Gee’s Bend was an isolated Alabama town of former sharecroppers until recently, when the Museum of Modern Art pronounced the quilts of the local women an American treasure. How do you turn that story into a play at the Park Square Theatre?
It’s about the patchwork of life—which sounds flaky, but really it’s about the quilts finally propelling these forgotten women into independence.
You play Sadie, who is 15 as the play opens.
Someone told me I have a youthful quality, that I can go on stage and be believable as a teenager, and I said, “Darling, I hope that’s true.”
How does Sadie change over time?
Like we all change, becoming more of ourselves. Sometimes, for Sadie, it means standing up to her husband. He doesn’t want to lose everything just because she wants to vote. He thinks she can voice her opinion at home and that should be enough. Well, for her, it isn’t—and to me that’s a beautiful thing.
There’s music but no production numbers.
The music is spiritual, the old stuff from the fields, just layered in there. Someone will say the word “how” and someone else will go [Williams breaks into hymn] “How I got over, my Lord, oh my soul,” and the others will join in, and then we’ll just continue talking. It’s part of the conversation.
Are you a quilter?
I’m into gardening. But in the end, I don’t have a product I can hang on my wall.
Your husband [Star Tribune photographer Tom Wallace] has visited Gee’s Bend. Do you hope to go?
I would like to see this little island of women and quilts—well, I guess there are some men there, because there are children!
Gee’s Bend opens October 15 at Park Square Theatre. parksquaretheatre.org