As I sit in my office, the low winter sun long since set and the darkness close around me, I think about how special this time of year is, how much I treasure the mystery and serenity, helping me focus inward and connect with others.
One thing I’ve come to treasure most in my 7.5 years at WES is Winter Festival, which you―WES congregants―create, writing the scripts, casting the parts, acting, singing, dancing, and helping bring the magic to life. Within it is another mystery: will it all come together for the big day? We’re never quite certain, and yet it always does.
To learn a little more about the Winter Festival “magic” I interviewed folks who have been integral to so many of them. Tony Nam; Joanna Verchinski; Elise; Eli, Sarah, and Jess; Jeff Mehall; and Marty Kaufman have been in a combined 65 Winter Festivals! Here are their thoughts…
What memory of Winter Fest stands out for you?
Tony: the first time I directed, (which was the Harrington Clock script in 2010, reprised this year,) I was so nervous, I wasn’t sure if the story was right, or if people would connect with it, up until I heard the first laugh go through the hall…then I knew it was going to be alright.
Sarah: the peace spiral.
Eli: Song of Solstice…the humorous parts of the play.
Jess: …the pulling of the banners.
Elise: the children’s candle-lighting, especially when kids who’ve long since graduated from the Sunday school come back and light a candle.
What do you love about being part of Winter Fest?
Tony: the chance to meet and work with new people, discover talents I did not know they had.
Joanna: that I get to see my friends, and we get to talk about the scenes and do them together.
Sarah: the acting.
Elise: getting to act goofy and spending time with my kids.
Jess: the joy of celebration.
Jeff: I’ve always found acting fun…it’s a chance to build new relationships and friendships with people I might not usually associate with, the WES children, for example.
Marty: I love that the whole community comes together and really outdoes itself and that people volunteer out of their passion and/or their skills.
What might someone who has never seen one of our Winter Fests want to know?
Tony: it’s a little different every year. It’s a story, it’s music, it’s traditions. Mostly, it’s a community coming together to celebrate its values, I think.
Joanna: It’s usually funny. There’s fun stuff like there’s a peace spiral. Some people have stage fright, but they usually get over it. There will be bowing at the end. There are five things: peace, hope, love, joy, and giving that will be in different parts of the play.
Elise: there’s audience participation, it lasts about an hour and a half, and there are cookies at the end!
Eli: it’s a community event that happens every year around the winter solstice and the highlight of it is a play put on by WES members.
Jeff: we’re obviously not professional actors, so there will be a few mistakes. That said, be prepared to have fun. The Peace Spiral, to quote the shopkeeper, “is simply the best”. Besides, it’s a great way to meet other members of the community, and who knows? You might be in next year’s production.
Marty: why we do this and why it matters. The season swings highly religious and highly commercial and many of us are caught in the middle. The pure focus on why this season is special―and has been for millennia―grounds many of us and Winter Fest is a way to connect to that. Depending on how you best connect, WF has something for you―the humorous, absurd, innocent, cerebral, and earnest all have their time in the spotlight with song, dance, and stagecraft.
So there you have it, Winter Festival, a tradition and a new creation, brought to us by each other. See you there!
Bailey Whiteman, Music Director