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Show Information

Troupe America, Inc.
Curt Wollan, executive producer


Written by

Music and lyrics by

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

The show will run about two hours
with a 15-minute intermission.

The operating of cameras or recording devices is strictly prohibited by copyright law.

Please turn off anything that will make noise including cellular phones.

Show Sponsors
FOX 25/48
Candlewood Suites

From the President
Rick Trietley headshot

Dear Arts Patrons,

Welcome to this 2023–24 performing arts season production. The quality programming you are about to enjoy, and in which the university community takes so much pride, would be impossible without our friends, benefactors, and audience members. We are very pleased to have you join us.

This season is an expanded and eclectic mix of music, drama, music theatre, and stand-up comedy performed by outstanding artists ranging from nationally known acts to Viterbo students. The carefully crafted schedule reflects our dedication to upholding the legacy of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration and their goal of sharing the wonder of the arts with everyone in the region.

To all Viterbo arts patrons, benefactors, sponsors, volunteers, artists, and students, thank you very much for your continued support.

Enjoy the show!

“Pace e Bene”
Peace and all good
Rick Trietley signature
Rick Trietley
Viterbo University President

Troupe America, Inc. and the
Viterbo University Fine Arts Center present:
A Christmas celebration of the church basement and the women who work there!

Church Basement Ladies Christmas logo

(In Order of Appearance)

Pastor: Greg Eiden

Mrs. Lars Snustad (Vivian): Rachelle Walljasper

Mrs. Gilmer Gilmerson (Mavis): Jessica Bradish

Mrs. Elroy Engelson (Karin): Nicole A. Korbisch

Miss Beverly Engelson: Krianna Walljasper

Understudies: For Karin–Sheridan Zuther;
for Vivian–Lois Estell; for Beverly–Alexa Johnson; for Mavis–Robbie Mancina; for Pastor–Ken Quiricone.

Understudies never substitute without prior announcement.

Set Design
Erica Zaffarano

Costume Design
Katrina Benedict

Light Design
Scott Herbst

Sound Design
Ryan Milligan

Musical Staging and Choreography
Wendy Short-Hays

Music Direction
Dennis Curley

Directed By
Lexie Wollan Swenson

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.

Production Team
Troupe America, Inc. Production Staff

Company Manager: Jessica Bradish

Production Manager: Ryan Milligan

Stage Manager/ Props: Rachael Endrizzi

Technical Director: Ken Quiricone

Master Electrician: James Eischen

Sound Engineer: Ryan Milligan

Wardrobe Supervisor: Rachelle Walljasper

Tour Transportation: Mayo Tours

Trucking: Stage Call

General Manager: John Tsafoyannis

Tour Bookings: Art Fegan Entertainment

Payroll Services: Asure Payroll

Graphics: Crescent Design

Accounting: Brockman-Marchan Ltd

Legal: Faegre, Baker & Daniels

Synopsis of Scenes


Morning of December 19, 1959
(The day of the annual Sunday School
Christmas Program)

Away in the Basement

The Unforgettable Christmas Program of 1958
Vivian and Company

(Everybody is a Kid Again) At Christmastime
Karin with Beverly, Mavis, Vivian

Just Not Mary Material
Mavis with Beverly, Karin, Vivian

Always One More Thing
Beverly with Karin, Mavis, Vivian


Later that same morning

Away in the Basement (reprise)
Karin, Mavis, Vivian, Pastor

Karin and Company

Whatsoever You Doo-wop
Vivian with Karin, Mavis

Reindeer Rendezvous
Pastor and Company

I Think You’d Like Her

Jeg Er Så Glad

Cast (In Alphabetical Order)


Jessica Bradish
is thrilled to be returning to the cast of Church Basement Ladies! Originally from Des Moines, she received her BFA in musical theatre performance from Wagner College in NYC. Past favorite roles include Retta Cupp in the national tour of Pump Boys and Dinettes, Lee in Cowgirls at Pioneer Theatre Company, and Christmas Past in the National Tour of A Christmas Carol. Love and thanks to Ryan, Babba, and all of her friends and family for their support.


Greg Eiden
is grateful, as always, to be a part of Church Basement Ladies. Recently, he produced his original musical, War Of The Worlds, A Tribute to Old-Time Radio. Some favorite shows have been: I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, Almost Maine, Tony ’n Tina’s Wedding, A Year With Frog And Toad, Sisters Of Swing, and A Charlie Brown Christmas. Other musicals he’s written are: SuperHero: The Musical from The Cubicle, Gift Of The Magi and Ice Fish’n Op’ner. As always, he wishes to thank his parents for their love and support.


