The Women of Gee’s Bend

October 8, 2008

On September 14th, actors from the Arden’s cast of Gee’s Bend and a small group of Arden supporters enjoyed an intimate evening with several of the amazing quilters from Gee’s Bend, Alabama, who were visiting Philadelphia in conjunction with the opening of their quilt exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Gee’s Bend playwright Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder led a lively discussion with the celebrated women who delighted patrons with fascinating stories and ended the evening with rousing gospel music.

Gee’s Bend explores the strength of a family and the importance of tradition spanning generations. It is a great opportunity for generations to connect through this incredible story of perseverance and the power of family ties. Gee’s Bend is on the Arcadia stage October 9 through December 7.

18 Responses

  1. Pamela says:

    I absolutely loved the show. I felt all of the actors gave powerful performances. This story is definitely a story that should be heard by everyone regardless of ethnicity. Big applause for the Arden for bringing this work to the stage.

  2. Anonymous says:

    My husband and I attended this production on Saturday, October 18th and I must say we loved the show. The main character ages beautifully before you eyes and her story will touch your heart.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Gee’s Bend, a moving and inspirational production made marvelous by the way the cast lived their parts to the full. This is very different from some of the Arden productions where actor watch themselves acting rather than living in their part.

  4. Betsy says:

    This play is fabulous! I especially wanted to see this work because it is written by a woman, directed by a woman, and has strong women characters. The best part is the story, which tells us again that we can rise above harsh circumstances with the support of each other, while expressing ourselves through our art. It gives us all hope that the key to a success life is not about fear, but about kindness, an open spirit of generosity, and letting your light shine!

  5. Women In Transition says:

    To the Arden staff and the cast of Gee’s Bend:

    I wanted to share with you the powerful experience that the women here at Women In Transition had at Gee’s Bend.

    Women In Transition works to empower women to build lives for themselves and their children that are free from interpersonal violence, substance abuse and poverty; and to empower the community to undertake initiatives to end substance abuse and violence against women and children. Part of the work that we do is through peer support groups via our survivors’ network. As a woman takes active command in her own safety and advocacy, she becomes a part of a group consisting of women that are also in similar places within their own journeys. As each group nears the end of their collective journey, they work on a creative project together. One such group is our quilting group. This group of women is about to “graduate” and decided to make a quilt that details their domestic violence journey. This quilt is their gift back to Women In Transition.

    On October 22nd, sixteen women from Women In Transition purchased tickets to Gee’s Bend, which included our support group of quilters. They were so moved and taken by the play. Miss Baxter’s rich contralto wove a spellbinding aura around the group as concentric as the threads in Miss Findley’s beautiful quilts and Miss Johnson’s everpresent arms. The women saw much of themselves in the stories, not only in the references to domestic violence, but also in remebering generations long past. For some, these were memories of racial equality, never so present and poignant as in the current Presidential election. For some, this was was about gender equality and how far women have come. Still, for others, this reached back to Southern roots, a South remembered in the soul food we eat, yet a South we beseech to continue in its social progression.

    Coincidentally, Daviná Stewart, who has worked on artistic projects featuring our survivors’ ClothesLine project at The Sanctuary, assistant directed Gee’s Bend. Daviná’s connection was unknown to us prior to the play, so we enjoyed an extra connection to the work after we realized she was on the production staff.

    Thanks again for all the Arden does and for enriching the lives of the women that we both strive to serve.

  6. Ellen says:

    What an outstanding performance last night. I was deeply moved by the story created around the women of Gee’s Bend. I had previously seen the quilts they had created and was impressed with their talent now, I am awed by their strength and determination.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Gee’s Bend was magnificent. I am positive it is on its way to Broadway and, as a long time subscriber, I cannot think of another show that blew me away as this one did. Thanks to all.

  8. Jillian says:

    The Arden put on an excellent production with Gee’s Bend. It was staged beautifully on a static set and the lighting highlighted the quilt motif throughout the production. It is an ambitious play, covering three time periods decades apart, and the actors successfully portrayed multiple ages. The gospels were beautifully sung and evoked many different emotions. Great work.

  9. Anonymous says:

    A flawless production with Gee’s Bend tonight. The acting and scenery were amazing. The story brought tears to my eyes. I am wondering how you are going to top this production!

  10. Tom says:

    Quite possibily the best Arden production of the last 10 years. Cast, story line, music Perfect! Don’t miss this one.

