Tricounty News

Watkins survives a pirate attack

w-Watkins play castw-Watkins-play-presents

By Jean Doran Matua, Editor

Jerry Oster could be considered the “heart” of the annual Watkins Christmas play. He’s been involved all 28 years, and has written many of their productions.

“This may have been the best one yet,” Oster said.

This year’s production, “The Pirates’ Christmas Ransom,” was conceived just as last year’s production came to a close. Oster said that several agreed last year, “We have to do pirates!”

Sue Unterberger began the writing process. Just weeks ago, though, there were many parts yet unwritten. The cast sat down in one session and fleshed out the play, filling in many of the memorable lines.

(Many of these lines were echoed throughout the crowd as kids repeated them. “He said, ‘____’!”)

Oster explained Saturday, just after the performance, that this was actually the first time all the cast was together at one time. Up to that point, at least one or two was missing for each rehearsal.

 As in years past, a couple of hundred area children and their parents or grandparents gathered for the play. Their laughter was evidence that they understood the comedy, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The plot had a shipload of pirates, angry that they’ve never received a Christmas present from Santa, kidnapping Santa and Prancer. They send a message to the North Pole demanding all this year’s Christmas presents as ransom for Santa. Elves infiltrate the pirates to rescue Santa but, in the meantime, the pirates realize the error of their ways. They were more misunderstood than evil, and in the end they just couldn’t keep their “treasure,” toys that were meant for deserving little children.

In the final twist, Santa had a special bag for the piratey crew: each got exactly what he’d always dreamed of.

After the program, the names of dozens of children were drawn. Each received either $10 in Watkins Bucks or their selection from a large collection of toys. As they left, they also received a treat bag provided by the Watkins Chamber of Commerce.

Santa returned for photos with children and at least a couple of adults. Only a few little ones were reluctant to pose with the jolly man in red. Some brought their Christmas wishes in writing.

Families then gathered at the Watkins skating rink for sleigh rides, provided by Erv Brugger of Windy River Percherons. They also enjoyed hot dogs and cocoa at the rink shelter.

It takes a number of volunteers to make the Christmas program work each year. Several participated in the writing this year. Oster built the sets at home this year, instead of in the Village Hall. Members of the Watkins Lions and Lioness held a shopping event for kids earlier in the day, and were on hand to help during the program. And a number of local businesses helped. To paraphrase, it takes a village to put on a great Christmas program.

“It’s so worth it!” said Melody Garding, a.k.a. Prancer. “It’s worth it to hear the kids giggling. And they were giggling a lot.”

Cast and crew included:

One Eye, Sue Unterberger

Goldfinger, Becky Oster

Peg Leg, Connie Mathies

Seaweed, Renee Miller

Ladybird, Brianna Miller

Old Bones, Jim Schreifels

Captain Scrooge, Dan “Hilly” Hilsgen

Santa, Jeff “Skinner” Hilsgen

Prancer, Melody Garding

Mrs. Clause, Kay Kielty

Snowy, Alice Coe

Pixie, Jim Weinmann

Midge, Kay Kielty

Jasper, Jerry Oster

Stage Managers: Mark Geislinger and Leroy Holthaus

Stage Crew: Tristan Kielty, Brittany Klein, Sharon Donnay, Connor McGee