Play reflects one woman’s history

Published 4:26 pm Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Neville family, the basis of a play written by Spring Valley’s Debi Neville. - Photo provided

The Austin Area Commission for the Arts is dedicated to supporting local arts and artists, especially when it reflects our community’s history.

On Friday, March 23, we will have the rare opportunity once again to host the premiere of an original play by a local playwright at the historic Paramount Theatre.

“A Common Thread” is written by Spring Valley native Debi Neville, who was awarded a McKnight Foundation Individual Artist Grant to support the scriptwriting.

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McKnight has been supporting individual artists since its art program began in 1981. According to its website, McKnight believes that the arts cannot flourish or enhance community life without the ideas, energy, and drive of individual artists, and that artists cannot make these contributions without time to develop their creativity.

Neville used her fellowship to write a play about her family’s history. It is a true story about the Nelson family that begins in Denmark in the 1880s and winds its way through Austin and Spring Valley in the late 1950s.

This bittersweet tale of a mother’s sacrifice and lost siblings, is drawn directly from the family’s history.

Weaving scenes from history together with recollections of family picnics at the farm, the show is filled with comedy and drama; bringing all the emotions of a lifetime to the stage.

Several characters are portrayed by actual family members including Bree Walker, James Shatek and Sherrill Schottler. The play will also feature original music by Maria Kujawa, the worship director at Valley Christian Center in Spring Valley.

Besides the McKnight Fellowship, the production received additional support from the Southeast Minnesota Arts Council, Inc. through funding from the Minnesota State Legislature.

Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. They can be purchased by calling 434-0934 or online at