Theatre du Mississippi

The Play

Written by Lynn Nankivil, an original play entitled Angels in the Trees: Rockwell Kent in Winona will be presented by Theatre du Mississippi. Performances will be held in the Historic Masonic Theater, 255 Main Street, Winona, MN.

Tickets are on sale now: Brown Paper Tickets

About the Play

In 1912, two young men arrived in Winona, Minnesota hoping to advance their work as painters. One of them, Alex Geckler, newly arrived from Germany with his wife, Martha, was a house painter. The other, Rockwell Kent, fluent in German and a lover of German culture, was an up-and-coming East Coast painter and illustrator who had been hired by a New York architectural firm to supervise the building of Briarcombe, a country estate on the outskirts of this prosperous river town.

Angels in the Trees: Rockwell Kent in Winona will focus on the unlikely and long-lasting association that developed between the two men and is preserved in a series of letters that spans the forty plus years of their friendship. Kent used Alex Geckler's letters and reminiscences to help construct the "Winona" chapters of his autobiography, It's Me O Lord. It was a remarkable friendship that played out in the streets and fields of this Mississippi River town and on the building site, where Kent organized what may have been Winona's first labor strike. Kent's wild runaway horse who was notorious on the streets of the town also won the race at the County Fair, with Kent in the saddle. Kent's turn as a fruit and vegetable vendor on the streets of the less prosperous East End turned into a source of income for the growing Kent family of two small children, with another on the way. Still, it was a formative time for the young painter who was invited by his long-suffering employer, Mr. Samuel Prentiss, to have an art show at Winona's rather elaborate public library. Kent observed that, "…all of the countless pictures I had painted were with me in Winona." It was at this event that he met the composer, Carl Ruggles, with whom he also established a somewhat rocky friendship.

As Kent himself noted, regarding his Winona year, "How very much of my one, full-packed Minnesota year shall not be told….'Please cut it, pleads my publisher.' Meekly I do, but so much occurred in that one year." My script about Rockwell Kent's "one full-packed year" will try to recreate that time and place through the characters of Rockwell and Alex and their wives, Kathleen and Martha and all of the other persons, now long-gone, who made this year in "the West" such a poignant memory for Kent as he composed his memoir.

—Lynn Nankivil


Partial Sponsorship:

Winona National Bank

Additional funding provided through the generous support of:

* This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.