Random Thoughts: Change, Primary Sources & Other Stuff

Posts Tagged ‘Great River Shakespeare Festival


Get Carried Away ~ 2014 Great River Shakespeare Festival ~ Photo by Sydney Swanson

A Stitch in Time Turns a Dime.  Our quilt made the Front Page, Winona Daily News July 24, 2014.

In May I described the inspiration for the design of this year’s Great River Shakespeare raffle quilt.  The post also has links to primary sources about quilts. Our 2014 GRSF  “Get Carried Away, Birds in the Air” themed quilt is complete and hanging in the Festival’s performance lobby.  The original painting that inspired the quilt design is nearby.  It is incredibly beautiful and a true collaborative project. We are thrilled and excited.

Quilts have a major role in Sue Monk Kidd’s newest novel, The Invention of Wings (Penguin, 2014).  The historical fiction novel expands on (and heavily imagines) an actual relationship between abolitionist Sarah Grimke and her house slave, Handful. Charlotte, Handful’s mother, the Grimke household seamstress, creates story quilts telling stories of life in Africa and America.  She wouldn’t say what happened to her with words. She would tell it in the cloth

Red and Black triangular quilt blocks also are described in Monk’s book.  In Africa, her mauma was quilter, best there is. They was Fon people and sewed applique, same like I do. They cut out fishes, birds, lions, elephants, every beat they had, and sewed em on, but the quilt your granny-mauma brought with her didn’t have no animals on it, just little three-side shapes, what you call a triangle. Same like I put on my quilts. My mauma say they was blackbird wings.

Kidd used many primary sources and visited historic sites as she prepared to write the novel. The quilts that inspired Kidd as she researched background information  for the novel were created by Harriet Powers, a slave.  Powers’ quilts are archived at the Smithsonian Museum of American History and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.  Powers is highlighted in Americas Library,  a Library of Congress selection of primary sources young learners.  Powers is also featured in Seven Southern Quilters from the University of Virginia.  Stitching Stars: The Story Quilts of Harriet Powers (Mary Lyons) is an ALA notable book for children.

Have you seen quilts that tell a story? What stories do your quilts tell?   Quilts are primary sources too!

May 6 post: Quilts are Primary Sources too!  Includes links to primary sources about quilts and a photo of the original painting.
Season 10 Great River Shakespeare Festival Quilt ( Mary Lee Eischen, Breeze on My Skin, June 8, 2013)
Great River Shakespeare  Festival


Get Carried Away, GRSF 2014. Painting based on an original painting by Julia Crozier

Let us, ciphers to this great account, on your imaginary forces work.
Chorus, King Henry V, Act I Prologue, William Shakespeare


Each year a group of quilters create a raffle quilt highlighting  Great River Shakespeare Festival (GRSF) costume shop fabrics. The inspiration for this year’s “Will Quilt” group was the Festival’s Get Carried Away tagline and the season poster of birds flying.

Our own imaginary forces guided us to select fabrics in the poster’s color palette and design a quilt reflecting the poster’s theme. Fabrics used in costumes for King Lear, Cordelia, Olivia, King Henry, Desdemona and a host of other Shakespearean characters are combined with quilt cottons in a traditional “Birds in the Air” design.

Our quilt tells a story about GRSF.  It also depicts a historical story connected to freedom and possibly the Underground Railroad. The connection between  the “Birds in the Air” design origin and the Underground Railroad is uncertain, but the design is an inspiration for many variations and fictional books. A few suggested links for learning more are below.

Creating a GRSF quilt is an annual project. Ten unique blocks representing ten plays recalled a decade of plays in our 2013 quilt. Our 2012 art quilt wall hanging included nine  panels of “wavy” fabric representing nine Festival seasons and the Mississippi River.

The Library of Congress acknowledges the stories in quilts tell and includes quilts in digital collections of primary sources. Collections include oral interviews with quilters and photos of quilt including some made by students. Historic photos show us quilting bees; historic sheet music celebrates the art of quilting. Letters tell stories.

Quilts and Quiltmaking in America 1978-1996 from the Library’s American Folklife Center is a digital collection that has recorded interviews with quiltmakers and graphic images from two collections in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress: the Blue Ridge Parkway Folklife Project Collection and the Lands’ End All-American Quilt Contest Collection (Text abbreviated text from the collection overview)

Searchers can also go to www.loc.gov and simply search for quilts. Select the gallery view for a quick overview.

Let your imaginary forces work to imagine the stories these quilts tell.  Come back later to see the GRSF Birds in the Air Quilt!

