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Show Information

Troupe America, Inc.
Curt Wollan, executive producer
Inspired by the books of Janet Letnes Martin and Suzann Nelson including the best-seller Growing Up Lutheran

Written by Jim Stowell and Jessica Zuehlke
Music and lyrics by Drew Jansen

The show will run approximately two hours including
one 15-minute intermission.

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

Please turn off anything that will light up or make noise.

Synopsis of Scenes

Troupe America, Inc. presents: A celebration of the church basement kitchen and the women who work there!

In Order of Appearance

Mrs. Lars Snustad (Vivian): Autumn O’Ryan

Mrs. Gilmer Gilmerson (Mavis): Jessica Bradish

Mrs. Elroy Engelson (Karin): Dorian Chalmers

Miss Signe Engelson: Tara Borman

Pastor E.L. Gunderson: Tim Drake

Understudies: For Mrs. Lars Snustad (Vivian): Janet Paone; for Mrs. Gilmer Gilmerson (Mavis): Dorian Chalmers; for Mrs. Elroy Engelson (Karin): Roxanne Britz; for Pastor E.L. Gunderson: Gregory Eiden; for Miss Signe Engleson: Jeanna Zenz

Production Team

Directed By: Curt Wollan

Music Direction: Dennis Curley

Choreography: Wendy Short Hays

Set and Prop Design: Erica Zaffarano

Costumer: Trina Benedict

Lighting Design: Scot R. Herbst

Sound Design: Ryan Milligan

Stage Manager: Ella Egan

Exclusive Tour Management: Art Fegan Entertainment, Nashville, TN, artfegan.com

Special Thanks: Pastor Gary Olson and Lakeview Lutheran Church, Edina Morningside Community Church UCC, Luther Seminary Archives, ARCA Minnesota, Pastor George Gilbertson and St. Andrews Lutheran Church, Grand Rapids, MN, Zion Lutheran Church, Grand Rapids, Minn., Suzann Nelson and Janet Letnes Martin, Thrivent Financial Lutheran Services, Wonder Bread Bakery (helps build strong bodies in 12 ways!), IKEA Restaurant for not bothering us while we worked on the script in the far corner, and Joanne Deter who said "Curt, you should call those Lutheran ladies."

Production Management

Production Manager: Ryan Milligan

Company Manager: Jessica Bradish

Technical Director: Tyler O’Brien

Wardobe Supervisor: Autumn O’Ryan

General Manager: John Tsafoyannis

Bus Company: Mayo Tours, Inc.

Trucking Company: StageCall, Inc.

Hotel Room Coordinator: Lexie Wollan Swenson

Attorney: Faegre, Baker & Daniels LLP

Accounting: Brockman Marchan, Ltd.



Tara Borman
is thrilled to be reuniting with her favorite ladies (and pastor) for a triumphant return to the stage! Borman is an original cast member of Church Basement Ladies having performed her role all over the country, including in the production's original home base, and Borman's hometown, Minneapolis. Borman can also be heard on numerous Church Basement Ladies cast albums and is excited to join the original cast again this summer to begin rehearsals for a brand-new production in Minnesota! Borman completed two seasons on the six-star Silversea cruise ships back in 2018-19, and since then Borman has had a small break from the theatre getting a "real" job and adopting a senior chihuahua named Happy. Borman is overjoyed to be performing again! Thanks to Curt for the opportunity!

Mavis & Company Manager

Jessica Bradish
is thrilled to be joining the cast of Church Basement Ladies! Originally from Des Moines, she received a 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 in Utah, Christmas Past in the National Tour of A Christmas Carol, and of course seven seasons as a Burning Hills Singer in The Medora Musical! Love and thanks to Ryan, Babba, and all of her friends and family for their support.


Roxanne Britz
has been playing the role of Karen in Church Basement Ladies series for over 12 years. She was an original cast member in the Nunsense regional Midwest premiere playing Sister Leo. She has also performed with Minnesota Opera, The Guthrie and the Medora Musical. She played Mrs. Howell in the 2016 Minneapolis Fringe Festival best-selling show Gilligan the Musical and has appeared in many commercials and films including ABC's In an Instant.


Dorian Chalmers
is thrilled to be back in an apron again! As an original cast member of the hit musical Church Basement Ladies, she has originated the role of Karin Engelson in all eight installments of the show. She travels the Midwest sharing music and silly antics with The Looney Lutherans. She performs regularly with Country Roads: The Life and Music of John Denver, as well as a variety of other musical projects. She is also proud to be the president of the Minnesota Lyme Association. Much love to Perry and Danica!


Tim Drake
is very excited to be touring the country for the 20th anniversary of Church Basement Ladies! It’s been a great ride! Between the eight versions of CBL, Drake also appeared in How to Talk Minnesotan, Pump Boys and Dinettes, A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline, Ring of Fire, Diamond Studs, and Guys on Ice. It’s hard to believe we started this journey 20 years ago! Thanks to all of you for showing up all these years. You’re the reason we’re still rolling!


