Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

A familiar play of yesteryear


Young Auditorium recently played host to a Troupe America, INC. production of “Away in the Basement: A Church Basement Ladies Christmas.” Troupe America has been from coast to coast, as well as throughout Canada, since 1987.

“Away in the Basement” is a musical that strikes at the heart of a way of life most recognizable to those who have called the Midwest their home. Taking place in 1959, one would think that this play is only perceptible to those who have long since graduated from places like UW-Whitewater. However, even though some of the references to Norwegian, Lutheran, or even midwestern origin went over the younger heads, it still gave a sense of resemblance to the parts of our childhood spent not far from campus and even in a church basement, even if not Lutheran.

After a rather cheerful opening song, it starts with a group of Norwegian ladies talking about a rather pungent meal of fish, with which this Texan of Mexican origins is unfamiliar. They then talked about the forthcoming Christmas play the church was hosting. And how one of the ladies, a 15-year-old, did not want to play Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. After some convincing, she agreed to play Mary.

Time and gossip turned to song and trepidation after more and more children, not shown, became unavailable for the Christmas play, and tradition was replaced by change. Some of which were begrudgingly accepted, while others were discarded as soon as they were introduced.

Characters and dialogue reminiscent of sitcoms your parents, and perhaps grandparents, would be familiar with stepped into the fray to fill the shoes of shepherd and wise man alike.

After a brief intermission, their inquiry about what a piñata is, as well as its purpose and addition to the nativity scene, was something lighthearted and funny—especially their failure to correctly pronounce it despite multiple attempts to do so.

There is a brief mention of the Book of Matthew, Chapter 25, that fits “Away in the Basement” rather fittingly.

It connected particularly well with the pastor as he was similar to a pastor many of us had in childhood to a certain extent. Trying to keep the peace as well as make sure the Christmas play went on without a hitch became his purpose for the day.

Even that, however, was occasionally put on the back burner due to his affection for the church play’s director. However, this wasn’t taken too kindly by one of the ladies, as it was two years since the pastor’s widow’s death. This, however, was one of the aforementioned changes begrudgingly accepted.

The play ends with the pastor singing an ode to his late wife and a Norwegian melody from one of the ladies, followed by a bow to the audience.

All in all, “Away in the Basement” is a timeless tale that could be set in almost any church basement for a cheerful way to honor the birth of Jesus Christ, midwestern style. The show is a musical well suited for the Midwest’s deep Christian ties.

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About the Contributor
Jeffery Terhune, Assistant Arts & Recreation Editor

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