  11. Isabelle says:

    I took off from my job on Election Day to help get out the vote for Barak Obama, who has become the first African-American to be elected President. What a hopeful new beginning for our country! During a break between my daytime shifts at the campaign office, I decided to purchase a ticket for the evening performance of Gee’s Bend. I don’t go to the theater much, but Gee’s Bend was a play I did not want to miss. I felt that seeing it on Election night would be a fitting way to spend part of this historic day in America. I was elated that I could get a ticket at the last minute. Thank you for staging it.

  12. Susan says:

    I loved Gee’s Bend, one of the best theater experiences of the year. I’d seen the quilts and knew some of the history, but seeing the performance added so much to my understanding of the culture of Gee’s Bend. I loved all aspects of the play; the writing was passionate, literate and well constructed; the cast was brilliant, I haven’t seen such full-out acting in too long; the staging and direction were exceptional, the pace was perfect.

    Seeing the play on election night, and having some idea – or hope – that Obama would win, added to my sense of “this was something special.” I have already told several friends about the play and will continue to talk it up.

    Please do everything you can to make sure that as many people as possible see this finely crafted, intelligent and timely play. Bravo to all.

  13. Pauline and Robert says:

    Sitting in the Arden audience of Gee’s Bend the day after the presidential election was a powerful experience. The play reinforced the momentous importance of Senator Obama’s victory. We are grateful to the actors who made their characters empathic and to the well-delivered message of aspiration. The confluence of art and current events was striking. Thank you for the opportunity to express our thoughts. Our appreciation and congratulations to all those at the Arden who made this possible.

  14. Gloria says:

    The production of Gee’s Bend was a rare treat; both the acting and the poignancy of the story were superb, and so timely. It was especially moving seeing it on the evening following the election of Obama to the presidency of the U.S. To be reminded of the hardships endured by black families, who were denied their voting rights in this democracy, is a harsh reminder that true freedom is still hard won, even in our wonderful Land of the Free. Thanks for your excellent work, and the gift each production offers us.

  15. Karen says:

    Last night my girlfriend and I attended the Gee’s Bend performance. I don’t recall a standing ovation or the sincere applause as I witnessed last night. That’s not to say, I’ve seen many, many outstanding performances over the years at the Arden. Perhaps,
    though this play resonated with everyone attending; the turbulent economy, the hope of our new president, the war, the upcoming holidays, our own hectic lives but most of all our freedoms, whatever it was, it moved me. The timing for the Arden to showcase this story with a touching and profound meaning was right on! My compliments on a job well done. The cast was exemplary!

  16. Ruth says:

    My husband and I loved Gee’s Bend. The show was a reminder of the road traveled to reach the point we did on election night. Watching the election results and the celebratory atmosphere across the country was a very emotional experience. Seeing the show less than one day after this momentous, historical event was far more emotional than had we seen it at any other time. We have come a long way. We have grown as a nation. Gee’s Bend is a great reminder of how far we’ve traveled. Bravo America!

  17. Lois says:

    I was in Huntsville, Ala. in 1958 as a newly married college graduate. My education had just begun I found out. Living in Philadelphia, I had no idea white water fountains really existed. In small towns black men walked in the street rather than pass a white woman on the narrow sidewalk. There was segregation in Redstone Arsenal's living conditions for soldiers & their families that extended to separate seating in the base's movie theater.
    I was a proud American on Tuesday night. Your play was a gem.

  18. Esther says:

    Seeing Gee’s Bend the day after the election was like joining a rousing chorus of “yes, we did!”

    Having lived through the times of the Selma March,the politics of George Wallce, the forgotten Mississippi freedom fighters and the inspirational words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Gee’s Bend was the perfect postlude to the triumph of the Obama election.

    The Arden was perhaps, the best plave to be on November 5th.

    The message of Gee’s Bend validated the events that led to that great day in American electroral history.

    The great swathe painted by the Obama phenomenon was the quinteseestial
    Gee’s Bend quilt. These women were the weavers of a special fabric in American life. Every stitch was a baby step toward equality and the fulfillment of the American dream. They were the believers who never gave up. Neither did he: “Yes WE Can and Yes, WE did!

    The scene where Sadie gets her voting card and when she returns from the beatings in Selma were palpable. It was the determination of many that represent the very strengh of our democracy. To have lived to see a man of color assume the highest office in the land was a triumph for for all of us who cherish our Constitution and truly believe that all men and woman were created equal!

    What a propitious time to present this glorious story. All middle school and high school students should be encouraged to see this play NOW. Gee’s Bend is the stuff, not of miracles, but of grass roots democracy at its finest hour.

    Bravo Arden. Another triumph. You’ve done it again.

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