Full-circle musical


"Quilters" cast

"Quilters" tells stories of pioneer women on the North American prairie—from birth to death and the tragedies and celebrations in between.

Quilt from 2001 retrieved from archives

Bluffton University Musical Theatre will present “Quilters” as the spring musical March 30-April 1 at 7:30 p.m. each evening in Yoder Recital Hall. In many ways, the production is inspiring full-circle life moments for its cast and crew and will for the audience as well.

The musical left a strong impression on Dr. Melissa Friesen, director, when she first saw it as a teenager with her mother and sister. Today, she would love for Bluffton’s version to continue bringing families closer.

“I hope multiple generations of families come to see the show together,” said Friesen. “Hopefully, it will spark some intergenerational conversations and open people up to ask questions about their own families.”

If the musical sounds familiar, that may be because “Quilters” was previously performed at Bluffton in 2001. The centerpiece of that show, an intricate quilt designed by Martha (Badertscher ’62) Hostetler, has been taken out of the archives and will be featured once again on stage.

The patches of the quilt represent the experiences of a woman and her daughters as well several other pioneer women on the North American prairie—from birth to death and the tragedies and celebrations in between.

This year’s production features 1979 alumna Sara Brenner who plays the family matriarch. The rehearsals are bringing up many memories of the plays and musicals she performed as a Bluffton student.

“When you work together on a play, you get really close,” said Brenner. “There were a lot of fun times, but there was a lot of hard work too.”

Brenner believes people will enjoy the show because of the relatability of the characters.

“The are comic moments and there are tragic moments, and together it really is kind of like a quilt,” said Brenner. “It’s a complicated piece, and it’s more complicated than you might think for a musical about quilts and quilters.”

Several Bluffton seniors are part of the production, including Olivia “Lou” Westcott, who says “Quilters” has brought her experiences in theatre full circle. While she’s been cast in plays at Bluffton since her first year on campus, this is her first musical since high school.

“I’m getting back into the groove of singing and moving, but this is my last chance at Bluffton so I’m making the most of my last semester,” said Westcott.
She enjoys the historical aspect of the show.

“You don’t usually learn about the everyday struggles people dealt with in pioneer times,” said Westcott. “This show reminds us, it’s okay to talk about your struggles.”

The production, with musical direction from Dr. Bo Young Kang, does not follow a traditional plot, cast members play several roles and fabric is used in creative ways to tell the story.

“It’s a collection of songs, stories and vignettes around a common theme,” explained Friesen. “It’s really a metaphor for the ways we patch and construct our lives.”

Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for senior citizens, Bluffton University faculty and staff, and non-Bluffton University students in addition to a service fee. Specific seats in Yoder Recital Hall may be reserved at www.bluffton.edu/tickets.