Gee's Bend depicts the turbulent history of African-Americans in the 20th century by focusing on a single family in the real community of Gee's Bend, AL, which is now famous for the beautiful quilts created by the women that grew up there. A moving tale of three generations of African-American women living in this isolated Alabama town chronicles the courage and resiliency of their life's journey. Gee's Bend highlights the life of Sadie Pettway, from her teenage years to her 70s, and the other women in her quilting circle. Their experiences inspired them to create magnificent quilts that were miraculous works of art, and inspired this haunting play filled with Gospel music that has swept the country. Likewise, it will stir North Coast Rep audiences long after the lights have faded.
October 16 - November 7, 2010
Previews: October 13 - 15, 2010
Tickets: $30 - $47
Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder (Playwright) Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, playwright Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder graduated from high school early, and immediately moved to New York City to pursue her acting career.
While starring in a small production of And the Tide Shall Cover the Earth, Elyzabeth met Roger McFarland, executive director of Broadway Care. McFarland helped Elyzabeth become better acquainted with the New York theatre community, and it was around this time that upon a suggestion from Wendy Wasserstein herself, Elyzabeth began writing plays. Wilder claims she had always been fond of writing short sketches and monologues for herself to use during auditions.
Her first play was produced as a reading at the Blackjack Festival of New Plays when Wilder was only 17 years old. She graduated from NYU in 2004 and soon after moved to LA to find more writing opportunities.
Elyzabeth recently received the 2008 Elizabeth Osborn New Play Award for an emerging playwright. This award was based mainly on Gee's Bend, which was commissioned by the Alabama Shakespeare Festival's Southern Writers Project. There was a staged reading of the play during the project's 2006 Festival of New Plays, and the fully-staged premiere occurred in January, 2007 at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Prior to writing the play, Elyzabeth traveled to Gee's Bend to interview the women of the town who are currently being recognized for their magnificent quilts, created across several generations in their isolated, closely knit community.
Wilder's initial goal was simply to collect anecdotes about life and quilt making. "I wanted to know what was going on in these women's lives while they were making the quilts," she said. "What stories could they tell?" What resulted was a historically and culturally rich, emotional play about family values, perseverance, and character. While interviewing Mary Lee Bendolph, a Gee's Bend native and a now famous quilting artist, Elyzabeth was told to "Just write it honest." Wilder later said "That was my promise to her. I just hope my love for these women and these stories can be seen in the work."
She has been working as a writers' assistant for CBS television on Club House. She is also a member of Youngblood, the Ensemble Studio Theatre's program for writers under 30.
Other Works by Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder: The First Day of Hunting Season, The Theory of Relativity, Jubilee, Tales of An Adolescent Fruit Fly, Fresh Kills, In Ocean Springs, Hot Blooded: New Monologues from the Members of Youngblood, The Spirit of Ecstasy, The Furniture of Home, The Bone Orchard.
Yvette Freeman (Director) For fifteen seasons, Yvette played the role of Nurse Haleh Adams on the acclaimed dramatic series ER. She also played the funny but slightly evil character of Evelyn Smalley on the NBC sitcom series Working. Yvette has starred in the Broadway, First National, Paris and International companies of Ain't Misbehavin'. Yvette starred in the New York production Dinah Was, based on the life of the legendary jazz singer Dinah Washington, and won the 1998 Obie for Best Actress. She also received the NAACP Award, Ovation Award, LA Weekly and a Dramalogue Award for her portrayal of Dinah Washington in the Los Angeles production of Dinah Was. Most recently she played the role of 101 year old Dr. Bessie in Having Our Say at the acclaimed McCarter Theater. She wrote and directed the play Life and Loves of Dinah Washington; the short films Remember and The Blessing Way. For more information on Yvette check out her website: www.yvettefreeman.com.