Poets and courage, quilters and the sun

5 mins read

Grace Cavalieri’s play, Quilting the Sun, will be on stage at ARTworks, directed by J.W. Rone, November 10-13 and 17-20.
It has been Rone’s dream since 2003 to produce this play by his close friend Grace Cavalieri, who has had 22 plays produced throughout the country, including three productions in New York City at the Quaigh, WPA & Common Basis Theaters. Cavalieri also produced 20 years of The Poet and the Poem on public radio, and currently transmits the series from the Library of Congress via NPR satellite. She is the author of 15 books and chapbooks of poetry, most recently “The Poet’s Cookbook” (Bordighera Press, 2009).

Beaufort Quilter Mary Campbell re-created one of Harriet Powers’ quilts to dress the set of Quilting the Sun at ARTworks.

Cavalieri has received the Pen-Fiction Award, the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award, The Corporation for Public Broadcasting Silver Medal, and awards from the National Commission on Working Women, the WV Commission on Women, the American Association of University Women, and more. She won a Paterson Prize for “What I Would do for Love,” and The Bordighera Poetry Prize for “Water on the Sun.” She received the inaugural Columbia Merit Award for “significant contributions to poetry.” She writes full-time in Annapolis, Maryland where she lives with her husband, sculptor Kenneth Flynn.
Here, Cavalieri talks about her play:
What do you look forward to in this production of Quilting the Sun?
I’m interested to see if the slave narrative materials I used as the basis  for the narrator (JUJU Man) are received well by the audience. I also hope to know if the script is comprehensible as it’s somewhat pointillistic, not linear, and calls for the audience to cross some invisible bridges of thought. Poets who write for theater are often incorrigible.
What aspect of Harriet Powers — the art-quilter and freed slave who lived in Georgia in the 1800s — interests you most?
The Harriet I invented is the only one I know. And she embodies compassion and strength. I also think she has wry humor. Also I’m very interested in women who have genius and are blocked by the world.
How do you feel seeing your work on the stage?
I feel grateful and tearful and amazed and humbled that anyone (EVERYONE) would have spent so many hours turning an imagined reality to a stage spectacle. I also know Harriet is watching so that is my way of saying “We get what you did” and “Look what these theater people are doing. You’re alive!”
Have any fun plans for your visit to Beaufort?
I hear it’s beautiful so I want to take in the southern atmosphere. Some of my children are coming and taking a walking tour. I long to have some moments with JW and Jenny Rone who are heart connections. I’m also taking a detour to Sun City to see my 94 year old uncle and his 100 year old girlfriend.
How do you know J.W. Rone? (Rone is also the executive director of ARTworks.)
J.W. is a personal hero to me. I knew of his work in Baltimore at the now famed Theater Project. Then I moved to West Virginia in 1988 so my sculptor husband could have more land for a studio, and J.W. was Artistic Director for the theater activities in Berkeley Springs, near where I lived. When the iconic “Ice House” theater was completed, he premiered a staged reading of my play, “Pinecrest Rest Haven.” He’s a force of nature and we don’t see courage like his very often.
All tickets to ARTworks theater performances are $17 per person, $12 for students (13+), $7 for children (12 and under) and $12 for groups of 10 or more. Thursdays are Pay What You Can, $5 minimum. 843-379-2787, www.artworksinbeaufort.org.

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