'By the grace of God'
When Darlene Hilde-Rolle's sister first approached her about joining in her project to start up a family theater in Park Rapids, Darlene wasn't at all sure that she'd be able to do it.
"My sister was the performer -- like I always say, I was scared out of my bloomers," Darlene said of her fear of performing in front of a live audience.
It was only "through the grace of God" that she found the courage to get up on that stage and perform for the first time, she added.
Seven years later, Darlene is a regular at Jasper's Theater, where she performs under the guise of "Auntie Kreamsaugen," a Midwestern farm wife who dispenses her unique Norwegian brand of wit and wisdom as a self proclaimed marriage counselor.
Unfortunately, her sister, Dee Hilde-Johnson, was only able to join in the fun of her lifelong dream for one season at Jasper's; Dee succumbed to cancer six years ago.
"It was terrible," Darlene said of her sister's battle with the deadly disease.
But Dee's seven children carried on the tradition she had started, along with their children -- and Darlene was right there with them for every show. In fact, there are now four generations of the Hilde-Johnson family performing at Jasper's Theater each season, Darlene said.
Through performing between two and three dozen shows at the theater every summer, Darlene found herself becoming comfortable enough on stage to be up there all by herself -- and last year, Auntie Kreamsaugen made her debut as a solo performer at Darlene's winter home in Texas' Rio Grande Valley.
So popular was Auntie with Texas audiences that Darlene won not just one, but two entertainment awards for her work.
In a survey published by the Winter Texan Times newspaper in Mission, Texas, Auntie Kreamsaugen was named "favorite comedienne" by the newspaper's readers. In fact, Darlene said with a broad smile, she was the top vote-getter among entertainers in all categories.
Of course, she added quickly, "pride goeth before the fall," so she tries to stay humble about such accolades.
In addition to this honor, however, Darlene was also the recipient of a FAME (Families Advocating Moral Entertainment) Award in Pharr, Texas, as 2011 Comedienne of the Year.
She is planning a second season of shows in south Texas this coming winter, Darlene added -- some of them with Kerry Christensen, a national champion yodeler who is also a talented "vocalist, alphornist, zitherist and instrumentalist," Darlene said with a smile.
For those who live in this area that would like to get a taste of what those shows will look and sound like, Darlene will also be pairing with Christensen for two shows next Monday and Tuesday, Aug. 29-30, as part of the fall concert series at Jasper's Theater. Both shows start at 3 p.m.
The Jasper's fall series officially kicks off this Saturday, however, with a show by 15-year-old fiddler, guitarist and singer Daniel Brekke. The show will also feature appearances by his "auntie."
The comedienne will also be making four additional appearances in the area yet this fall before she heads south for the winter.
Auntie Kreamsaugen and magician Jack Sand will present a "Magic & Comedy Show" at Jasper's on consecutive Saturdays, Sept. 3 and 10.
She will also appear for the final show of the fall concert series on Saturday, Sept. 24 -- a gospel music concert featuring Kathie Brekke & the Apostle Blues Band.
All shows in the Jasper's fall series will start at 3 p.m.
Auntie's final appearance in the area this fall will not be at Jasper's, however: The family theater troupe will travel to Ulen for a special Oct. 1 show at the Top Hat Theatre (located in the Ulen-Hitterdal School). That show starts at 7:30 p.m., and will be preceded by a pasta meal at 6 p.m.
Proceeds from the dinner and performance will benefot the Hitterdal Lions and the Dee Hilde-Johnson Music Memorial Fund.
Though she has been performing as her comedic alter-ego for seven years now, Darlene said she continues to find joy in the role because "it gives me a real thrill that I can see people really laughing and having a good time...I get my joy from seeing theirs."
A native of Ulen, Darlene has made her home in Detroit Lakes for the past 16 years with husband Richard "Dick" Rolle. They have one son, a chiropractor who makes his home in Michigan, and two grandchildren.
For more information about the Jasper's Theater fall concert series, including a schedule and ticket prices, visit www.jasperstheater.com.
For a schedule of Auntie Kreamsaugen's winter shows in south Texas, visit www.auntiekreamsaugen.com.
Tickets for the Oct. 1 show at Ulen's Top Hat Theater go on sale Sept. 1, and will be available at the Ulen-Hitterdal School, Northwestern Bank of Ulen, and the Pump 'N More in Htterdal.