Nicole A. Korbisch
joins Church Basement Ladies after recently relocating back to the Midwest from NYC. Growing up Lutheran in small-town Birnamwood, Wis., she is thrilled to return to her roots. Recently, Korbisch donned a habit as Nunsense’s Sister Robert Anne in Indiana, found her watch always stuck on 5 o’clock in Jimmy Buffett’s Escape to Margaritaville in Ohio, and embodied the powerful women in Nikola Tesla’s life in Tesla’s Mistress in Minnesota. Other past favorites have included: The Last Five Years (Cathy)-tour, Smokey Joe’s Cafe (Pattie), The Rocky Horror Show (Magenta), Avenue Q (Bad Idea Bear, Mrs. T/Kate, Lucy u.s.), Hairspray (Velma Von Tussle)…to name a few. Thank you for joining us today to share in laughter and live entertainment!


Krianna Walljasper
is ecstatic to be performing again! While it’s her first time touring, she has grown up in the theatre. Her favorite appearances would be Little Red in Into the Woods, Natalie in All Shook Up, and Ilse in Spring Awakening. When NOT performing, she’s preparing delicious drinks at Iron and Grain and spending time with her partner (Aidan) and dog (Zeke). Walljasper's an outgoing, adventurous, animal–loving human. She bursts out in random energy, but reels it in when appropriate. Lastly she’d like to thank her parents, Tom and Shelley, for igniting her with love to create. FUN FACT: The actress playing Vivian is my mom in real life!


Rachelle Walljasper
is no stranger to the basement having performed in several versions of Church Basement Ladies in regional theatre, but this tour thing is a whole new experience. What a hoot! Thank you Troupe America for taking me on an adventure! I'm old so I have many favorite roles. Here are a few: Daisy in Driving Miss Daisy, Lovett in Sweeney Todd, and Golde in Fiddler on the Roof. I grew up doing music at church and I still do it! I have had the honor to see our hard working volunteers keep our communities thriving with endless love and dedication. So...to all you real Church Basement Ladies (and Men), Thank you! Have a blessed holiday!

Gundersen Hotel and Suites
Original Lutheran Ladies


Janet Letnes Martin
grew up in Hillsboro, N.D. where the words Norwegian and Lutheran were synonymous. It was no surprise she graduated from Augsburg College, in Minneapolis, and married Neil Martin, a 100% Scandinavian-Lutheran man from Newfolden, Minn.

Letnes Martin started writing books in 1983. She wrote three books, co-authored three books with Allen Todnem, and one with her sister, Ilene Lorenz, before she teamed up to write and perform with a college friend, Suzann Nelson. They have written nine books relating to their Norwegian-Lutheran rural background. Their book Growing Up Lutheran, What Does This Mean? won the Minnesota Book Award for Humor, and is the inspiration for all nine Church Basement Ladies musical comedies. Letnes Martin and Nelson have performed as a comedy duo Those Lutheran Ladies from the state of Washington to Washington, DC as well as in The Medora Musical. Recently Letnes Martin switched gears and teamed up with author/artist, David W. Cook II, to write a fabulous new humorous book, Lemonade for the Lawnboy: The Executives Wives' Cookbook Committee.

She lives in Hastings, Minn. and feels blessed that her family is all involved in their Scandinavian Lutheran heritage. She is co-owner of Scandinavian Marketplace and the online store scandinavianmarket.com with her daughter and son-in-law, Jennifer and Steve Green. Her daughter, Sarah, is a national representative for the Norwegian Fjord Flatware Company, and her youngest daughter Katrina Benedict is the costumer of Church Basement Ladies Away in the Basement. She is grateful that her husband Andy knows how to make egg coffee. Her granddaughters, Sophia, Ariana, and Myana Green and Nora Benedict are the loves of her life. She dedicates her contribution to this play, to her late husband, Neil, whom she misses dearly.


Susann Nelson
could put “ditto” under Janet Letnes Martin’s bio. Their books and performances as the humorous duo, “Those Lutheran Ladies”, draw upon life experiences growing up as hardworking, church attending, 100% Norwegian-Lutheran farm girls. This is the nucleus of the heartwarming Church Basement Ladies musicals. She attended universities in Minnesota and Oslo, directed a Norwegian language camp and wrote curricula. Changing from jeans into three-piece suits, she dabbled in government, wrote public policy reports, and struggled to put on pantyhose. In time, humidity and hot flashes prompted her to team up with Letnes Martin for her next act. By then, Suzann, husband Ron, and daughters Senja and Siri, lived in Grand Rapids, Minn. After widowhood set in, she started her online bookstore-www.ruralroutebookstore.com. She spent her days looking for misplaced things and laughing with her four grandkids, and her nights were spent pondering her mortgage. Nelson quite unexpectedly passed away on March 14, 2021, and her children have since found her misplaced things and are thankful her legacy lives on in the Church Basement Ladies performances. Her online bookstore remains active, and her grandkids are still laughing at their grandma’s antics.



