More than just some fabric |

More than just some fabric

Stina Sieg
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Stina Sieg Post Independent

CARBONDALE, Colorado ” As Sue Lavin lovingly described quilts, she likened them to bowls. Both are practical, domestic items, she explained, but there’s a spiritual depth to them as well.

“When you touch that object of art, the hands of the artist are there,” she said.

In other words, quilts are full of history ” and that’s the heart of her latest production. In the musical “Quilters,” she directs a parade of prairie ladies, whose tales are represented by 16 squares of colorful fabric.

“I’d say we’re telling the story of the West through these women,” Lavin said.

It was few days before opening night, and she was sitting with one the show’s stars, Shirley Eaves, before rehearsal. While Eaves is a quilter and Lavin is not, they’re both wildly appreciative of the role quilts have had in the past.

For Lavin, a theater director all her adult life, this understanding came about because of the show. She originally put it on about two decades ago at Colorado Rocky Mountain School, and as she did research for the play, she started to feel the heavy importance and symbolism of those bedspreads. In our current time, our struggles are mainly for comfort, she explained. But back in the wild days of the West, they were more about survival. These women weren’t cutting apart their old dresses and baby clothes and blankets because they needed a hobby. They needed to keep their family warm. Art, while integral, had to come second to function.

Peering into that world, “filled me with respect,” she said.

She recalled the first rehearsal for this play, when she asked her cast just why they were doing this. They threw out answers like “legacy,” “community,” “heritage,” and “art.”

They could have been describing all that goes into a quilt.

Those are ingredients Eaves knows all about.

Though she plays “Mama,” one of the main stars of the show, she’d never done a lick theater before this. Instead, her connection to this story is through quilting itself ” something she’s done since she was little. Sitting in her brown, printed dress, she explained that she may not have any acting experience, but she does feel a deep caring and understanding of the subject at hand. Thanks to her aunt, Edna, she learned the tricks of the trade, as well as the lingo.

“When I speak the words, I know what they mean,” she said, of her lines.

She continued on a few short minutes and explained just what gets to her about the process of quilting. She called it a “good destresser,” and said she liked the sense of carrying on a tradition.

“It’s just addicting,” she then whispered, as if she was telling a delicious secret.

Moments later, she and her fellow “Quilters” were singing on stage, while Lavin took notes from the audience. More than a plot, the play had a collection songs, skits and monologues. The women acted out all kinds of joys and sorrows of frontier life. There were babies being born, children drying and girls learning to sew. The songs were boisterous, and the choreography was simple, and the set design was sparse. It felt like a window into another time ” with a big dose of modern showiness.

Beyond the stories and stitches and yards of fabric, that melding of past and present seemed an obvious through line of the show.

After all, in Lavin’s words, “These quilts literally touch generations and generations.”

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