by Frances Edstrom
This coming weekend is one of those so filled with activities that most of us would be hard-pressed to get to all of them. On Friday and Saturday, the Winona Health volunteers are staging their fourth Fantasy of Trees. Various businesses and individuals have decorated artificial trees in a myriad of themes for Christmas. There are even a Packers tree and NASCAR tree, although the vast majority are more traditional. People can bid on the trees, the winner being, of course, the highest bidder. In addition to the trees are wreaths and centerpieces for sale. All of this holiday decoration is displayed beautifully in the dining room and Great Hall of the Watkins Manor on Seventh Street. This is a wonderful opportunity to see the Watkins Manor, if you haven't. It is one of the jewels of Winona architecture and has been lovingly cared for by its owners, presently Winona Health, which operates an assisted living facility in an adjoining building. Proceeds go to support the needs of Winona Health, which have recently included a renovation of the Watkins Manor kitchen (the original family kitchen) and health care scholarships.
I'm going to be on the stage at the Masonic Temple on Saturday night at 5 p.m. for a dramatic reading of Lynn Nankivil's latest play, "East Side Story." Lynn has written several plays, including some staged by the History Theater in St. Paul.
This is the story of two young lovers in Winona in 1918, during WWI. He's a nice Polish boy named Roman Valasek, and Juliet Schultz is the daughter of a proud German man. The two fathers are dead set against the budding relationship, believing it is not quite right for different nationalities to mix. It's hard to believe that not so long ago, a suitor's religion or nationality was enough for the girl's father to hate him. These days, protective dads are forced to either hate the kid on his own dismerits or, the more usual, to simply hate any boy who comes around his little darling.
The play, unlike the not too subtly referenced Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story, has a happy ending. Getting to that ending is where all the fun is, though, and Nankivil has created some interesting characters and plot twists to keep the audience guessing.
As the play is still a work in progress, this is a dramatic reading, not a full production, the actors will be reading from scripts, and the sets and costumes are meant merely to suggest the locales and characters. You may recognize many of the actors: Sarah Marek Landman, Ken McCullough, Ray Felton, Will Kitchen, Dennis Carter, Maggy Jacqmin (who also directs), Diane Stevens, Jeffrey Mosser, Mark Benzel, Sara Pavlak, Maureen Fitzpatrick, Fran Edstrom.
After the play is read, the audience will be encouraged to discuss it, and the playwright hopes to gain some insight from the discussion that will help her tweak the dialogue and action for a later production. There will be a little reception, too, and there is no admission charge.
But hey, that's only a couple of hours of the entire weekend. For more on your choices for entertainment, leaf through the paper.