Prop Becomes Reality—with a Little Help from Mom
Hayley Parker (left), senior properties artisan; Ashlynd Cox, properties artisan; Ada Lauren Taylor, properties artisan; and Kelly Kreutsberg, properties supervisor.
Sometimes a prop in a play is so important to the storyline, or carries so much meaning, or is simply so intriguing that it almost becomes a character in the play. Such is the case of the crazy quilt in the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s production of Intimate Apparel: the quilt should almost be a line in the cast list, all because of Festival Properties Director Benjamin Hohman, his talented crew—and his mom.
The quilt figures prominently in the play. It is visible on Esther’s bed in many scenes. Esther has sewn the quilt over many years from scraps left from the beautiful undergarments she has made for other women. But, more importantly, she has sewn into the quilt money she has made from her sewing; it is her “bank” where she is saving to someday open her own beauty shop for black women.
So where does one turn when he needs help making a quilt? His mother, of course! Making the quilt was a major undertaking, and Hohman knew that his mother, Patricia, was an avid quilter (making dozens a year) and could take the load off his small crew by making the basic quilt.
His mother jumped at the chance, saying: “I can make a quilt, and someone else will pay for all the components? Sign me up.”
“So we had the designer choose what he thought would work as a basic color pallet and then purchased and shipped the fabrics, thread, etc. to my mom in Ohio,” said Hohman. “She then created the quilt top and mailed it back to us.”
Once the quilt top arrived and was used in a rehearsal, director Tasia A. Jones said she wanted it “way more crazy.”
“So we dug through the costume shop scrap bins and pulled a few dozen fabrics and added pieces to the quilt for about a week,” said Hohman. “Once that was done, we embellished it with multiple trims, gimps, lace edgings, etc. and then finished by hand stitching floss, yarn, and other thread-like materials in various stitching patterns over the seams.”
The “trick” of the quilt lies in the construction of pockets that appear to be sewn closed, but are actually attached with Velcro, allowing the actor to slightly “tear” the quilt to add to or retrieve the money hidden within. “We sort of ‘cheated’ when we made the base quilt,” said Hohman. “We made all the pink pieces into pockets with Velcro, so the actress could choose anywhere on the quilt, and as long as she pulled on a pink fabric panel she would find the money.”
Overall, the quilt, which is just a bit shy of a queen-size blanket, has 416 individual pieces of fabric and trim and is hand-stitched with nearly 200 feet of detailed stitching on the top. It took 160 to 180 hours of work from various artisans to create.
So, character or not, the quilt is certainly a work of art that contributes greatly to Intimate Apparel and the enjoyment of playgoers. When you see the play, Hohman and everyone involved hope you enjoy the quilt, its beauties, and its tricks. And, of course, there is one twist in the plot and surprise of the quilt we won’t even mention. No spoilers here!
The Festival’s 2021 season runs through October 9. Plays are Pericles, Richard III, The Comedy of Errors, The Pirates of Penzance, Ragtime, Cymbeline, Intimate Apparel, and The Comedy of Terrors. Tickets are available by calling 800-PLAYTIX or visiting www.bard.org.