Sally Gracie TwispBy Sally Gracie

Beautiful Ruins, the Regional Read book selection, is funny.

I tried to get into the novel several times without success. This time I read past page 13.

Get the book and keep reading. The story shifts in its second chapter from the Italian coast to contemporary Hollywood, and there the plots come together. Author Jess Walter is a master of irony, and I’ve been chuckling my way through the novel. Please join Terry Dixon for the discussion on March 19 at 7 p.m. in the Twisp Library.

What is it about this valley that has made the arts such a vibrant part of it? Aristides Pappidas told me that it’s not just the physical beauty of the place. There are many beautiful places in the country and in Washington. He believes it’s the “confluence of the people who have shown up here.”

This past weekend certainly brought a number of talented people together; in fact, a few people or their family members showed up in more than one venue. First, “Woman: An Artist’s Interpretation,” opened at Confluence Gallery.

The reception was crowded early on as many people planned to go on to the show at the Winthrop Barn later that evening. Two exhibiting artists bear mentioning (though there are dozens of memorable works) — Aristides and Jenn Tate. Five of Jenn’s paintings and three photo portraits by Aristides are on display and for sale.

After the opening, one of the most enjoyable (and highly attended — it was almost too crowded) Methow Arts events in recent history, “Dancing with (Your) Stars,” was on at the Barn. There was Jenn Tate again. She danced a salsa and came in second for the grand prize trophy.

When I asked Jenn about the reason for the success of our art community, she suggested the “small pond” theory, and went on to say that because the population is small, people watch their friends in the arts and think, “maybe I could do that.”

Rayma Hayes, who danced a waltz in the competition, says at first she was nervous when she was invited to perform. Then she decided “if anything goes wrong, it will not be the first time I’ve embarrassed myself in front of this community.”

So there’s something to the comfort factor, too. Generally, those who put themselves in front of their community as dancers, painters or actors get “positive feedback” (as Jenn also mentioned) from their friends and neighbors.

The other four dancers, who admitted to leaving their comfort zones to perform, were Walt Pearce, Sam Naney, Tori Karpenko (who won the Mirror Ball Trophy) and Brooke Bourn.

The judges were as entertaining as the dancers. Carolanne Steinbach, Danbert Nobacon and Deirdre Luvon awarded points for each dance performance. Carolanne was booed by the crowd when she gave Rayma a 6/10 for her waltz, blaming the score on Rayma’s partner when she said, “I don’t think you were in love with Rayma.” Walt was cast as a sick, old man in a hospital gown whose fantasy became his swing dance performance. A judge’s comment: “Have you traded your hot rods for your walker?” Walt’s response: “Not yet.”

You’ll laugh throughout Over the River and Through the Woods at The Merc Playhouse for two more weekends. Jane MacLeod Pappidas (Aristides’ wife) plays “Nan” Aida, and Jenn Tate’s sister Julie Tate-Libby makes her stage debut as Caitlin.

Oh yes, just one more “confluence” at The Merc. Aristides’ “magnum opus” (his words) in five photographs is on display. Enjoy the play and the photographs.