The Shelterbelt Theatre continues its run of producing locally written with Marie Amthor’s play The Other Sewing Circle, currently running through February 15th. The show’s director, Shelterbelt artistic director Beth Thompson, took time to chat with The Reader about the show making its way to the local stage.
Tell me about the process of selecting this show. Did it go through the Before the Boards process or was it something different?
Marie and I met doing Exit, Pursued by a Bear for 21 and Over (at the Omaha Playhouse) and she gave me a copy of the script. I fell in love with the characters immediately and wanted to tell their stories. We gave her a Before the Boards reading and she got some great responses, both encouraging and constructive critique. One of the questions we asked at the talk back for the reading was if people wanted to see this staged and it was an astounding yes from the crowd, so we put it on the season.
What were your conversations with Marie before, during, and after the rehearsal process?
She was constantly receiving feedback from some great local female writers, directors, and actresses. Between the reading and auditions she added a scene to Act 2 and rewrote the last scene. Once in rehearsals we realized something was still missing and with the help of our amazing cast we all collaborated to come up with the ending as it is now. The actors were instrumental in where the characters ended up.
How do you acquire all of these quilts?!
We have been so fortunate to have some very talented quilters trust us with their work. Katie Cameron is a member of the Omaha Quilters Association. Both she and Roxanne Wach put out a call to local groups and we received a ton of submissions. Once we had 20 or so, I showed them to my cast and asked them to pick their top 3. These quilts represent the women so I wanted the actors to pick their characters’ quilt. They perfectly represent who these women are.
Tell me about your interactions with your cast. What were some of the discoveries and challenges you came across being a strong group of women with unique stories of your own?
They are the most amazing cast I have worked with so far in my career. The entire process has been inspiring and challenging in the best ways. I am happy to report that there has not been a moment of cattiness or diva behavior one might expect from a room full of strong, opinionated women, just support, love, and a common desire to tell these women's stories with the upmost most respect, authenticity and grace.
I threw a lot of work (both in rehearsal and in the form of homework) at them and they never flinched. I knew I could push them and I did. Certain members of the cast have dealt with health issues themselves or via family members and nearly all of us have been affected by HIV/AIDS in some way. We all just wanted to tell this story in the best way possible and I think we are doing that.
What message does this show convey?
To me the theme of the show is the power of community and finding your tribe. Finding those people who accept you for exactly who you are regardless of the baggage you bring to the table. I also gravitate towards the empowerment that these women give to each other; they don't tear each other down, they support and listen and love. One of my favorite lines in the play is, "You think strong women become strong by sitting around doing nothing?" It just sticks with me. The idea that finding your tribe and conveying a message of tolerance, acceptance and support is a beautiful one and one we as a cast and crew have bonded over.
What are you looking forward to for Shelterbelt in the New Year?
I want to continue to produce quality work by local (NE, Iowa, GPTC alum) writers and even begin to branch out to more regional or national writers. New work is happening everywhere and we just want to continue to up our game with every new production and continue to learn and grow. To be a safe place for plays to find their footing, to grow, change, develop and take their next step. To me that is what theater, and life really, is all about!
Cold Cream looks at theater in the metro area. Email information to firstname.lastname@example.org