Gregory 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.


Autumn O’Ryan
is a true "road warrior,” as this is her sixth national tour of Church Basement Ladies as Vivian Snustad. She has also performed the role in regional theatres throughout the nation. A proud Michigander, she has a BFA in musical theatre from the University of Michigan and has "trod the boards" across the U.S. for 35+ years. Favorite past productions: Sister Act, The Full Monty, Bridges of Madison County, Beauty and the Beast, Man of La Mancha, Nunsense, Alaska Cabin Nites, White Christmas, and Oklahoma! (X5). An avid hiker, she will be starting the Appalachian Trail in May. Many Thanks to Curt Wollan and his Troupe family. "Happy Trails" to all of us.


Janet Paone
is an original cast member and played Vivian in many places. Her favorite was opposite Barry Williams a.k.a. Greg Brady from The Brady Bunch at KC New Theatre. Most recently she played Countess in Ten Thousand Things’ Dear World, Janet in Love, Loss and What I Wore (National Tour Troupe America), and Margaret Lake in the Ivey award-winning Gabriel for WSTC. Paone has sung with the MN Opera for many years and with New York City Opera in La Boheme and Carmen. She is best known for her “turn” as Josephine Vitale in Tony and Tina’s Wedding at Hey City Theater.


Jeanna Zenz
is a singer and actor from Watford City, N.D. She attended Minnesota State University Moorhead for Musical Theatre and moved to New York City to pursue that dream. Her theatre credits include The Medora Musical (Medora, N.D.), Twas the Night Before Christmas (Dollywood, Tenn.), Macbeth (NYC), Urinetown (NYC), and The Wedding Singer (Minn.). Follow her on social media at @jeannazenz.

Touring Staff

Stage Manager

Ella Egan
is a Twin Cities-based stage manager and carpenter. She is a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota. This is her first show with Troupe America, and her first time touring! Her past projects include She Kills Monsters, Energy & U, and Oresteia House of Atreus at the University of Minnesota, Les Liaisons Dangereuses at the Court Theatre in Christchurch, New Zealand, and various Zoom workshops. She is sad to be leaving her roommates’ cats behind, but so excited to be on tour!

Master Electrician

James Eischen
Lighting Design: The Medora Musical (2019-21); Superman Becomes Lois Lane (History Theatre); Jekyll & Hyde National Tour (Touring Theater Associates); Ring of Fire National Tour (Troupe America Inc.); Numerous productions at: Troupe America, Lyric Arts Anoka, Normandale Community College, University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire, Umbrella Collective, Old Log, Plymouth Playhouse, Maples Rep, Duluth Playhouse, Lyric Opera of the North, Festival Opera, University of Minnesota–Duluth, Seventh House Collective. Teaching: University of Minnesota–Duluth, Lighting Faculty (2013-16). Training: BFA, University of Minnesota–Duluth, Theater Arts: design/technical.

Production Manager/ Sound Design

Ryan Milligan
is a freelance production manager, sound designer/engineer, and musician based out of Astoria, N.Y. His previous work for Troupe America includes the national tours of CBL 5 and 6 and Pump Boys and Dinettes. He is also production manager and sound designer for Troupe America's sister company, StageWest Entertainment, and The Medora Musical in Medora, N.D. Other work includes the Professional Performing Arts School, 54 Below, and Gamiotics Inc. in NYC, Rave On Productions and the Nebraska Theater Caravan's National Tour of A Christmas Carol in Omaha, Neb., and The Old Creamery Theatre Company in Amana, Iowa.

Technical Director

Tyler O’Brien
is a part of the third tour as a technical director, the first being Church Basement Ladies: Away In the Basement (2016) and Church Basement Ladies: Rise Up O' Men (2019).

Creative Staff


Trina Benedict
is happy to be back as the costumer for Church Basement Ladies. Her most recent designs have included The Medora Musical, Ring of Fire, and The Medora Gospel Brunch. She also works for the Minnesota Opera.

Music Director

Dennis Curley
is a native of Syracuse, N. Y. and a graduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.). He has composed music for three shows in the Church Basement Ladies series (2—A Second Helping, 6—Rise Up, O Men and 7—You Smell Barn). He is the arranger of Schoolhouse Rock Live! and Schoolhouse Rock Live Too! (both published by MTI). He tours the upper Midwest with Country Roads: Dennis Curley Sings the Music of John Denver, is a cofounder and executive producer of Table Salt Productions (TableSaltProductions.com) and can be found on the web at DennisCurley.com.


Wendy Short Hays
has been associated with Troupe America for over 20 years. 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 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, Artistry Theatre, Hey City Stage, Great American History Theatre and numerous national tours. She is a member of SDC union.

