“The Quilters” opens Feb. 9 and
runs through Feb. 18.
by Jaci Webb, Billings Gazette
are moments of great humor and joy, but also sadness in the
real-life stories about women featured in NOVA Center for the
Performing Arts' production of “Quilters.”
The emotional roller coaster is
appropriate for the subject matter — pioneer women overcoming
adversity with humor and tenacity. Even though the show is set
in the mid-1800s, many of the issues exist today. The
production is part of NOVA’s long-running Rankin File series,
which showcases stories written by and about women.
One of the featured performers, Jane Van
Dyk, said pioneer women were really the first feminists.
"It's not a sweet story about nice old ladies. It's a story
that resonates today and reminds us about how strong women have
always been, and how they always managed to find their own
voices," Van Dyk said.
The only male involved in the
production is longtime theater director and costumer Gary
Treglown, who is directing with the assistance of Lynn Al. The
late Gerry Roe, who produced "The Quilters" 25 years ago at
Rocky Mountain College, was originally set to direct but he
passed away last September.
Although he came to the
project late, Treglown said he's awed by the authenticity of
the script and the passion of the actors.
brilliant,” Treglown said. “I guarantee no one will leave here
with a dry eye. It definitely piqued my sensitivity at times."
Important stories to tell
NOVA managing director Dodie Rife said the stories about women
living in a male-dominated world and dealing with life’s
struggles still ring true today.
“It’s important to tell these stories,”
she said. “The show hits all those subjects that women dealt
with then and now, the pressures of being a woman. Certain
kinds of pressures create diamonds.”
The quilt is used a
symbol in the musical, weaving the stories together using bits
from the women's lives.
“All the time they are quilting.
This is the societal glue that holds them together,” Treglown
The cast includes seven local women playing Sarah and
her six daughters. They range in age from West High School
student Mikayla Bullman to retirees, including Van Dyk. Other
performers include Carolyn Clark, Kristy Dallas, Susan
McCaughey, Kim Shroyer and Janie Sutton.
The women all act out different
characters when they tell their stories. One minute, they may
be portraying a husband and in another, they may act out a
"Jane tells a story about losing a
husband in a railroad accident," Treglown said. "That happened
to my grandfather in North Dakota."
During rehearsal Sunday night, Bullman
clutched blue silk fabric to her chest, portraying a young girl
telling about the neighbor woman losing her baby and how the
special fabric is sewn into a quilt for the infant's casket.
The stories reflect real-life experiences about girlhood,
marriage, spinsterhood, twisters, fires, illness and death.
Kathy McLain is music director with
Alicia Thomason on violin and Dian Hudak on guitar. Debra Gloor
is stage manager.
Twenty-one songs, some based on hymns,
are featured in the production, and many of the harmonies are
so complex, each of the seven performers sings a different
Sutton, who performs as one of the
daughters in the show, said the music is challenging, even for
experienced performers like Sutton, who has been in several
locally produced operas and musicals. All seven performers are
on stage throughout the two-act musical.
“It’s definitely more trying than shows
where you go backstage between scenes. You have to stay focused
throughout the show,” Sutton said.
Since the show will be performed in
NOVA’s Black Box theatre, audience members in the front row
will be an arm’s length from the cast.
“That is the hope — that you feel like
you’re there with the cast,” Rife said.
Mikayla Bullman, Jane VanDyk, Carolyn Clark, Kristy Dallas, Susan McCaughey, Kim Shroyer and Janie Sutton make up the cast of "Quilters."
Even though the show is set in the mid-1800s, many of the women's issues explored in the musical production are relevent today.
"Quilters" was last performed in Billings 25 years ago at Rocky Mountain College. This year's production is directed by Gary Treglown, who called the work brilliant. “I guarantee no one will leave here with a dry eye," he said. "It definitely piqued my sensitivity at times."
JACI WEBB/Gazette staff
Mikayla Bullman, Jane VanDyk, Carolyn Clark, Kristy Dallas, Susan McCaughey, Kim Shroyer and Janie Sutton are performers in "Quilters"
at NOVA Center for the Performing Arts. The show, part of the center's Rankin File series, opens Feb. 9.
JACI WEBB/Gazette staff