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Monday, September 12, 2016

"Quilters" Musical in Wellsboro

Frontier women look at the Lone Star block of the legacy quilt Sarah is creating for her daughters. Shown are: (clockwise from left to right) Taylor Davis (sitting, left), Anne Acker, Kersten Harnly, Karin Knaus (center), Lilace Guignard, Maia Stam and Maggie Brennan (sitting, right).
“Quilters” is a moving tribute to the courage and spirit of America’s pioneer women and men.

"When we produced this musical in the early 1990s, it met with a huge, emotionally charged response as it deals with so many aspects of life," said Director Thomas Putnam of Hamilton-Gibson Productions.

On the face of it, "Quilters" is about Sarah, a pioneer woman making a legacy quilt for her six daughters. In actuality, it weaves pioneer women’s first person histories and stories into a rich mosaic that captures the sweep and beauty, the terror and joy, the harsh challenge and abiding rewards of frontier life.

The interrelated stories contained in the patches or “blocks” of the quilt couple with music, dance and drama to depict the fate of frontier women: girlhood, marriage, childbirth, spinsterhood, twisters, fire, illness and death. There is also love, warmth, rich and lively humor and the moving spectacle of simple human dignity and steadfastness in the face of adversity.

When the patches are assembled into a colorful quilt, the effect is both breathtaking and magical and will linger in mind and memory long after the house lights have dimmed.

The H-G cast includes Anne Acker of Coudersport as the mother, Sarah McKendree Bonham. Acker is the only actor to play the same character throughout most of the show and serves as the main narrator. Playing her daughters and many other characters are: Maggie Brennan, Maia Stam and Lilace Guignard, all of Wellsboro; Taylor Davis of Middlebury Center; Kersten Harnly of Blossburg and Karin Knaus of Westfield.

In the Hamilton-Gibson production, the seven actresses transform into multiple characters – from a 7-year-old girl to a 75-year-old grandmother to a cowboy courting his future wife – in 16 different vignettes, each based on a 36-inch square block pattern of the quilt.

“That's why there is not a traditional cast list," said Putnam. "Each woman also sings solo and in an ensemble. The music is a bit folkish, a bit old-timey and all memorable," he added.

Described as a play with music, “Quilters” was written by actress-writer Molly Newman and writer-composer Barbara Damashek. It is based on “The Quilters: Women and Domestic Arts” by Patricia Cooper and Norma Bradley Allen that includes stories culled from diaries and journals of pioneer women who went West in the 1870s.

“Quilters” was first produced by the Denver Center Theater Company in 1982, had a limited run on Broadway in 1984 and was nominated for six Tony awards.

The show opens Friday, Sept. 16 at 7:30 p.m. There are five performances over two weekends in the Coolidge Theatre at the Deane Center for the Performing Arts, 104 Main Street in Wellsboro. Sponsor is Citizens and Northern Bank.

Admission to the 7:30 p.m. performances on Fridays, Sept. 16 and 23 and Saturday, Sept. 24 are $18 for adults and $7 for children and full-time students of any age. For the First Saturday show on Sept. 17, tickets are $12 for adults and free for children and students and for the 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18 performance are Pay-What-You-Can.

For tickets or information, call 570-724-2079 or email hamgib@gmail.com.

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