Greta Grosch
has worked as a freelance writer, performer and director across the country since 1989 and has a wealth of experience in both commercial and business theatre. An original cast member of Church Basement Ladies, originated the role of Mavis and continues to perform on stage as a member of the Actors' Union. Grosch wrote the scripts for the last eight installments of the Church Basement Ladies series, wrote the annual Medora Musical for 18 years, and has created educational and entertaining programming for various organizations across the country. In addition, Grosch is a voice over and commercial artist, works as an advocate for high school musical theatre, and is a founding member of the The Looney Lutherans. Grosch wishes to thank Curt Wollan, Janet Martin, Suzann Nelson and the original cast for their support and inspiration over the years, and dedicates this show to her sister, who married a real live Norwegian bachelor farmer and lives on a Christmas tree farm overlooking a fjord in Norway. Seriously. For more information visit gretagrosch.com.


Drew Jansen
is in the midst of a multi-faceted career as a pianist, composer/lyricist (including the wildly-successful national hit Church Basement Ladies, on-camera announcer (“Ernie” on Comedy Central’s cult classic Let’s Bowl, scriptwriter (including the new season of Mystery Science Theatre, 3000), actor (most recently “Frederik” A Little Night Music and “Boolie” in Driving Miss Daisy, singer, and commercial on-screen and voice actor. He also enjoys touring the country as music director/pianist/vocalist for Close To You: The Music of The Carpenters. He expresses deep gratitude for his CBL family, and especially for each of you reading these words right now. Mange Takk!


Lexie Wollan Swenson
Lexie is excited to be working on Away in the Basement again! She spends a lot of her time choreographing school musicals around the Twin Cities. She was also the choreographer for the Medora Musical for nine summers. When she’s not working she is at home with her husband and two daughters. Enjoy the show and Happy Holidays!


Dennis Curley
Dennis Curley is a native of Syracuse, N.Y., and a graduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, I.L.). He has composed music for four shows in the Church Basement Ladies series (2—A Second Helping, 6—Rise Up, O Men, 7—You Smell Barn and 9—Plowin’ Thru). Dennis tours the Upper Midwest with Country Roads: Dennis Curley Sings the Music of John Denver, is a co-founder and executive producer of Table Salt Productions (TableSaltProductions.com), and can be found on the web at DennisCurley.com.


Curt Wollan
is the president and executive producer–director for Troupe America, Inc. He has directed many National Tours including Steel Magnolias, Driving Miss Daisy, The 1940’s Radio Hour, Big River, Hank Williams–Lost Highway, and Stephen King’s Ghost Stories. He has also co-produced three National Tours of Forbidden Broadway, directed M*A*S*H’s Jamie Farr and William Christopher in the National Tour of The Odd Couple, the National Tour of Moon Over Buffalo starring Gavin MacLeod, the National Tour of The Sunshine Boys starring Dick Van Patten and Frank Gorshin and Same Time, Next Year starring Mackenzie Phillips and Adrian Zmed. At Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, he directed Cottonpatch Gospel starring WKRP in Cincinnati’s Gary Sandy. In the last five years, Wollan has directed ten National Tours of Church Basement Ladies, two starring M*A*S*H’s William Christopher as the Pastor, and has directed another twenty productions across the country including The New Theatre Restaurant in Kansas City starring Barry Williams of TV’s The Brady Bunch as the Pastor. Wollan has been based at the Plymouth Playhouse since 1979, and has directed most of its productions, notably the musical comedies Church Basement Ladies, Church Basement Ladies 2: A Second Helping, How To Talk Minnesotan The Musical, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, and Diamond Studs which won the Twin Cities “Kudos” Award for best direction, best vhoreography and best musical. His current project is working with Dolly Parton and an incredible team of writers on a new Christmas musical; Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain Christmas Carol which won a “Jesse” Award in Vancouver for Best Musical of 2020 and opened last holiday season in London’s West End. Wollan dedicates this show to the memory of his mother, Lorraine, who’s church kitchen legacy serves as an inspiration for his work on this production.


