Micki Shelton’s new play La Posada, set to premiere at the Elks Theatre in October, relates the story of Allen Affeldt, Tina Mion and Dan Lutzick, who in the early ‘90s together acquired the historic, endangered trackside hotel in Winslow from the Santa Fe Railroad, and over the ensuing decades restored and transformed it into the premiere destination it is today. But there’s a lot more to the story, of course.
The play’s backstory begins in southern California, where Shelton met Affeldt as a fellow traveler in helping organize the Great Peace March for Nuclear Disarmament of 1985-86. Through the years the two friends lost touch as Affeldt met Mion in Ukraine and continued to work for a better world, but reconnected when he relocated to Winslow and took on the hotel as a labor of love. Following up on her play Fred and Mary, about architect Mary Colter, who designed many noted structures that continue to serve tourists and locals today, and Fred Harvey, the entrepreneur whose company built them, Shelton was inspired to write about the hotel’s more recent story from a direct, personal perspective. But as it developed, it became more to her.
“What I didn’t realize is that this is the story of those in my generation who grew up in the peace movement and settled into careers, bringing their values with them so they could move the world in a positive direction … a portion of society that now finds itself in a world where many of the things we worked for, like weapons treaties, women’s rights and racial justice, are being trodden underfoot. This play is a reminder by example that we must keep working for what we believe in.”
“I knew I was going to write La Posada in 2010, when I was working on Fred and Mary. Once I got into the research I found out that La Posada was Colter’s favorite building. I’d been there and seen Tina’s paintings of characters in the Soviet Union, but when I learned that Tina and Alan had met there, I thought, okay, this is a whole other play.”
Work on the premiere began last December as Shelton brought together director Kate Hawkes and producer Gail Mangham of The Artist’s Path, who describes a close working relationship: “The interesting thing about the three women here is that we trust each other completely.” Shelton adds, “It really is remarkable. I think often about well known playwrights and directors who have worked together for years, and I feel like we have the same thing. We know how to work together.” They have gathered a principal cast of accomplished professionals with ties to the region.
You may have seen Ben Gorman (here playing Allan Affeldt) in the 2020 local production of An Iliad, a solo show about the human urge toward warfare. Former Sedona resident and experienced Shakespearean Karla Stamp (Tina Mion) is returning to again work with Kate Hawkes. Among his many professional credits, Dino Palazzi (Dan Lutzick) has appeared locally in Sweeney Todd at PCA and Doubt on the Elks Theatre stage, as well as Fred and Mary in 2012.
Playwright and composer Palazzi is also writing and organizing incidental music for La Posada. He’s very excited to be back: “It’s this community of players where you can have a new idea for a play and it’s met with a sort of incubator for new art. It’s not just a situation where, maybe in bigger cities, it better be marketable or better be a known title or a name celebrity that we know will fill the seats. That’s not the bottom line here. The bottom line here is more, ‘Somebody has a creative idea, and we want to honor that,’ and somehow, with whatever we’ve got, we want to make that happen.”
Shelton names the fourth principal player as La Posada itself. “From the very beginning I’ve had that as one of the characters. … in the ‘90s these young, fresh-faced students kind of stumble on this hotel and transform it, and in a few years he’s the mayor of the town. They did this thing, took that dilapidated, doomed property, restored and renewed it, and not only that, created this energy around it that restores the town.
“The voice of La Posada comes through Fred and Mary, who appear in the play. In the very beginning Fred turns to Mary and says ‘Who are those two people?’ and Mary’s first line is, ‘They’re the ones who brought my masterpiece back to life.’”
La Posada will play at 7pm October 6-7 and 2pm October 14.
The company is working to raise funds to cover production costs, and the producers invite readers to consider a monetary contribution through the company’s GoFundMe page (gofundme.com/f/saving-la-posada). Contributions are tax-deductible. More info at Mickishelton.com/here-s-what-s-new.