Lighting Design

Scot R. Herbst
has had a long and varied career in the theatre and most recently in landscaping. After over 30 years as a designer for Troupe America, Herbst has moved from the great indoors of the theatre to the great outdoors working as a designer for Southview Design, one of the premier landscaping firms in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Over the years, Herbst has had the opportunity to work with some great actors including William Christopher, Gavin MacLeod, and Mackenzie Phillips and looks forward to more freelance projects in the future.

Composer/ Lyricist

Drew Jansen
recently moved back to Little Rock following 35 years as an honorary Minnesotan. In addition to Church Basement Ladies, Jansen penned the score for How To Talk Minnesotan and many other musicals. He played Ernie on Comedy Central’s cult classic Let’s Bowl!, and, following a 26-year hiatus, returned as a writer/composer for season 13 of the Peabody Award-winning Mystery Science Theater 3000. Jansen continues to enjoy commercial work (on-camera and voice-over), playing and singing for private functions, and traveling Arkansas and the world with his husband, entertainer Jimmy Martin.

Co-Author of Growing Up Lutheran

Janet Letnes Martin
and the late Suzann Nelson’s co-authored book, Growing Up Lutheran, is the inspiration for the wildly popular Church Basement Ladies musicals. She is a humorist who has written and/or co-authored 20 bestselling books about her Norwegian/American Lutheran upbringing in Hillsboro, N.D. A graduate of Augsburg College in Minneapolis, she has been speaking and entertaining audiences for 35 years. Her passion is genealogy, and it has helped her to figure out why she thinks and acts the way she does! This widowed mother of three daughters, and grandmother to seven grandchildren, lives in Hastings, Minn.

Co-Author of Growing Up Lutheran

Suzann Nelson
could put “ditto” under 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-percent 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, Nelson, 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. She 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.


Jim Stowell
is an award-winning professional actor, director, playwright, and storyteller. He is the cofounder of two theatre companies that brought 20 new plays to the stage. He has written and directed 11 full cast plays including two children's plays, three book adaptations and a Spanish language play. Written and performed 12 one-man plays that were commissioned and produced by six theatres in Minneapolis/St. Paul. His work has been performed on National Public Radio and Minnesota Public Television, seen at the Sundance Film Festival, the Toronto Film Festival, and the National Storytelling Festival.


Curt Wollan
is the executive producer and director of Troupe America, Inc., that for 40 years ran the Plymouth Playhouse in the Minneapolis/St Paul area, premiering such hits as How To Talk Minnesotan, The Musical, The Lovely Liebowitz Sisters, and the entire Church Basement Ladies series of musicals. In the summer, he produces and directs the famous Medora Musical in Theodore Roosevelt National Park which in the past year has been featured on NBC Nightly News, the Travel Channel, MSNBC, and received a two-page spread in the Sunday New York Times. Wollan has produced and directed many national tours including Steel Magnolias, Driving Miss Daisy, The 1940’s Radio Hour, Hank Williams–Lost Highway starring Jason Petty, 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, and directed the national tours of Moon Over Buffalo starring Gavin MacLeod, The Sunshine Boys starring Dick Van Patten and Frank Gorshin, and Same Time, Next Year, starring Mackenzie Phillips and Adrian Zmed. As a free-lance director, his work has been seen at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, Theatre Under The Stars in Houston, The Barter Theatre, Kansas City's New Theatre Restaurant, and at Dollywood where he directed several productions with Dolly Parton. He is the recipient of the Twin Cities Kudos Award for direction of Diamond Studs, Indianapolis’s Mitty Award for Best Musical Ring of Fire, AARP’S 50 Over 50 Award, and Luther College’s Distinguished Service Award.

Set and Properties Design

Erica Zaffarano
has been a Church Basement Ladies fan since she experienced the first one! She has worked with Troupe America and Curt Wollan with tours of Pump Boys and Dinettes and Jekyll and Hyde, for Ring of Fire and The Medora Musical in North Dakota, Million Dollar Quartet and Grumpy Old Men at Circa 21 in Rock Island, Ill. plus CBL, Away in a Manger, and Sinatra: Christmas, My Way in the Twin Cities. There is no better comfort food than hotdish or comfort for the soul than the Church Basement Ladies!


Jessica Zuehlke
writes and performs her stories from teaching, traveling, and caregiving. She creates original scripts within and for all communities. Co-creating Church Basement Ladies generated a new script, Pen Pals the true story of pen pal girls from Minnesota and Germany after WWII. Theatre and education are driving forces for Zuehlke. She began with a puppet stage and a classroom in her childhood backyard. Onto a BA and an MA, she has trained and worked in professional theatre, as a roster artist for both COMPAS and MSAB, and artistic director of theatre schools both private and public.

Interested in an original cast CD
of Church Basement Ladies?

Just send us a check for $12 made out to
"Troupe America Inc" along with your return address
and we will send it to you!
Troupe America
2500 Highway 88, Suite 201
St. Anthony, MN 55418

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