Musical "Quilters" drawn from the journals of pioneer women

Performers, front to back, Lanier Forster and Catherine Craig run a scene from the musical, "Quilters," which opens at the Social Circle Theater on Aug. 9.

Performers, front to back, Lanier Forster and Catherine Craig run a scene from the musical, "Quilters," which opens at the Social Circle Theater on Aug. 9.


"Quilters" cast members include, seated on floor from left, Caitlin Melvin and Sarah Williams, middle row from left, Patsy Eggers, Catherine Craig and Sarah William, and back row from left, Dottie Craig, Sabrina Joyner, Susan Wheeler and Jill Miller.


"Quilters" cast members, foreground from left, Caitlin Melvin, Sarah Williams, background from left, Sabrina Joyner and Dottie Craig run a scene from the musical.

Nominated for six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, "Quilters" will make its Social Circle Theater debut this month featuring an expanded cast directed by Tyson White, a former resident of Conyers who now lives in Social Circle.

Show times are Aug. 9-11 and 16-18, with performances Thursdays and Fridays at 7 p.m. and Saturdays at 3 p.m. "Quilters" is presented as a dinner theater with tickets priced at $20, or $10 for general seating. Saturday shows will not be a dinner theater.

White began his theater career under the tutelage of Bonnie Marshall, who was director of the drama department when White was a student at Rockdale County High School.

"I learned so much while I was working with her and the theater department there," said White.

Since his 1998 graduation, White has been doing professional theater across the state, including work with Jekyll Island's Georgia Musical Theater Festival and at Center Street Arts theater in Conyers. He now works with the theater program at Stone Mountain Park.

In directing "Quilters," White said it takes him back to his roots. Prior to his family moving to Conyers during his sophomore year in high school, White grew up in Oklahoma, which is where most of the show takes place.

"I look at this show and it takes me right back home to where I grew up," he said.

White said when he was in high school, he saw "Quilters," but said it was only when he was an adult that he could fully appreciate its message.

"I see my mom in it, my grandmother, my sister, my best friend," he said. "If you know a women in your life, you'll be able to relate to this show."

Based on the book, "The Quilters: Women and Domestic Arts" by Patricia Cooper and Norma Bradley Allen, "Quilters" became a musical by Barbara Damashek and Molly Newman. It debuted on Broadway at the Jack Lawrence Theatre in 1984.

"The book was written from the journals of pioneer women and, for the most part, these are stories that happened to real life pioneer women in America," White said.

"The story is really about a mother character who is quilting the last quilt she is going to give to her daughters. Throughout the entire show, she explains what each block of the quilt is. The other actresses act out what each block is about.

"To me, the story itself is seeing what a woman would go through back then and how it parallels what a woman goes through today."

The musical features a series of interrelated scenes which depict the joys, challenges, beauty and rewards of frontier life. The stories are contained in patches, or "blocks," with music, dance and drama, as the actors present aspects of a woman's life including girlhood, marriage, childbirth, spinsterhood, illness and death. The stories are told with warmth and humor and display a steadfastness in times of adversity.

The musical originally featured a cast of seven women, but White said he had so many talented women show up for the auditions, he increased the cast to nine.

The upcoming "Quilters" show stars Patsy Eggers of Social Circle as the mother. A real-life quilter, Eggers has made a number of quilts through the years and White said she is "perfect for the role." She has been with the Social Circle Theater since it began and is typically a costume maker. White said in looking at the mother's character, "This sounds just like Patsy," and he was happy she auditioned for the role.

Three of White's students are daughters in the play, including Sarah Williams of Covington, Kaitlin Melvin of Conyers and Lanier Forster of Social Circle. Dottie and Catherine Craig, also residents of Social Circle, are mother and daughter in real life and are part of the ensemble for "Quilters."

"They are very new to theater, but have very powerful voices and great acting abilities," White said. "It's been a fun experience for them to do the show together."

Also among the daughters are Susan Wheeler of Covington, who has previously performed with Social Circle Theater; Sabrina Joiner, a third grade teacher in Social Circle; and Jill Miller of Conyers, who works with the events team at the Georgia International Horse Park.

"This is the first time Jill has been with our group," White said, adding that she has one of the "most amazing voices I've heard in a long time."

"Jill said when she walked through the doors, she felt like she was with family," White said. "That's what the theater prides itself on. We are so welcoming to everyone. We want everyone to have a good time and to nurture each other."

White has worked with the Social Circle Theater for the past five years in various capacities. In preparing to direct a musical, White said he talked to a number of friends and colleagues in the industry and asked them if they came to see a show of his, what they would expect to see.

"They said it should be something big with dance," he said. "I've kind of drawn from all the best things I know to do and pulled them into one show."

For tickets, call 770-464-2269.