Holy hilarity takes center stage in Little Falls

Catastrophe and Shenanigans aren’t just the names of sisters in “Church Ladies Hoopla” — those words describe the whole evening.

It’s a zany musical theater with a “church-lady-approved” meal on Wednesday, Aug. 9, and Thursday, Aug. 10, at the Falls Ballroom in Little Falls.

The event is a “fun-raiser” for the cast and community alike, while raising funds for Oasis Central Minnesota, a charity with programs to ease housing and hunger concerns.

“The joy of the evening is the crazy laughter,” said Robyn Gray, the playwright and a parishioner at St. Mary in Little Falls. “People laugh nonstop from the moment they walk in the door. It’s gentle humor with a sweet message — that we need to take care of each other and the world will be better. Audiences enjoy the rural — and very Minnesotan — touches.”

Cast members of “Church Ladies Hoopla” develop their characters during a recent rehearsal. (Photo courtesy of Oasis Central Minnesota)

It’s also a very ecumenical show with running jokes about Catholics and Protestants, explained Judith Hecht, a cast member and parishioner of Our Lady of Lourdes in Little Falls.

“I play Agnes, a Lutheran,” Hecht said. “Besides Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Mary’s and a number of Protestant churches, our cast includes two sisters from St. Francis Convent. One is Sister Carolyn Law, in the role of the Protestant minister.”

To raise money for Oasis, the audience will have opportunities to purchase Agnes’ famous buns as well as raffle tickets for Adirondack chairs, a quilt and motorcycle ride with Father Joe Herzing.

In addition, attendees may wish to buy “insurance” or a bribe.

“During the 5 p.m. social hour,” Hecht said, “we ask if audience members would like to be on stage. Most people say no, so we sell them ‘insurance’ to keep them off the stage. However, their ‘friends’ may have bribed us with more money.”

The idea for the Church Ladies productions took root about five years ago when Gray, Hecht and Vicki Spofford were considering ways to raise funds for Oasis Central Minnesota. Hecht and Spofford are founding members of the organization.

Gray, with a background in theater, offered to write a humorous play about church ladies using familiar melodies with unique lyrics. She plays the Mother Superior in charge of Catholics and Protestants alike. Spofford is the musical director for the shows.

“Many in the cast are Franciscan Associates who care so much about Oasis,” Gray said. “They are what church ladies should be — wonderful people. Come early enough to read their full character biographies included in the program.”

“Church Ladies Hoopla,” the fifth musical they’ve performed, features the women’s convoluted interpretations of their favorite Bible stories. For example, the character Elsie Sagoo, played by Franciscan Sister Elsie Saggau, sees math components in the book of Numbers. Another character is surprised to learn that Song of Songs isn’t actual music.

Will and Tiffany Threlkeld donate space at the Falls Ballroom; all proceeds from the evenings go to Oasis Central Minnesota, which offers Share a Meal, Paint-A-Thon and Fix a Home.

Rose Surma, executive director at Oasis, said the church ladies productions have been their biggest fundraiser. “They’ve helped us expand to meet more needs in food and housing support, and brought a level of awareness about our organization in the Little Falls area.

“The show is so much fun and makes a big impact on the work we are able to do.”

Author: Nikki Rajala

Nikki Rajala is a writer/copy editor for The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine.

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