Away in the basement

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Troupe America Inc., Curt Wollan, Executive Producer and



Written by


Music and lyrics by


Inspired by the books of Janet Letnes Martin and Suzann Nelson including the best-seller,

“Growing Up Lutheran”

Troupe America Inc. and (local venue) Present:
A Christmas celebration of the church basement and the women who work there!  (include the CBL logo-optional)
CAST (in order of appearance)
MATTHEW AARON ……………….. Pastor

AUTUMN O’RYAN.......................... Mrs. Lars Snustad (Vivian)

NIKKI SAVITT................................. Mrs. Gilmer Gilmerson (Mavis)

CARRIE SALOUTOS……...... ....... Mrs. Elroy Engelson (Karin)

KAITLYN CASANOVA................... Miss Beverly Engelson
(Understudies: for Karin– DORIAN CHALMERS; for Vivian – JUDI GRONSETH; for Beverly – KATIE ADDUCCI; for Pastor – TIM DRAKE)

Understudies never substitute without prior announcement

Set Design           Costume Design                 Light Design


Sound Design Musical Staging & Choreography


Music Direction


Directed by


Special thanks: Al Todnem for carving the Nativity pieces. Pastor Gary Olson and Lakeview Lutheran church, ARCA Minnesota, Zion Lutheran church, Grand Rapids, Minnesota, Joanne Deter who said “Curt, you should call those Lutheran Ladies,” Thrivent Volunteer Services, Janet Letnes Martin and Suzann Nelson for their inspiration and many stories of Church Pageants. Children’s Christmas crafts by  the students from the Theatre Department of Visitation School.
The operating of cameras or recording devices is strictly prohibited by copyright law.  Please turn off anything that will make noise including cellular phones.

Company Manager MATTHEW AARON


Sound Engineer/ Tour Production Manager KAY RICHARDSON

Technical Director PAUL MANSFIELD

Master Electrician JIM EISCHEN

Tour Transportation MAYO TOURS


Production Manager TRICIA HOFELD





Morning of December 19, 1959

(The day of the annual

Sunday School Christmas

Away in the Basement

The Unforgettable Christmas

Program of 1958

Vivian and Company
(Everybody is a Kid Again )

At Christmastime

Karin with Beverly, Mavis and Vivian
Just Not Mary Material

Mavis with Beverly, Karin and Vivian
Always One More Thing

Beverly with Karin, Mavis and Vivian

Later that same morning
Away in the Basement (reprise)

Karin, Mavis, Vivian and Pastor

Karin and Company
Whatsoever You Doo-wop

Vivian with Karin and Mavis
Reindeer Rendezvous

Pastor and Company
I Think You’d Like Her

Jeg Er Så Glad


Finale – Company

In 2003 Troupe America Inc. acquired the rights to the complete works of Janet Martin and Suzann Nelson, authors of the award winning book, “Growing Up Lutheran”. Their story inspired the musical Church Basement Ladies, which premiered at the Plymouth Playhouse in Minneapolis September 2005. This charming show explored the lives of a rural community in the late 1960’s, and the run-away hit had audiences clamoring for more. In March 2008 A Second Helping took the story of these lovable characters into the 1970’s. The holiday prequel, Away In The Basement (premiered November 2009) invited the audience back to Christmas of 1959. A Mighty Fortress Is Our Basement (opened August 2011) continued the story into 1960’s, and The Last Potluck Supper (August 2013) wrapped up the series (we thought) as the audience gathers on the church lawn in the fall of 1979 for the Centennial Celebration of the church. The men of the church invaded the church basement kitchen for repairs in 1964 in Rise Up O Men (August 2016) with a joyous mixture of new and old characters. After 3000 performances at the Plymouth Playhouse, these shows have gone on to play theatres around the country to millions of audience members.  And today these delightful characters are sharing their lives with you. Enjoy the show!

