Monday, January 14, 2013

SMU alum’s one-man show Jan. 31 a tribute to his grandfather

WINONA, Minn. — “The Accidental Hero,” a Czech-American World War II true story, brought to life by a Saint Mary’s University alumnus, will be staged at 2 and 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31, at SMU’s Page Theatre.

The show’s creator and actor Patrick Dewane is a 1985 graduate of Saint Mary’s University, and “The Accidental Hero” is about his grandfather, Lt. Col. Matt Konop, a World War II veteran who never openly shared stories from his time in the service. When Konop died, the family discovered typewritten accounts, photos and rare film footage that told an astonishing story.

Based on this information, Dewane created a one-man, multimedia show that offers a captivating, humorous and heartwarming tale of coincidences and heroism. The performance includes World War II film footage, shot with a home movie camera of the liberation of a Czech town.

Dewane has performed “The Accidental Hero” throughout the United States and in the Czech Republic. A webcast performance of it from Rochester, N.Y., on July 4, 2011 has been seen by more than 18,000 people worldwide. Dewane’s career in the arts began in 1985 when he moved from Winona to New York City. His career on the management side of the arts includes work with Luciano Pavarotti, the Dance Theatre of Harlem, the Brooklyn Academy of Music Next Wave Festival and Minnesota Opera.

This performance makes good on a promise made in March 1981. Dr. Donald Peake, then chairman of the Saint Mary’s theatre program, told Dewane (then a visiting high school senior) that if he enrolled at Saint Mary’s he would get to act on the stage of its new theatre. However, because of delays, the theatre opened two years after Dewane graduated. So this performance brings Peake’s prophesy to fruition. When Dr. Peake was told this story last spring, he responded with a hearty Irish laugh. Dr. Peake had read the first draft of “The Accidental Hero” a few years prior and was an early champion of the piece. Dr. Peake passed away last summer. “This performance is dedicated to his memory and the countless lives he enriched with his dedication and great wit,” Dewane said. “He was loved by many.”

The special 2 p.m. matinee has been added to accommodate seniors and those who prefer to not travel in the evening.

Tickets are $12 for adults, $5 for students and seniors and are available at the SMU Box Office, (507) 457-1715, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays or online at

A Page in History event, “Military Genealogy: Finding Accidental Heroes” — is planned for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30, at the Winona County History Center, 160 Johnson St.

Family history researcher Sandy Mochal Thalmann will teach attendees how to search their families’ military service history using the latest research tools.

This event is free and open to the public.

Special thanks to the Winona County Historical Society and the Winona Foundation for supporting this event and Winona National Bank for providing major support for the performances.