show, so this one should be equally fun.


Friday I headed down to visit my college roommate Dave.  He and I spent 3 years together in the same college dorm and also played in the wind band and jazz band at our college.  We’ve kept in touch over the years, but this was really the first time he and I had time to spend together.  We went down memory lane some, communed over meals, and took a few walks around town…. Which was hard for him.


You see, he has Parkinson’s disease.  He takes his meds on a very firm schedule.  He’s doing what he can to cope with the disease… but as I know Dave so well, that’s all not good enough.  He is determined to find more than just a standard approach to working with the disease.  In our talks, I shared with him that I had found a certain kind of treatment that maybe he hadn’t heard of … and he hadn’t.  Let me tell you, the more we talked about it and the more we looked at it, WOW.  Here’s a YouTube that shows what this did for a lady with MS….


Anyway, Dave and I had a good visit.  I hope we can do it again soon.

Wilma and I spent some time up at the lake today.. there is STILL ICE on the lake so we can’t put any docks in… and we’re well past the usual time to do so… maybe more later… 05 06 lake 03




And maybe .. oh please God, maybe… the weather has broken.  No more freezes, please… no more snow storms, please… and PLEASE more of the 70 degree weather we had today….




16th Week of the Year

I’ll get this out-of-the-way first.  Can we please STOP with the snow?  We received another 9 inches of snow Thursday night, adding to the drama of a long, drawn out winter.  Do you want another laugh?  As I sit and write on this Monday afternoon, there are another possible 4 inches coming… and it has indeed already started, so I am considering browsing through the legal books and see what the weather and insanity have in common.  I did spend Friday morning clearing the driveway – schools were closed, so Wilma and I did not go with a local elementary school on a field trip to an area Boy Scout Camp…. Oh well.


Wilma and I caught “42” early in the week…. Being a baseball fan, it was good to see.. and it was a good movie.  I wrote a review here in this blog, so I won’t repeat myself… but I would recommend this movie for everyone – at least to remind the viewer of what happened back in the 40s… and how in some ways there is still room for improvement.


The saga of finding replacing our kitchen counters continues with ups and downs – and threw itself into a complete spiral today.  Wilma went to order the whole package… (we had even picked out a new sink and faucet…) and lo and behold, the company that we were going to go with told us that the tiles we wanted were that nice low price because there were only 37 square feet left, and we need 40.  So, down goes the project, and down goes Wilma’s hopes…. Again…. ISH!


Baseball.  It is, after all, April.  So where is my BASEBALL?  I follow the Minnesota Twins – have done so since they became a team in 1961 and will continue to do so as long as I am able.  But, cripe, rainouts and SNOWOUTS?  Just more of the joy brought to us by a ravenously sadistic Mother Nature.


And then, I get to end with this.  For the first time in over a year, I was able to donate blood at a local Red Cross blood drive.  I had been ineligible for a year after a trip to Mexico, so this was my first time back in just over that time period.


This particular blood drive was located at a small country church, about 10 miles south of town.  I drove down in cloudy skies, my GPS being of no help for some reason – it couldn’t find it, no matter what information I typed in – address, street, the town … so I just guessed a little of how to get there – and made it safely.


I was a walk-in.  I had no appointment, but after the usual paperwork, I was on the table, my blood filling that funny little bag, the attendant tending to me in with every trained bone in his body.  The computer was happy with my donation, and so I was dismissed to the snack table.


Did I say snack table?  Let me be clear.  I grew up around church basement ladies.  I know what they do and how magical they are.  Well, this little Catholic church in the stone filled fields of central Minnesota might as well have been the Hall of Fame for church basement ladies.  I was fed a home-made vegetable beef soup that had just as much TLC in it as it did great flavor.  I was served by a lady named Grace.. and the kitchen staff included Alice and Gloria – all white-haired wonders, Merlins of the kettle crowd.  I ate a bowl, visited with them a bit, and took my leave with a warm belly.


I’ll be going back there for other blood drives.  I could eat that soup any day.


Well played, church basement ladies.