By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

'Quilters' a story of strength, friendship

“Quilters,” a musical about the challenges and joys that faced pioneer women and their families, will open Friday, Feb. 22, at Gallery Theater.

“It’s a lot of storytelling, monologues ... some of what they went through is fun, some is moving, some is depressing or overwhelming,” said Carolyn McCloskey, the director. “You’ll come out of this play having so much respect for these women, who went through so much and survived. These are tough, strong women who were able to deal with so many things.”

The show will play on the main stage at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays, through March 16. A free opening night reception is planned, along with an art gallery of quilts at each performance.

Admission is $16 adults and $14 for students and seniors. For tickets and reservations, call the theater box office at 503-472-2227.

“Quilters,” by Molly Newman and Barbara Damashek, is based on the actual stories of women who helped settle the Midwest in the mid-1800s. The story of Sarah, her six daughters and friends is told through the quilts made by the women and girls.

McCloskey was encouraged to do the show by assistant director/costumer Sharon Morgan.

Before starting “Quilters,” she said, “I’d never done a musical, never seen this show and knew nothing of quilting.”

In the six months she’s worked on this show, that’s all changed. And the more she’s learned — about musicals, “Quilters” and quilting — the more respect she has developed for each.

For instance, last August, Morgan suggested it was time to start recruiting local quilters to create the 16 36-inch square quilt blocks for the show.

McCloskey, who was working on another play at the time, said she never would have thought of starting so early. But it was important, she said, because “Quilters” really revolves around those quilt blocks.

She was suprised and pleased by the response she received when she put out a call for quilters. Plenty were willing to be part of the show. They enjoyed getting together to pick out fabric and discuss what their blocks would look like.

Quilts were coordinated by Bobbie Beberia, whom McCloskey calls the show’s “quilting guru,” along with Janel Denton and Peggy Gelbrich.

Quilts blocks were made by Marlene Thomas, Lottie Smith, Donna Anessi, Diane Buckley, Helen Geisberg, Shelly Sanderlin, Jeannie Kleinschmit, Janette Allen, Phoebe Flynn, Wendy Abdelnour, Kristie Buxton, Shelly Gowell and Julie Bacon.

The quilt blocks will be raffled off during the run of the show. A different charity will benefit from the sale of each one.

The quilters also made smaller blocks that were combined in one large quilt. It, too, will be raffled off.

In addition to coordinating the quilts for the show, McCloskey also has been faced with numerous technical challenges. The play is composed of numerous small scenes, and staging them has been like choreography, she said.

One side of the set is Sarah’s porch, where she rocks as her story spins out. The rest of the set becomes a variety of locations in different time periods, from a prairie dugout during a harsh winter to a sewing circle to a place of celebration.

The band, including a fiddler, bass player, keyboardist and guitarist, plays live on stage.

The cast includes Ginger Williams, Alice Darnton, Jamie Coff, Debbie Lockwood, Elizabeth Pullen, Stephanie Belt-Verhoeff and Jenny Root-Ravia, who also is the stage manager. Children are played by Kendra Butler, Lydia Dolence, Samantha Prewitt, Mackayla Norwood, Emily Rose Evans and Elizabeth Evans.

Gwen Leonard is the music director, assisted by Chelsea Janzen. Mike Pace designed the lighting. The set was built by Bill McCloskey, Darren Watson, Dick Clay and Dennis Frost. Ben Frum created the large wooden needles for the “thread the needle” dance.

For more information, call the box office or check the website, 

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