CSB/SJU Theater Department presents ‘Quilters’

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March 7, 2013

By Jillian Birkholz, '15

Stitching together the past and future, the centennial-year production of the musical "Quilters" at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University has been four years in the making.

"I saw a production of it many years ago and I was impressed with it," said Kaarin Johnston, the play's director. "I thought it was a beautiful show with an all-woman cast. It's about pioneer women who founded this school and what a lovely thing it would be to do that as part of the celebration."

The show, which runs from March 7-10 and March 14-16 in the Gorecki Family Theater, Benedicta Arts Center of the College of Saint Benedict, depicts the lives of pioneer women and spans topics such as childbirth, building log cabins, death, insanity and young love. The mother, played by CSB alumna S. Janine Mettling, OSB, uses quilt patterns to pass stories of pioneer life to her children.

"Quilting was about holding the history of a family," Johnston, a professor of theater at CSB and SJU, said. "The mother wants her children to understand the stories and what they mean because that was the only way for them to pass their stories on."

Each of the 16 scenes in the production is named for a quilt block pattern. The blocks were made by Johnston and Deb Lehman, director of community outreach for Fine Arts Programming at CSB and SJU, and will be displayed during each scene of the show.

In order to gain a better understanding of what quilting is all about, the cast visited the St. Joseph Community Fire Station to meet with local quilters, who explained the process of quilting and shared their work. The cast also visited the Saint Benedict's Monastery Museum to view the needlework made by the sisters in the 1800s and 1900s.

Members of the cast say the process of preparing for the production has been personally enriching.

"My experience in this production has been more than taking part on a stage," said CSB senior Cheyanne Reglin. "This production has graciously connected me to past generations. I feel fortunate to have taken part of a significant production with great depth and thought."

"I have gotten to know so many great people since the beginning of the preparation process," added CSB sophomore Erin Takle. "I am excited to bring these women's lives to life for the audience."

During the run of the musical, Fine Arts Programming will have a quilt exhibit displayed in the Gorecki Gallery and Gallery Lounge in the Benedicta Arts Center. Many of the quilts featured in the gallery were made by CSB/SJU faculty and staff.

"The show makes the exhibit more meaningful, but the exhibit makes the show more meaningful as well," Johnston said.

Tickets for "Quilters" are available at the BAC Box Office, by calling 320-363-5777 or online. Cost is $10 for adults and $7 for students, faculty and staff and seniors.