The Chattanooga Theatre Centre and ShawNuff Productions presents “Gee’s Bend,” a play with traditional music, Sept. 10 – 21, on the MainStage of the Chattanooga Theatre Centre. The play is written by Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder, the Tennessee Williams Playwright-in-Residence at Sewanee.
Bruce Shaw directs the play, which is based on the lives of actual quilters in Gee’s Bend, Ala., who gained national recognition when their quilts were discovered by the art community and hailed nationwide as “miraculous works of modern art.”
“Gee’s Bend” follows Sadie Pettway (Ikeko Moore Bass); her husband, Macon (Jeremy Wilkins), her mother, Alice (Shelia Wofford); and her sister, Nella (Azusa Dance), as the everyday necessity of quilting becomes a source of comfort and creative expression in their lives—and more. What begins as a labor of love soon turns into a spiritual, social and artistic journey of awakening.
Pieced together from discarded clothes and seasoned with laughter, spirit and tears, the women of Gee’s Bend sew a patchwork of inventive abstract designs in rich, blazing colors. Stitch by stitch, the play reveals the character’s stories, based on those of the real people of Gee’s Bend, whose descendants continue their artistic tradition today.
The three-part play offers glimpses of family life in 1939, 1965 and 2002, spanning the Great Depression, the Civil Rights Movement and the touring exhibition of the quilts of Gee’s Bend at major art museums around the country. It features traditional music sung in the emotional style of the area.
Wilder will participate in a talk-back session with the audience following the performance at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 14.
Wilder is a Southern playwright. “Gee’s Bend” was commissioned by the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and published by Samuel French. The play was the recipient of the Osborn Award given by the American Theatre Critics Association and has been produced at Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Denver Center, Cleveland Play House, KC Rep, Northlight, the Arden and Hartford Stage, among others. She is a graduate of the dramatic writing program at New York University, where she was a Tisch Dramatic Writing Fellow.
For specific performance times and more information go to <theatrecentre.com> or call (423) 267-8534.
This article originally appeared in the Aug. 29 issue of the Sewanee Mountain Messenger