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Quills & Queues: ‘Quilters’ a patchwork tale of several resilient women

Livia Genise Productions will present “Quilters, The Musical” by Barbara Damashek and Molly Newman over two weekends later this month: at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 20 and 21, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 22; and at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, June 26, 27, and 28, at the Bellview Grange at 1050 Tolman Creek Road in Ashland. I touched base with Genise to discuss her enthusiasm for the Tony Award-winning musical.

JG: What made you choose “Quilters, The Musical” at this time?

LG: Dianna Warner, a retired Ashland teacher who I have known since 1992, asked me to take a look at the musical. Then Joe Collonge (one of the wonderful theatrical benefactors in the Valley) and Robbi McMinimy asked if they could produce this musical in partnership with my company. (They wanted to get their new theater company, Dejavu Theatre Productions, up and running.) So the universe seemed to want me to produce and direct this show. Then I read the libretto and listened to the music and I fell in love! The musical by Molly Newman and Barbara Damashek, is based on the book “The Quilters: Women and Domestic Art.” It is a powerful, poignant and funny look at the lives of American pioneer women who covered their families, one quilt at a time.

JG: Tell us a little about the artistic and production team you have assembled for this show.

LG: I was very fortunate that Brian Kerns, an old friend and incredibly talented singer, composer and musical director (UCC Medford) had moved back to the Valley recently with his wife, Madeline Kerns, who teaches voice at SOU. We had all worked together in the early 1990s. Brian was very interested in musical directing this show and has added immeasurably to the arrangements since we have seven trained women singers with exceptional voices (Cheryl Goodman-Morris, Renee Hewitt, Kathleen King, Lindee Newman, Kendra Taylor, Dianna Warner and Kaitie Warner)! Then Daniel Stephens, who I’ve worked with for over 14 years, read the script and said “yes” to being our choreographer. I had worked with our accompanist Donna Woolsey in the ‘90s as well. And old friends and designers Brian O’Connor and Bart Grady said “yes” to sound/video and lights, respectively, so this was an opportunity to reconnect with amazing artists to co-create a magical production!

JG: Can you speak a little more about how women’s rights and history affect your creative choices?

LG: My choices tend to come more from what’s happening in our world and the plays or musicals that speak to that. When I was at Camelot, we produced “Fahrenheit 451” (the temperature at which books burn) when the libraries were closed, “Cabaret” when there were Neo-Nazis appearing in nearby Phoenix, “Judgment at Nuremberg” when Bush was choosing Supreme Court judges and, two years ago, “Solomon’s Blade,” about a baby being fought over by a Jewish and a Palestinian woman. Right now, we are looking at the possible loss of Roe v. Wade, which doesn’t mean abortions will stop; they’ll just end up killing more women. In “Quilters,” there is a scene where the women are trying to help each other end a pregnancy, their 13th, 14th or 15th child by the age of 35! So with “Quilters,” I am celebrating the sacrifices, losses, beauty and strength of the women who came before me.

JG: What can we expect from LGP for the rest of 2018, 2019?

LG: I’m very excited about our upcoming productions! I will be producing and starring in “A Tribute to the Life and Music of Patsy Cline” the last two weeks in September and plan on producing “The Santaland Diaries” for the holidays. In 2019, I am looking at staged readings of “Fahrenheit 451,” “1984,” a possible new play by a local playwright about a midwife arrested for murder when the baby she delivers dies, and a wonderful new play called “Finks,” about the McCarthy (hearings) and the artists that had to choose between their careers and their integrity. I’m hoping to partner again with Jeannine Gizzard and ACT on one of these productions.

Ashland resident Jeffrey Gillespie is a Tidings columnist, arts reviewer and freelance writer. Email him at gillespie.jeffrey@gmail.com.

Photo by Livia Genise ProductionsThe cast of "Quilters," playing July 20-22 and 26-29 at the Bellview Grange.