MATTHEW AARON (Pastor) is thrilled with making his Troupe America debut. Originally from Freehold, NJ, he is excited to be back on stage after traveling the inland river system aboard the American Queen these past three years as a singer/dancer. Credits include: Harley Phillips (Josiah for President), Proprietor/Lee Harvey Oswald (Assassins), Robbie Hart (Wedding Singer), Lumiere (Beauty and the Beast) and Ananias Dare (The Lost Colony). “Thank you for coming out and supporting the arts.”
KAITLYN CASANOVA (Miss Beverly Signe Engelson) is overjoyed to be back in the basement on her first Church Basement Ladies Tour! Last year she performed Church Basement Ladies in The Last (Potluck) Supper at Circa 21 Dinner Playhouse and had a blast! Since graduating from Michigan University’s Music Theatre program, she has performed both regionally and internationally. Her favorite roles include Maria in West Side Story, Louisa in The Fantasticks , and Cossette in Les Miserables. Many thanks to her family and friends for their love and support.
AUTUMN O’RYAN (Mrs Snustad) is “Back in the Basement” for her sixth National Tour with Troupe America. This has been a very busy year for her, having just completed Church Basement Ladies 5, The Last potluck Supper, at Maples Repertory, Theatre in Macon, MO. Before that, she was “Mother Superior” in Sister Act in Rock Island, IL. Autumn has a B.F.A. in Musical Theatre from the University of Michigan. GO BLUE! “This one’s for you, Daddy.”
CARRIE SALOUTOS (Mrs Engelson) ) returns after appearing in the last 5 National Tours of the Church Basement Ladies. She has performed Karin Engelson in regional theatres all over the country, as well. Other credits include Hats! The Musical at Harrah’s New Orleans, the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, the Plaza Theatre, and National Tours of The Wizard of Oz (US and Korea), Beauty & The Beast, and Singin’ In the Rain. Las Vegas credits include Marriage Can Be Murder, Reflections of the Rat Pack, and Nunsense (Las Vegas Hilton). She has also co-starred with Steve Gatlin in production shows in Myrtle Beach, SC. Special roles include Eleanor Shubert in Shear Madness (Circa ’21), Sue Ellen in Honkey Tonk Angels (Flat Rock Playhouse), and Karla in Bikini’s (Iron Bridge Dinner Theatre).
NIKKI SAVITT (Mrs Gilmerson) is delighted to board the bus, and embark on her eighth touring adventure with Troupe America. This marks her twenty-first production of CBL (covering all five chapters). Other favorite credits include Dixie Swim Club (Vernadette), Harvey (Veta), Music Man (Eulalie), Funny Girl (Rose Brice), White Christmas (Martha), Oklahoma! (Eller). “As always, my undying gratitude to Curt, Greta, and the entire CBL team, as well as my amazing Mommy!” Please visit

JANET LETNES MARTIN (Co-author of Growing Up Lutheran) )

A native of Hillsboro, ND and graduate of Augsburg College, Mpls., MN has authored and/or co-authored eighteen books. The book Growing Up Lutheran which she co-authored with Suzann Nelson is the inspiration for the six Church Basement Ladies musical comedies. Janet is also a public speaker who has been entertaining audiences for 29 years. She lives in Hastings, MN and can be contacted at

SUZANN NELSON (Co-author of Growing Up Lutheran)

Like her co-author, Janet Letnes Martin, Suzann went to Augsburg College. Together they have authored nine books, and performed widely as “Those Lutheran Ladies”. Their books and performances draw upon their experiences growing up as 100% Norwegian-Lutheran farm kids. Rural life, centered around the church, is also the theme of the six Church Basement Ladies musicals. Suzann lives in Grand Rapids, MN, and runs an online Scandinavian-American bookstore.

