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The Church Basement Ladies are back

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“Church Basement Ladies 2: A Second Helping” is about a lot more than three women who cook for church events. It’s also about the joy and conflict of the lives of the three women behind the scenes.

On July 5, Pequot Lakes Community Theater (PLCT) debuts the production at the Chalberg Theater at Central Lakes College in Brainerd.

The humorous musical affectionately plays off the stereotypes of Midwestern churches and functions. The success of the series could be due to the connection the characters make with the audience.

Charlie and Sue Johnson perform two of the musical’s leading roles: Pastor Gunderson and Mrs. Snustad, respectively. They played the same roles when Pequot Lakes Community Theater performed the first play in the series two years ago.

“It’s so identifiable,” Charlie said. “Everyone knows a church basement lady.” He added that Pastor is a character identifiable to any religion.

While “A Second Helping” carries on the theme of humor from the original, Charlie and Sue said the sequel brings depth to the characters the audience already knows.

“Come ready to laugh,” Sue said, adding, “You might cry, too. This one is also funny, but much more tender, with more plot.”

Charlie called the sequel “more human” than the original. He was careful not to divulge any spoilers of the play. Both said there’s no need to see the original before seeing the sequel- it stands alone.

The three leading ladies of the church’s basement are Mrs. Snustad, Mrs. Elroy Engelson (Karin), played by Kate Davis, and Mrs. Gilmer Gilmerson (Mavis), played by Janice Bear. Karin’s daughter, Beverly Signe Engelson-Hauge also returns to the sequel, played by Dana Gjovik. Pastor Gunderson is always nearby.

Karin is the most fashionable of the ladies as well as the best cook in the kitchen. She appears to be happy, but had she been born in another time her life might have turned out differently. Signe, in her early 20s, is a newlywed. After graduating from the “U,” she left home a year ago to move to “the cities” with her new husband, Harry. She grew up in the church basement kitchen and has a great deal of affection for the women of the basement.

Mrs. Snustad (Vivian) is in her late 60’s. Her husband died early in their marriage. She is the matriarch of the kitchen and holds very tightly to tradition with both hands. Mrs. Gilmer Gilmerson (Mavis) is an able-bodied farm wife. Mavis is good natured and tries to dispel tension by telling a good joke. She knows the lineage of every family in town and is always willing to pitch in and fix someone’s tractor, peel a potato or scrub the lutefisk pot. She believes hard work is good for the soul. The ladies have a great deal of respect for Pastor E. L. Gunderson and tolerate his wife. Pastor Gunderson has been the Pastor at this church for some time and has a wife “half his age.”

This time around, the year is 1969 and the world is changing. As folks protest the Vietnam War and women are demanding equal pay for equal work, in their small rural Minnesota community, the ladies of the Lutheran church basement kitchen are dealing with changes of their own. From the elderly matriarch to the young mom-to-be, these women find strength in each other as they deal with the joys and upheavals from below the House of God.

PLCT was forced to move the production to the Chalberg due to construction at their usual location, the Pequot Lakes High School. But Charlie says it’s well worth the drive from Pequot Lakes.

“It’s worth the drive from a lot further than that,” he said.

“Church Basement Ladies 2: A Second Helping” will be performed July 5-7 and 9-13. Performances are at 7:30 p.m., except the Sunday, July 7, show, which is a 2 p.m. matinee. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors (age 60 and older), and $8 for youth (ages 18 and younger).

Call 218-568-9200 to reserve tickets, or purchase tickets starting one hour before the show in front of the theater box office.

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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