Porthouse Theatre opens season with the very satisfying “Quilters”
For well over a year the country was hunkered down in their various bunkers as a silent storm raged outside. From time to time we would take risks to venture out into the outside world in order to replenish our food stocks. All forms of social interaction were limited to Zoom meetings, e-mails and telephone calls. Finally, a number of vaccines were developed in record time and the results have been spectacular. Emergency measures have been lifted and among them live theater is back!
So how does this relate to the newest offering from Porthouse Theatre? “Quilters” is the story in song and dialogue of the various hardships faced by the early pioneers that settled in the Plains States following the Civil War and during the great westward expansion. Many began by living in dugouts which were nothing more than small underground cabins. The early pioneers faced death, disease, fires, tornadoes, water shortages, sub zero temperatures in the winter and blistering heat in the summer not to mention back breaking hard work and soul consuming loneliness.
These were people who had come from even worse conditions in order to eek out a life in this undeveloped land. What drove them to endure these conditions was the promise that they would actually own their land after a time of homesteading. Needless to say these people were in a word “dirt poor” therefore nothing in their lives was wasted. Clothing was worn until it became too tattered to properly cover and protect the wearer. Even then the pioneer women found a use for these small scraps of fabric.
Quilts were constructed from these carefully hoarded remnants where small pieces of various geometric shapes were sewn together to form a block to which these blocks were then sewed either together or separated onto a large swath of fabric. Each finished coverlet was then sewn onto a same size backing with batting material placed in between to give the finished quilt added warmth capabilities.
Each block had a particular design depicting a particular period in the quilter’s life. In the musical “Quilters” we are introduced to seventeen of those patterns that best related to the narrator’s story. Just as each stitch is meticulously placed (with the high standard being eleven stitches per inch) so too are the stories and songs stitched together to form a true depiction of life on the Plains.
It was a brutally hard life especially for the women who along with multiple childbirths of often a dozen children or more were expected to run the house while the husband was out seeing to the crops and livestock. As tough as life was there was still time for socializing and merriment often in the form of quilting circles organized by the local church.
“Quilters” features book by Molly Newman and Barbara Damashek with music and lyrics by Barbara Damashek. This Porthouse production is Directed and Choreographed by Terri J. Kent with Musical Director Jennifer Korecki, Costume Designer Michelle Hunt Souza, Lighting Director Cynthia R. Stillings, Scenic Designer Ben Needham, Technical Director Devin T. Gallo, Sound Designer Parker Strong, Production Stage Manager Tom Humes, Dance Captain and Assistant Choreographer Alexis Wilson and Properties Manager Travis Daniel Williams.
Sarah/Mother (Terri Kent) has sewn hundreds of quilts in her long lifetime. She now sets out to put together her masterpiece...an heirloom quilt that will be handed down from generation to generation. Along with her six young daughters played by Danielle Dorfman, Stella Fisher, Hannah Hensler, Israeljah Khi-Reign, Megan Polk and Alexis Wilson the story of life in the post Civil War West is told with song, story and dance. Each subject of the woven tale depicts girlhood, marriage, childbirth, spinsterhood, twisters, windmills, fire, illness, death, butterfly, young doves (girls) and struggle,
As for the cast, they hit the stage running and do not let up for the entire two hours or so that the show entails. You find yourself relating to the joy and heartache that each character has to deal with.
Of special note is Terri Kent. Terri serves as the Producing Artistic Director for Porthouse as well as the director and choreographer for this musical. She stepped in to fill the role of Sarah/Mother in place of Maria Berg who took ill prior to the opening. The six young ladies who play her daughters are all vim and vigor and able to portray the various ages of growing up in a large family.
The six member orchestra consisting of Jennifer Korecki (Conductor/Keyboards), Nick Greathouse (Guitar), Ryan McDermott (Guitar) Wanda Sobieska (Violin), Aaron Fried (Cello) and Jeremy Poparad (Bass) does an excellent job not only with the many musical numbers but also provide atmospheric sounds to lend more authenticity to the production. Well done!
Live theater is finally back and none too soon. Porthouse has chosen a pertinent musical that we can all relate to after the many months of isolation that we experienced. It is an uplifting message of hope that we all need to hear right now.
“Quilters” runs through July 3, 2021 at the Porthouse Theatre located on the grounds of Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio at 3143 O’Neil Road. For tickets and information visit www.porthjousetheatre.com or call (330) 672-3884.