Ryan Milligan
is a freelance sound designer, engineer, and production manager who has been fortunate to work in theatres all over the country. He has worked with Troupe America for nearly 10 years and has enjoyed being part of many Church Basement Ladies tours as well as Pump Boys and Dinettes in 2017! He also served as sound designer and production manager for the Medora Musical with Curt Wollan's partner company, StageWest Entertainment, from 2015 through 2023. He would like to thank Curt for the countless opportunities, Jessica for sharing this adventure with me, and my family for always being endlessly supportive!


Wendy Short Hays
has been connected with Troupe America for over 25 years. She created the choreography for the original production of Church Basement Ladies as well as subsequent tours and productions. She is thrilled to have “another helping” with this brilliant creative team. In that time she has choreographed such favorites as A Day in Hollywood, A Night in the Ukraine, Nunsense, Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?, Pump Boys and Dinettes, 1940’s Radio Hour, and Diamond Studs for which she earned the Twin Cities Drama Critic Award for Best Choreography. She was on the writing team for The Lovely Liebowitz Sisters and her original choreography of Pump Boys and Dinettes has been produced over 24 times locally, on national tour, and for an extended run at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. She is the artistic director of VISTA Productions which was chosen from over 400 applicants to represent Minnesota at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. Her work has also been seen on the stage of The Medora Musical, Hey City Stage, Great American History Theatre, and numerous national tours. Some of her directing credits include West Side Story, Wings, Children of Eden, Lost In Yonkers, Into The Woods, A Christmas Carol, and Beehive.


Erica Zaffarano
has been happily working with Troupe America and Curt Wollan for many years. Her work has been seen in film, television, commercials, and theatres around the country and in the U.S. Virgin Islands. She is grateful to be working with people who love to laugh and to be sharing her love for the arts with all who come to enjoy being entertained by a craft she became passionate about so many years ago.


Scott R. Herbst
is happy to be returning to Church Basement Ladies once again. After over 30 years as a production manager and designer for Troupe America, Herbst traded in the Great Indoors of Theatre for the Great Outdoors of Landscape Design. Over the years, with Troupe, Herbst had the opportunity to work with many wonderful actors including William Christopher and Gavin McLeod, and looks forward to spending more time in the “Basement.”


Katrina Benedict
is thrilled to be a part of Church Basement Ladies 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 theatres in the Twin Cities area. Her most recent designs include Church Basement Ladies 2: A Second Helping, A Mighty Fortress Is Our Basement, Kirby! for the History Theater, Sherlock’s Last Case for Minnesota Centennial Showboat and various productions at Normandale Community College.


Troupe America, Inc.
has been touring theatrical productions from coast to coast and in Canada since 1987 under executive director/producer Curt Wollan. Past Troupe America tours include six seasons of Mr. Pickwick's Christmas, two seasons of Dylan Thomas' A Childs' Christmas In Wales, five tours of Pump Boys and Dinettes, two tours of Stephen King's Ghost Stories, three tours of the stage version of the Emmy Award-winning TV series Schoolhouse Rock, Live!, a co-production of The Gifts of the Magi with the Lamb's Theater Company of New York, and tours of On Golden Pond, Driving Miss Daisy, Steel Magnolias, and Forbidden Broadway with Big League Theatricals of New York. Troupe America also operated the popular Plymouth Playhouse in the Twin Cities area for thirty seven years, having produced a four-year run of Nunsense, a four-year run of Pump Boys and Dinettes, and critically acclaimed productions of Diamond Studs, A Day In Hollywood A Night In The Ukraine, Little Shop of Horrors, The Lovely Liebowitz Sisters, A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline, An Evening with Groucho starring Frank Ferrante, and an eight-year run of a new musical based on Howard Mohr's best-selling book How To Talk Minnesotan titled How To Talk Minnesotan The Musical, the off-Broadway success I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, and a series of nine new musicals based on The Church Basement Ladies, from the best-selling book Growing Up Lutheran. In 1997, Troupe America produced a highly acclaimed national tour of The Odd Couple starring M*A*S*H's Jamie Farr and William Christopher and in 1998-99, the national tour of Moon Over Buffalo starring Gavin MacLeod. In 1999/2000, Troupe America produced Hank Williams, Lost Highway starring Jason Petty, and in 2001/2002 produced and toured the national tours of The Sunshine Boys starring Dick Van Patten and Frank Gorshin and Same time, Next Year starring Mackenzie Phillips and Adrian Zmed.

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