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Monday, May 28, 2001
The story told in Quilters, currently playing at the Commonweal Theatre in Lanesboro, is the story of America. It’s the story of America as told by the women who left civilization behind and moved to the frontier West, where endless work, hardship and loneliness were their constant companions. And through it all, these women quilted. And while they quilted they told stories to each other, as they tried to gain understanding and insight into their lives. Among the stories are tales of their girlhood pasts, of the men in the lives and of their numerous pregnancies and children.
The cast of Quilters consists of seven women actors who do a fine job in bringing these stories to life, often times through song. Their stories range from the sentimental and tragic, to the upbeat and humorous. John Black, a Lanesboro-based musician, provides musical accompaniment on guitar, mandolin and other instruments. His performance weaves a subtle and moody background, which conjures up images of the haunting loneliness of the prairie West.
Early on in the play during their cross-country trek across a bleak and hostile landscape, one of the women suddenly jumps from the covered wagon. She peers out towards the endless and treeless horizon as if searching for signs of life. And then she exclaims: "Way far off, I thought I could make out some smoke. People! I thought." It’s a poignant moment and one that makes you marvel at the courage and resolve of our pioneer ancestors.
Quilters is a look back at a time that we in 21st century America often feel little connection with. It is through a play such as this that our collective past becomes less abstract and more alive. As a bridge to help the audience make the transition back through time, the walls of the Commonweal theater have been adorned with quilts created by area quilters.
The play is directed by Luther College professor Robert Larson, who has directed six previous plays at the Commonweal. Commonweal company member Christine Winkler, of Lanesboro, provides the musical direction.
Currently in its 13th season, the Commonweal Theatre, in bringing Quilters to the stage, continues the tradition of offering thought-provoking and entertaining plays to their southern Minnesota audience. Quilters, along with the hilarious and off-beat comedy, Art, which is currently playing in repertory at the theater are two more reasons to wish the folks at the Commonweal another 13 years of success. Quilters will run through September 9.