Quote of the Day: It is said that there are two great moments in everyone’s life – The day you’re born, and the moment you discover what you were born for. line spoken by Pastor Gunderson in the latest installment of the Church Basement Ladies series, Rise Up, O Men, premiering at the Plymouth Playhouse. Co-writers Greta Grosch and Graydon Royce, together with lyricist and composer Dennis Curley, maintain the same light-hearted, folksy humor and witty songs, with sprinkles of sweetness, that has been the hotdish of this series. Mavis (Greta Grosch), Karin (Dorian Chalmers), and the Widow Vivian Snustad (Janet Paone) are back in the kitchen, frowning just a bit at the presence of the men. Turns out the kitchen needs a little fixing up, and there seems to be something wrong with the furnace. Pastor Gunderson (played, once again, by Tim Drake) is joined by Karin’s husband Elroy Engelson (Jeff March) and handyman Carl (Peter Colburn, who also plays traveling salesman Roger). We also have an appearance of an elderly Arlo (also played by Drake) to throw a little more confusion into the chaos of men in the kitchen. 

Tim Drake (Pastor), Jeff March (Elroy, Arlene), Peter Colburn (Carl, Roger) Greta Grosch (Mavis), Dorian Chalmers (Karin), Janet Paone (Vivian Snustad) Photo by Paul Nixdorf

Tim Drake (Pastor), Jeff March (Elroy, Arlene), Peter Colburn (Carl, Roger) Greta Grosch (Mavis), Dorian Chalmers (Karin), Janet Paone (Vivian Snustad)
Photo by Paul Nixdorf

Between Mavis’ hotflashes, Karin’s missing mother’s ring, and Vivian’s annoyance at having men in the kitchen, more than the coils in the old refrigerator/freezer need to be aired out. Pastor has aspirations about being a comedian, but all his jokes go down the toilet. Karin is feeling the pangs of seeing her daughter go off to college, and the Lutherans need to get their act together for the talent show. 

I can’t help but smile and nod as I watch these characters, hear their stories, tap along to their songs, and commiserate with them when things don’t go they way they’d planned. It’s like being back home on the farm, and attending a potluck at my home church, Bethany Lutheran, where there is deep discussion over who should be making the mocha bars, and which way to cut the pickles. We even have the same wooden accordion dividers at our serving window. As I was describing this show to some Lutheran ladies in the church basement of the First Lutheran Church where I was playing piano this morning, (Do you ever wonder why there are so many First Lutheran Churches?) they were already smiling and nodding, too, recognizing certain personalities in people they know and worship with. I suggested they plan an outing and go as a group to this show. Heck, I’d even go again. The show was so much fun! I think anyone who has spent any time in any kind of church basement, town hall, or civic group could relate to the humor, antics, and heart of the Church Basement Ladies, especially in this, their 6th installment in the series, Rise Up, O Men!

The cast of Rise Up, O Men. Photo by Paul Nixdorf

The cast of Rise Up, O Men.   Photo by Paul Nixdorf

Come see what the cast of Rise Up, O Men is cooking up at the Plymouth Playhouse in this latest installment of The Church Basement Ladies! This series, based on the book Growing Up Lutheran, What Does this Mean? by Janet Letnes Martin and Suzann Nelson, is home-grown Minnesota humor at its finest. The first play, The Church Basement Ladies, ran from 2005-2007. All of the six plays are first produced at the Plymouth Playhouse, executive producer Curt Wollan. The various shows have been produced throughout the Midwest in many theaters, and in 2009 the National Tour took it on the road, starring William Christopher (Father Mulchay from M*A*S*H) as Pastor.

Carol Jackson, Greta Grosch, Julie Jackson, and Mary Aalgaard, blogger night at Rise Up, O Men!

Carol Jackson, Greta Grosch, Julie Jackson, and Mary Aalgaard, blogger night at Rise Up, O Men! (I’ll put more pictures on my Play off the Page Facebook page.)

I was fortunate to be invited along with other Twin Cities Theater Bloggers (Julie and Carol from MN Theater Love, Kendra Plant, Artfully Engaging, and Becki Iverson from Compendium) to this special event to kick off the opening of Rise Up, O Men. They treated us to dinner at the Green Mill (upstairs from the theater), and the food was delicious. Thank you, Plymouth Playhouse! The Bloggers love having special events where we can meet and eat before the show to discuss what’s happening in the theater world – sensory-friendly performances, audience etiquette, the Ivey’s coming up, and what shows we’re planning on seeing. Afterwards, we were invited to attend the post-play discussion where we learned more about the creative process and saw just how much fun these actors have working together. The members of this cast go together like tater tot hotdish and Special K bars.

Rise Up, O Men will run from August 20 – November 13, 2016. Take a break for Away in the Basement (their Christmas show), and resume again from January 5 – April 9, 2017. They have several matinee performances on Wednesdays-Sundays, as well as evening performances Thursday-Saturday. Get your group together, bring a good friend or partner, or come alone and enjoy the fellowship of the church basement. They might even have patriotic bars. Go to Plymouth Playhouse website for tickets and showtimes. 

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: Did you grow up in a church community? What was your community like? What things still make you smile, or laugh, when you remember it?