WHS play ‘Quilters’ depicts the lives and struggles of pioneer women

The fabric of their lives

At right, Sarah Vonham (Robyn Pfeifer) shares a story with her daughter (Zoe West). WHS drama students will perform “Quilters” the next two weekends at the Washburn Performing Arts Center.

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From left, Marshall Graham, Romney Kellogg and Nick Stevens play a children’s game in the song “Thread the Needle.”

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From left, Danielle DeVall, Madison Hulcher and Zoe West reflect on their mother Sarah Vonham's legacy in the song "Pieces of Lives."

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Cast members tell tales of struggle during the “Rocky Road West” in a covered wagon.

Whenever Robyn Pfeifer puts on her costume for play rehearsal, she has an “ah ha’ moment.“We really take some things for granted today, such as being able to wear comfortable clothing,” she said.

Pfeifer, a senior, is playing the lead role in the WHS spring musical, “Quilters,” by Molly Newman and Barbara Damashek. The show takes first person histories and stories from pioneer women and weaves them into a narrative using both drama and song.

“During those days, it seemed as if women were either doing chores, making quilts or having babies,” Pfeifer said.

“Quilters,” will open this weekend at the Washburn Performing Arts Center. It centers around the character of Sarah Vonham, played by Pfeifer.

“The whole story is based around her making a legacy quilt for her six daughters,” she said. “It really gets into the themes of her life and other women, and how quilting got them all through.”

Quilters was originally produced by the Denver Center Theater Company and had a brief run on Broadway in 1984. It is based on the book, “The Quilters: Women and Domestic Art,” by Patricia Cooper and Norma Bradley Allen.

WHS theater director Kelly Gregersen selected the musical because of its originally: Each of the 16 scenes take place under a quilt block,

“The show itself is a little bit of everything,” he said. “Instead of referring to it as a musical, I like to call it a, ‘play with music.’ I saw it years ago and thought it was an amazing show, and I’ve wanted to do it for several years.”

The quilt blocks, as well as a finished piece, were donated by Billie Mahorney and her quilting club, She is the mother of choir director Jen Mahorney. The quilt will be raffled off the final night of the show, Saturday, May 12. Proceeds will benefit WHS Grad Night.

“If you’re into history, quilting, music and a good story, then this a must-see,” Gregersen said. “It’s a part of our history people don’t really think much about.”

Cortney Gonzalez, a senior, plays several different roles throughout the production, as do many of the other actors.

“It’s the first play I’ve had a bigger speaking role in,” she said. “It’s been challenging and exciting to experiment with all the different characters.”

For senior Alicia Wilson, it’s been enlightening.

“Every time you put on the dresses or the shoes you get a reality check of what things were really like back then,” she said.

It is Wilson’s first play since she was in the fifth-grade. The cheerleader decided she wanted to try something new before graduation.

“Even people who aren’t involved know this school has a really awesome drama department,” she said. “I decided it was now or never, and to just go for it.”

She enjoys the challenges of acting, especially playing several different roles.

“My favorite is where I’m in a scene with my adopted daughter, explaining what happened to her real mother, who was committed to an insane asylum,” she said. “It is very serious and deep.”

Senior Kim Yano said this play will be of interest to a much different audience than usual.

“If we could get a lot of quilters to come, it could really appeal to them,” she said.

“Quilters” will show at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 4 and 5 and May 11 and 12 at Washburn Performing Arts Center, 1201 39th St. There is also a 1 p.m. matinee on May 12.

Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for students and seniors. Reserved tickets can be purchased by calling 954-3107. For more information, call Gregersen at 954-3136.