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`QUILTERS’ CAST TURNS OUT FINE HANDIWORK

SHARE `QUILTERS’ CAST TURNS OUT FINE HANDIWORK

There are as many ways to make a quilt as there are to lead a life. You can have lots of darks or lots of brights, piece a pattern like a butterfly or a tree or a double circle. Your serene and competent quilters take 11 stitches to the inch. Your emotionally distraught take four stitches and then have to pull and pull to get the thread through.

Quilting provides many analogies to life at large. That's one reason collaborators Molly Newman and Barbara Damashek's "Quilters" is magical. Another reason is the music. A piano, a fiddle and a half-dozen women's voices blend and harmonize in a dozen songs - making the point again about how the simple pieces of life come together into a graceful whole.For the TheatreWorks West production of "Quilters," director Fran Pruyn has assembled a cast of skilled actresses and musicians, and the final product is quite as pretty a performance as you'll find anywhere.

Mary Bishop is Sara, an old woman who has made a hundred quilts and is now on her last. Through her eyes the stories of dozens of pioneers come to life. Bishop's deep voice adds importance to her words.

One of Anita Booher's best parts is as Miss Jessie. This schoolmarm makes all her students do needlework. The wildest boys and girls benefit the most from her lessons in patience. Sometimes she allows a student one of her own scraps. They are honored to stitch a piece from Miss Jessie into their work.

Toni Lynn Bird is especially good singing the story of an earthy gal whose size 10 feet might have gotten in her way in courting at a dance, but who captured a cowboy's heart when he saw her sewing under a tree.

There are many stories to be told, and Julie Ann Johnson, Annie Draper, Bobbi Fouts, Molly Cameron and Myra Robbins also do a lovely job of singing and stitching the stories together.

Barb Gandy plays the piano; Jennie Outram, the fiddle; and musical director Audrey Terry, the cello. The rough wood set is by Kit Anderton. The skill of Kyono Oshiro's lighting and Melinda McIlwaine's choreography is most evident in a lyrical piece about wind and wells.

Steve Rasmussen designed the burlap dresses the women wear. The roughness of the fabric is another nice symbol of pioneer life. The audience is not allowed to forget how uncomfortable pioneers must have been and how comforting were those quilts.

Though "Quilters" tells the story of prairie pioneers, whose first homes were dugouts and whose earliest memories are of windmills, Utah audiences can't help but remember the Utah pioneers when they see the play.

"Quilters" is a tribute to bravery and endurance.