BY OLIVIA DORFMAN
The second piece of the Stages Bloomington American Mosaic Theatre Series arrives in November with the musical Quilters. Nominated for five Tony awards, Quilters tells stories of pioneer women’s lives through archetypical quiltmaker Sarah and her daughters. As she crafts her legacy patchwork, each block symbolizes an aspect of life’s hardships and joys. “I love Quilters,” says Stages Executive Director Pat Gleeson. “The music is very down-home, tap-your-foot kind of music. “
An all-girl cast of ninth- through 12th-grade students portray Sarah and her daughters, transforming into different characters to dramatize vignettes based on the oral histories of frontier women. “We’re hoping to get enough kids to double cast the show,” Gleeson says.
The quilts featured onstage were created by the Bloomington Quilters Guild. Member Nola Hartman is working with 15 to 20 Guild members to make double sets of quilt blocks: one loose block for each scene, plus another completed quilt. “The blocks were designed for a production of Quilters by Ricky Tims, a famous quilt designer, who generously gives the pattern out,” Hartman explains. Following the production, all the patches will be assembled into two queen-size quilts.
The American Mosaic Theatre Series is a three-year project focusing on American historical and literary narratives. It opened in May with a readers’ theater production of Black Elk Speaks, and continues with Quilters. Stephen Vincent Benét’s John Brown’s Body will be featured in 2019, and Big River, the Huckleberry Finn musical, will be offered in 2020. The Brabson Library & Educational Foundation provided a $15,000 grant to support the series.
Since 2005, Stages Bloomington, a nonprofit organization, has offered theater arts education and performance opportunities for children and teens in grades K-12. “This is professional theater on every level,” says Gleeson, who will direct Quilters. The show’s choreographer is Tamara Loewenthal and music director is Deanna Demes.
Quilters, by Molly Newman and Barbara Damashek, will be presented at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Whikehart Auditorium November 9–11. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit stagesbloomington.com.