Using primary sources in your classroom; Online course for educators

Library of Congress Digital Collection: Quilt Making in America, 1978-1996
Civil War Quilts Reproduction Quilts and Fabric
Jennifer Chiaverini, the Runaway Quilt
Underground Railroad Quilts & Abolitionist Fairs


castlerockPrimary sources all around us– often in the least expected places.  This was definitely the case when we toured Castlerock Museum in Alma, Wisconsin, a small Mississippi River town just a few miles from our home.  Castlerock is a new museum, built on a hillside and designed to  look like small castle.   What’s inside is unexpected.   Castlerock houses exhibits authentic arms and armor from the, Medieval and Renaissance eras.  Full suits of armor and individual helmets, swords, daggers, shields, chain mail and gauntlets are presented.  There is even a sword from the First Crusade. I was surprised to learn that the very a long swords weigh just a few pounds.  The largest single item is a life size replica of a horse dressed in a Victorian era reproduction of a horse’s armor.

A bone-chilling display features torture and execution devices. The display description explained that hanging was reserved for the lower class while beheading with a sword was reserved for nobility and upper class. The display brought to mind the moving sentence of death by hanging for Bardolph.  Shakespeare’s King Henry V performed at the Great River Shakespeare Festival this summer. Artifacts from the Romans, Greeks and Vikings, Vikings, and housewares are also housed in this specialized museum. Reproductions of period art and manuscripts enhance the displays.

The collection is a personal collection of Gary Schlosstein, an Alma resident who began collecting as a young boy.  He brought the world of medieval armor and the Battle of Agincourt to life at a Shakespeare festival presentation this summer.  The Castlerock visit added considerably to my theatre experience.  Castlerock is worth a visit and small enough so that you do not feel overwhelmed!   What a fun place to visit on a lovely summer day!  An added bonus is  the wonderful view of the Mississippi River and the bluffs of southeastern Minnesota.

The growing World Digital Library has several primary sources related to this interesting historical era.
Where can I find primary sources for my World History Classes?
How can I use primary resources in the media center and classroom to support student learning?
Teaching Digital Media Literacy in the Content Areas: Using Primary Sources 

ShowBoatPlaybillMy collection of playbills began in the late 60’s when my high school English teacher introduced us to Shakespeare and took us to plays. We saw Richard Burton as Hamlet in the 1964 movie and plays at area colleges. I loved the St. Mary’s University Theater department’s performance of Sheridan’s The Rivals and put the program the fan-shaped program trimmed with doilies in my scrapbook.When I was a college student I attended Winona State University theatre department productions, had a very small role in the controversial St. Mary’s production of The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade and ushered at many others.

AresenicOldLaceMy collection grew to include programs for countless plays I enjoyed at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, 70’s era musical such as Hair and Godspell in Chicago, Winona Summer Theater, Lacrosse Community Theatre, and even programs for plays I co-redirected Caledonia High School.  Among these treasures are programs for The Man Who Came To Dinner, The Skin of our Teeth, Arsenic and Old Lace, and You Can’t Take it With You.  It’s fun to remember the students; it’s even more fun when I see them at a theater event.

CoyasHousePlaybillPlaybills from the 1990s bring back memories many trips Minneapolis to see Broadway touring productions of musicals such as Showboat at the Ordway, Cats at Northrup Auditorium, In Coya’s House at St. Paul’s History Theater, or dinner shows at The Chanhassen Dinner Theater.   Other programs evoke memories of going to the Milwaukee Rep or theaters in other cities. A huge part of the collection is over 50 programs from Lanesboro’s  Commonweal Theatre.

Some surprises.  Have I really seen The Fantasticks 5 or 6 times?   I was convinced I had only seen twice before seeing the Great River Shakespeare Festival’s production.   I can’t remember a thing about the Merry Wives of Windsor, but I apparently saw it at the Guthrie many years ago.

Lasting connections.   The box has several playbills from Winona Community Theatre productions from the late 1980’s – early 1990’s.  I was on the theatre board and was a stage manager for a couple. Some of the people I work with as a volunteer for the Great River Shakespeare people are people I met through Community theatre.  My expanding collection of Great River Shakespeare Festival playbills documents the festival’s history, actors, staff and my involvement as a Friend of Will.

Regrettably, I’ve tossed some programs from the past few years.   Those hundreds of playbills I kept tell stories about of my love of the theatre, places I’ve been, plays I’ve enjoyed, people I’ve met.  They tell the stories of theatres, the people who make them happen and for many, the community and regions strong support for the arts.  It’s impossible to name a favorite in this collection of treasures; each tells a story!

What have you collected?  Could you use your collection to make a personal primary source display?
How can I  use primary resources in the media center and classroom or to support Common Core Standards?
Teaching Digital Media Literacy in the Content Areas: Using Primary Sources 

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