Winkler will be the backdrop for an upcoming made-in-Manitoba sitcom called Maria and The Mennos.
Produced by Winnipeg-based filmmaker Paul Plett, the story follows a Filipino Canadian woman who moves in with her Mennonite in-laws.
Winkler resident Chuck Fefchak has been cast in the role of a Mennonite father.
"This is something that I do as a passion. So, to get the opportunity - it's now turned into excitement and great gratitude. I had my first opportunity to sit with a good chunk of the cast on Saturday. These guys are hilarious! There's four main people - the mom, dad and the son and daughter-in-law. But these people come in and out of their lives from episode to episode."
Fefchak has plenty of live stage experience under his belt. He anticipates his biggest adjustment will be having the luxury of doing more than one take on any given scene.
The seed for the show was sown in November 2021, when Tina Fehr-Kehler, another Winkler resident and one of the show's writers, was involved in the production of a video series for Mennonite Central Committee Ontario centered on the culture of Low German Mennonites. (Fefchak played the role of a father in that series too.) Through further conversations with the director, Fehr-Kehler decided to write more on the culture that she comes from.
"We got this idea of having a Mennonite family and how do you play off another culture, right? How do you understand a culture by playing it off another culture. So, we brought in a Filipino writer, because there's nothing out there about Filipinos either. Bringing these two cultures together which are similar in ways and really different has been a fascinating journey."
She points out that none of the cast and crew - including Plett - have ever worked on a production of this scale before.
"Paul, he has his own film company [and] this is the biggest thing that he's ever done. This is the biggest thing that actually any of us who are involved in this have ever done. So, we're all newbies. We're all going to have to have tons of grace for each other and just have a lot of fun. And we're like trying to pick people to do different parts of the crew work that are gonna have fun because it's a comedy! If you can't have fun as a cast and crew, it's gonna translate into not so much fun that you're gonna portray in the TV show."
Kehler says her co-writer, a young Filipino woman named Hazel Wallace, brings real-life experience to the sitcom's premise: her father is English, her mother is Filipino.
Filming of Maria and the Mennos begins in January, with release set for September 2023 will on both Yes TV (a subscription TV station in southern Ontario) and a streaming service called Castle. They're hoping to have it broadcast locally as well.