Norway hosts temperance association dinner theater fundraiser

NORWAY – Rob Borschsenius, a board member of the Norsk Museum, was trying to think of ideas for a fun way to raise money for the museum when he came across the Norway Temperance Association’s meeting minutes on display.

Borschsenius read more than 50 years of the meeting minutes and created original music and a script based off of what he read.

His play will be featured at a dinner theater fundraiser on Wednesday, April 12. The audience will be whisked back in time to attend a circa-1910 meeting of the Norway Temperance Association.

The event will be held at the Norway Community Building, 3676 E. 2603rd Road. Doors will open at 6 p.m., a broasted chicken and pasta dinner will be served at 6:30 p.m. and the play will begin at 7:15 p.m. Unlike a traditional temperance meeting, a cash bar with beer and wine will be open through the evening. Tickets cost $35 and must be purchased in advance by calling 815-712-3170. Only a limited number of tickets are still available.

“The meeting minutes were interesting reading, and they were all hand-written,” Borschsenius said. “Everything in the play really happened and is based on true events. The association had their own choir and orchestra, and we will have both at our meeting. I would call it ‘historical fiction.’ People in the audience will be involved with the play, there will be a guest speaker and the Prairie Singers will be volunteer performers.”

The dinner theater is a fundraiser for the Norsk Museum, which houses artifacts from Norwegian history and memorabilia from the area’s first settlers, including early farm tools, spinning wheels, rosemaling, bunads (traditional Norwegian dresses) and a Viking display. The museum is closed for the season but is open for weekend tours June through September.

The museum’s building, the Hauge Lutheran Church of Norway, was constructed around 1846 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Buildings last spring. The museum’s parent organization, The Norwegian Center Inc., has submitted an application to Landmarks Illinois for the Norway Temperance Association’s hall to be considered as one of the 10 Most Endangered Historic Buildings in Illinois for 2017.

The Norway Temperance Association was organized in the late 1870s by the Norway Methodist women. Under the direction of the Rev. C. W. Hanson of the Norway Methodist Church, a temperance hall was constructed and was dedicated in October 1909.

The temperance hall was not only the location of the association’s meetings – graduations, basketball games, square dancing, dinners and fundraisers also were held there until 1956, when the association was dissolved and the building was sold. The money from the sale was divided evenly to three churches in the community: Fox River Lutheran, Norway Methodist and the Latter Day Saints.

“We are hoping that the hall’s owner will donate the building to us,” said David Johnson, Norsk Museum board president. “Last year, we had a historic architect appraise the building. We would need a quarter of a million dollars to bring the hall back to its 1910 status.”

The money raised at the upcoming dinner theater would be used to restore the museum’s original plaster walls and preserve the museum’s exhibits and artifacts. Last fall, John Maack of Chicago donated to the museum a Skagerrak Viking ship he built using Viking plans. The museum plans to build a storage unit to house the ship, which will be placed on a trailer and will be featured in parades, including the Norwegian Constitution Day Parade in Park Ridge.

“We would love to make the temperance meeting an annual event and host it at the temperance hall,” Johnson said. “We hope it will tell the story of our community’s heritage and that everyone will have fun.”