Eleanor Holdridge directs Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder's award-winning play "featuring three determined women and interwoven with gospel music." It's "a deeply personal story of family, self-discovery and artistic expression" that "coincides with the exhibition of 'Gee's Bend, The Architecture of the Quilt,' at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on display now through Dec. 14."
Arden performances continue to Dec. 7. Opening is Oct. 15.
The American Theatre Critics Association recently recognized Elyzabeth and her work with the 2008 M. Elizabeth Osborn New Play Award for an emerging playwright.
The Arden cast includes Edwina Findley as Sadie; Kayla Moses Baxter as Nella; Marjorie Johnson as Alice and Alice's daughter, Asia; and Barrymore Award nominee Kes Khemnu as Macon. Walter Dallas returns to the Arden as the music director for Gee's Bend.
According to Arden, "Gee's Bend spans more than 60 years and three generations of women and embraces their stories of joy and heartbreak. The story begins in 1939. Born into poverty and hardship, Sadie Pettway, learned to quilt at her mother's side. While it was a domestic responsibility to quilt, the women of Gee's Bend also turned to quilting as a comfort from the harsh realities of racial indignities, spousal abuse, isolation, and despair."
The women of Gee's Bend and their quilts inspired playwright and Alabama native Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder to tell their story on the stage, and the play was commissioned by the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.
She was embraced by the quilters, who openly shared their stories and history, asking only one thing of Wilder, "just write it honest."
According to production notes, "Gee's Bend is a small rural community nestled into a curve in the Alabama River southwest of Selma, AL. It was the site of cotton plantations, primarily the lands of Joseph Gee and his relative Mark Pettway, who bought the Gee estate in 1850. After the Civil War, the freed slaves took the name Pettway, became tenant farmers for the Pettway family, and founded an all-black community nearly isolated from the surrounding world. The five-mile long peninsula was eventually and slowly acquired by the descendants of the slaves that used to belong to the plantation's owner."
The Gee's Bend creative team includes set designer Marjorie Bradley Kellogg, lighting designer Les Dickert, costume designer Alison Roberts, sound designer Chris Colucci and stage manager Stephanie Cook.
Arden Theatre Company is located at 40 N. 2nd Street, Old City Philadelphia. For tickets call (215) 922-1122 or visit www.ardentheatre.org.