GRETA GROSCH (Playwright) Since 1989 Greta has worked as a writer and performer across the country. An original cast member of Church Basement Ladies, she scripted A Second Helping, Away in the Basement, A Mighty Fortress is Our Basement, the Last (Potluck) Supper, and Rise Up, O Men. Additionally, Greta writes The Medora Musical, is a voice over and commercial artist, and is a founding member of the Looney Lutherans. For more information visit
DREW JANSEN (Composer, Lyricist) A Little Rock native who recently returned home after 35 years in Minnesota, Drew is perhaps best known as composer/lyricist for Troupe America’s Church Basement Ladies and How To Talk Minnesotan; The Musical. For the small screen, he worked on both sides of the camera for Comedy Central’s Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Let’s Bowl!. An accomplished pianist, Jansen is also in demand nationwide as a voice-over actor and emcee. This one’s for Jimmy!
LEXIE WOLLAN SWENSON (Director) is thrilled to be involved with the Church Basement Ladies, Away in the Basement National Tour again. Last time Lexie joined the Ladies on the road as their Company Manager. Lexie is also the Choreographer and Assistant Director for The Medora Musical – The Greatest Show in the West!, but her favorite job is being mom to her sweet babies, Lainey and Millie. Merry Christmas!
DENNIS CURLEY (Music Director) grew up in Syracuse, New York, and received his B.A. in music from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. He moved to the Twin Cities in 1992, and has appeared on stage there at the Plymouth Playhouse, Ordway Center, Lowry Lab, History Theatre, and the Guthrie. In 2013 he created and performed in Country Roads: Dennis Curley Sings the Music of John Denver (CD available at Dennis is a co-founder of Table Salt Productions and can also be found on the web at
WENDY SHORT HAYS (Choreographer) has been choreographing for Troupe America for over 30 years. She created the original musical staging for all six episodes of Church Basement Ladies as well as other favorites such as, Nunsense, Pump Boys and Dinettes, and Diamond Studs. Her work has also been seen at regional theatres, in commercials, industrials and the Medora Musical. She lives in Minneapolis where she is Artistic Director of VISTA Productions, an award- winning high school theatre program.
SCOTT R. HERBST ( Set & Lighting Designer) ) Pleased to be an original member of the artistic team for Church Basement Ladies, Scott is happy to be back with the production. Recently he expanded his design horizons to include his longtime passion of the outdoors returning to school to receive a degree in Landscape Design. Past shows include many tours for Troupe America including; The Odd Couple with Jamie Farr and William Christopher, and Moon Over Buffalo with Gavin MacLeod.

KATRINA BENEDICT (Costume Designer) is thrilled to be a part of Away in the Basement based on the writings of Suzann Nelson and her mother Janet Letnes Martin. She works as a freelance costume designer and draper at various theaters in the Twin Cities area. Her most recent designs include Rise Up, O Men! And A Mighty Fortress Is Our Basement for the Plymouth Playhouse, Kirby! for the History Theater, and Sherlock’s Last Case for Minnesota Centennial Showboat.
MARK BRODIN (Sound  Designer) Mark designs and mixes sound for live theater, churches, recording artists and corporate events. With 20 years experience, you may have heard his work at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres in Minneapolis, The Medora Musical or on TV and radio. Mark won an Emmy for his documentary Delafield.
KAY RICHARDSON (Production Manager/ Sound Engineer) is a Freelance Sound Designer/Engineer in Atlanta, GA. This is her 3rd tour with Troupe America. Recent design work: Thurgood and Suzi Bass nominated Gut Bucket Blues for Theatrical Outfit, A Man of No Importance and Spring Awakening for Kennesaw State University and Smart People and Fetch Clay Make Man for Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company. She has toured in all 50 of the United States and in over 45 countries around the world mixing live for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines International.
RACHEL LANTOW (Stage Manager) Medora Musical 2016 (StageWest), SHAPESHIFT GreySkiesBlue (Cowles Center),The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (Artistry), Flying Foot Forum (The Guthrie, Cowles Center), La Cage Aux Folles (Bloomington Civic Theatre), Spookley the Square Pumpkin, Shrek Jr., Willy Wonka (Stages Theatre Company), Broadway Under the Stars Concert Series & Artist Series 2014, 2015 (Transcendence Theatre Company). Originally from Lakeville, MN. B.F.A. in Theatre Technology/Design from Minnesota State University, Mankato. “For my Audience of One and for Kaela.”
CURT WOLLAN (Original Direction & Producer) has directed most of Troupe America’s National Tours including twelve seasons of A Christmas Carol, The Odd Couple starring William Christopher and Jamie Farr, Moon Over Buffalo starring Gavin MacLeod, Same Time, Next Year starring Mackenzie Phillips and Adrian Zmed, and The Sunshine Boys starring Frank Gorshin and Dick Van Patten. He wishes to dedicate his work on Away in the Basement to his mother, Lorraine, whose real life as a Church Basement Lady served as his inspiration.
TROUPE AMERICA INC. (Producer) was formed in 1987 by Curt Wollan to provide touring theatrical productions for the vast array of renovated opera houses and performing arts centers that began popping up across the country. In addition to now over 250 national tours under their belt, Troupe America has produced for the Plymouth Playhouse in Minneapolis since 1988 and also produces, (as StageWest Entertainment), the Medora Musical each summer at the gates of North Dakota’s beautiful Theodore Roosevelt National Park now in it’s 53rd season this coming summer.

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