The Sleepy Eye Community Theatre presents: Church Basement Ladies
SLEEPY EYE – Make way for lutefisk, lefse, and lots of butter.
The Sleepy Eye Community Theatre (SECT) is presenting “Church Basement Ladies.” The play is a musical comedy that tells the story of four women working to prepare food in a rural Minnesota church in 1965.
“Church Basement Ladies” is based on the book “Growing Up Lutheran,” by Janet Letnes and Suzann Nelson.
SECT is excited to have the opportunity to perform “Church Basement Ladies,” as few theater groups have been able to secure the play’s rights. SECT board of directors requested the rights to perform the play last year, but only were granted permission last fall. For Director Sandy Brinkman this was a huge windfall.
“Church Basement Ladies” is a regionally loved play because it is based on Minnesota churches and has a very distinct personality,” said Brinkman.”The play is about honoring traditions, while others are hesitant to accept change.”
Local audiences watching the play will have no trouble recognizing the personality of one of the leading ladies. The play is steeped in regional references including dialect (lot of ya’s and then’s), cuisine (lots of butter), and weather (lots of snow).
At the same time Brinkman is careful to keep the characters from becoming a parody of Minnesota life. “These characters are funny, but I don’t want them to be cartoons,” she said.
The cast includes Randy Armbruster as Pastor E.L. Gunderson, Gwen Ruff as Vivian Snustad, Dana Miller as Mavis Gilmerson, Janet Holm as Karin Engelson, and Kristina Iwan as Signe Engelson.
The cast has been in rehearsal since early June. For this play the importance of blocking cannot be understated. In any musical it is important for each actor to hit their mark on cue, but “Church Basement Ladies” is especially challenging because food has been thrown into the mix. For the actors this means not only remembering lines, but also remembering to take a hot dish out of the oven.
“The play is prop heavy and includes food,” Brinkman said. “In some situations the food will be real. Certain foods do not do good under the lights.”
Brinkman credited Set Designer/Pro Chair, Mary Van Roekel for assembling the set pieces. She “has done a marvelous job of creating a set that resembles the mid 1960s.It is a challenge getting period appropriate props.”
The production crew has been scouring thrift stores and has been fortunate to find the right materials. The greatest thrill was finding a period accurate refrigerator and freezer.
Another source of success for SECT is the music provided by Gerry and Carol Larson. Carol provides the organ music on her keyboard, and Gerry plays backup on the accordion. Music is central to the play and the Larsons are up to the task, Brinkman said. The Larsons said the music in”Church Basement Ladies” has offered a bit of challenge, specifically on the song “This is Most Certainly True” which features a few unique cord changes.
SECT began selling reserve tickets on June 23 and the demand has been high. “We’ve had calls from all over including, Mankato, Redwood Falls, and St. Peter,” said Brinkman. “We’re excited about the buzz, and we’re expecting a good mixture of audiences.
Opening night is Thursday, July 10 at 7:30 p.m in St. Mary’s auditorium, Sleepy Eye. Performances will also be held Friday, July 11 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, July 13 at 2 p.m.
Advance tickets are on sale now. General Admission tickets are available at the door one hour prior to performance.