Meet Vivian Snustad: Kay Francis
To read more about A Mighty Fortress is Our Basement click HERE.
Which character do you play?
Do you feel like you share any personality traits with your character?
Vivian is my mother and all girls know they are their mothers…deep deep down..whether we like it or not. Vivian is about tradition, keeping things as they always were, change to be challenged, feared, and denied until there is no alternative but to accept it. Then you keep reminding everyone what a bad idea it was to change. Vivian is from the World War 1/ Depression/World War II eras plus being of Norwegian ancestry; stoic, pragmatic and stubborn. My mother was Irish but shared the same traits. Like Vivian she was crusty and sharp tongued and quick to criticize and carried her grudges beyond the grave. That said, both Vivian and Mom were fiercely loyal, protective, warm and nurturing to those they love.
Do you have any personal associations with being a Church Basement Lady?
I grew up in a small town, Southern Baptist. Our Church Basement Ladies wore hats with their choir robes and served meatloaf and mashed potatoes instead of lutefisk and lefse. But there was a Vivian, Karin and Mavis in every generation. I had a brother in law who was a minister and he told me the first people he tried to make friends with in any church he served were the ladies who ran the kitchen. They were the real power behind the altar as far as he was concerned.
What is it like being a Church Basement Lady?
I was very lucky that my vocal coach in Minneapolis was the first accompanist for the original cast of Church Basement Ladies. He told me about the show while it was in development and showed me the score and lyrics to a couple of the songs. He knew then the composer and writers were on to something really special. I was working for Broadway Palm Dinner Theater in Fort Myers FL at the time and told the artistic director about CBL and that it would be a perfect show for their demographic: Minnesotans and Mid Westerners who wintered in Fort Myers. In 2009 I was asked to be Vivian for their first CBL. Vivian doesn’t dance, but Kay Francis sure did a jig that day.
What is your favorite part of your role and what is your favorite part of the show?
Each one of the CBL “episodes” of which there are five, follows a similar format. Vivian’s character is established as Queen of the Kitchen, widow matriarch, resister to all change and guardian of all traditions Norwegian and Lutheran. She is devoted to her Ladies, her church, her Pastor and her Jesus. She is loyal to the memory of her dear departed Lars and still talks to him and Jesus daily. She is suspicious of all things non-Lutheran and urban i.e. “The Cities”. Each episode shows Vivian dealing with some change and challenge to her beliefs and phobias. It’s hilarious to see her try to keep everything under the old ways as new ways replace traditions she holds so dear. My favorite part of this role is Vivian’s attempt in every show to thwart changes thru some ridiculous scheme and her defenses against the world outside of the West Cornucopia Lutheran Church.
One part of my work which I truly love is to meet the audience after each show. Without fail, someone will say “I know you; you are just like my (Aunt, Sister, Mother, Grandma)”. Vivian is not exaggerated, she is the oldest lady in your church who has run the kitchen for years and serves the cookies and juice every Sunday. The Pastor will say she is “She who must be obeyed”.
My favorite part of each episode is the transition Vivian and all the Ladies make to show not only the fun they have preparing the refreshments for the church services but the love they have for each other and their Pastor. Each show has a wonderful moment when the audience goes “ahhhhhh” and perhaps shed a tear. That’s when I really love my job.
How many CBL shows have you been in?
I have been in all four of the CBL shows available for production to date. Next February I will be in the fifth and final episode “The Last Potluck Supper” being produced by Circa 21 Dinner Theater in Rock Island IL and that same episode Oct. 2015 for The Old Creamery Theater Company here in Amana.
What is it like to tour this show?
Last January through May 2014 I was privileged to be Vivian for the National Tour of “A Mighty Fortress Is Our Basement” produced by Tour America. We played many venues countrywide to thousands of theater goers. It was the most wonderful theatrical experience of my life and I was so happy to work with Carrie SoLutos and Nikki Savvit who share the stage with me here at the Old Creamery. Two favorite CBL moments: “A Mighty Fortress” has a wonderful tipsy (Vivian never gets drunk!) scene in it that is the cherry on the sundae for me. CBL 2 “A Second Helping” has the quilt song the Ladies sing to Beverly after the birth of her baby. It’s lovely, melodic and so touching; not a dry eye in the house.
What do you do in your spare time?
I love to read, write, play piano, sing and travel with my wonderful patient husband of 30 years, Bruce. He comes with me everywhere I work; he’s a real ‘stage door johnny’. When not on the road working, we make our home in Naples Florida with our children (4) grandchildren (9), great grandchildren (2) and dogs (4).
How do you feel about the word Uff Da?
Uffda, uffa feeda, uffda feeda weeda are part of my every day vocabulary. Words I’ve used for the past 6 years. They come in real handy when you drop a book, burn a pie, or spill the coffee.
Do you have any favorite other roles you’ve played?
Other favorite roles include Fraulein Schneider in “Cabaret”, Fonsia in “The Gin Game” (Old Creamery 2012) and Ethel in “On Golden Pond’” (Old Creamery 2012).
Have you acted at the Old Creamery Before? If so, in what shows?
Old Creamery productions of “Leaving Iowa” and “Whose Wives Are They” (2008), “Rumors” (2009), “The Mousetrap” (2011), “Busy Body”, “Church Basement Ladies 2” (2012), “Church Basement Ladies 3” (2013).
What does it feel like to come back to the Old Creamery Theatre? What’s it like to work here at the Old Creamery?
I am so blessed to have worked at The Old Creamery for the last 6 years and am so grateful to Sean McCall for inviting me to join his wonderful company of talented, professional theater folk. Each production has been a joy and my husband and I love Amana, its gentlefolk and of course it’s magnificent golf course. Amana and The Old Creamery have truly been our home away from home.