Theatre of Gadsden is set to its production of “Quilters” next week as it continues a season of shows in celebration of Alabama’s Bicentennial.
This show also will include an exhibit displaying quilts made by the women of Gee’s Bend that have become part of Alabama’s history.
Set out on the frontier, “Quilters” tells the stories of a pioneer woman and her daughters through the quilts they sew. The performance is almost like a quilt in itself, combining scenes of hardships, happy times, music, challenges and other aspects of life on the frontier to create one rich story.
“This is one of those shows you don’t want to miss,” music director Billy Jenkins said. “It gets you in the ‘feels.’”
He said there are happy and sad moments throughout the musical as it shows all the trials the women had to go through in life.
Throughout the play, 18 quilts become part of the story.
“Every quilt tells a story through its patterns,” Jenkins said.
Windmill patterns adorn one quilt as it tells the story of one of the women growing up on a farm. Another is covered in butterflies, a traditional pattern used for children’s blankets, to tell about the hardships that come with losing a child.
Each different story is paired with a musical number representing different aspects of life for women on the frontier including girlhood, marriage, twisters, fire and illness.
Jenkins said the musical includes well-known songs like “Have You Been to Jesus” and “Never Grow Old.”
The show was designated as an official 200 Alabama Bicentennial event and will include the Gee’s Bend quilt exhibition. Women in that community began quilting in the 1800s and have passed the tradition down through generations since. Gee’s Bend is an isolated area south of Selma, where many former slaves remained after being emancipated. Their quilts have been shown around the world including the Smithsonian Institution, Philadelphia Museum of Art, on the Oprah Winfrey TV show and on postage stamps.
The quilts will be on display Nov. 16 at the Meadows Library at Gadsden State Community College, through a partnership with the college. Women from Gee’s Bend will be present to share their work. The exhibit is free to attend and open to the public beginning at 2 p.m. There will be a reception for the women.
“We just want the people of Gadsden to be able to celebrate the Bicentennial,” Jenkins said, adding that he hopes people can do just that through both the exhibit and the play.
The Gee’s Bend women also will be at the opening performance of "Quilters" on Nov. 15. The show will be held for two consecutive weekends, with showings at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15, 16, 22 and 23, and 2:30 p.m. performances Nov. 17 and 24.
Tickets are $17 for general admission; $15 for students, military and seniors; and groups of 10 or more receive an additional $3 off their ticket prices.
To reserve seats and purchase tickets, visit theaterofgadsden.org or call 256-547-SHOW.