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A Thousand Words

January 19 - February 5, 2012

WRITTEN BY Gwendolyn Rice

DIRECTED BY Jen Uphoff Gray

“The alternating structure of A Thousand Words keeps things moving swiftly, propelling the action forward… entertaining, thought-provoking and a very welcome chance to see new work..”— Jennifer A. Smith, The Isthmus

In collaboration with Milwaukee Chamber Theatre

Script developed through Wisconsin Wrights New Play Development Project

The art world is ecstatic when a box of stunning black and white photos from the ’30s is discovered amongst some long-lost possessions of Ernest Hemingway. A curator from the Metropolitan Museum of Art immediately lays claim to them, but so does a woman who might be the granddaughter of the photographer, Walker Evans. As the stories unfold, both in the 1930s and the present day, one question remains: What’s a picture worth?

The cast will feature American Players Theatre actress/Forward Theater advisory company member Sarah Day; UW Madison MFA alum Josh Aaron McCabe; and Milwaukee actors Molly Rhode, Stacy Hicks, Georgina McKee, and Libby Amato.

Raffle Quilt

In conjunction with the production, members of the Forward Theater family have created a raffle quilt. The Fons & Porter design, Granny’s Star, is a patchwork quilt reminiscent of 1930s patterns, in keeping with the time period and themes of the play. FTC’s first board president Jane Elder, former FTC board member Karen Saunders, the playwright Gwendolyn Rice, and FTC supporter Evelyn Link stitched the piece, which will be raffled off at the end of the performance run. All proceeds will support Forward Theater’s education and outreach activities.

The quilt will be on display at Stitcher’s Crossing from December 15 – January 18. Starting January 19, the quilt will be on display at all performances of A Thousand Words. Raffle tickets will be available at Stitcher’s Crossing and at the performances or by calling our office. They are $5 apiece, or five for $20. The winner will be drawn on Sunday, February 5.

Overture Center for the Arts

201 State St,
Madison, WI 53703

Sponsored By:

Qual Line Fence Corp.
Michael Best — A Friedrich LLP
Wegner LLP (CPAs & Consultants)
Madison Arts Commission
JCP (John and Carolyn Peterson Charitable Foundation Inc.)

About the show


Performance Dates:
January 19 – February 5, 2012

Age Recommendations:


We strive to make our performances available to the entire community. This guiding principle captures the theater we aim to be.

We’re proud to be a resident company at Overture Center, which provides practical accessibility for a variety of needs.

Visit accessibility page >

Molly Rhode
Josh McCabe
Sarah Day
Stacy Hicks
Georgina McKee
Libby Amato
Creative Team
Nate Stuber
Set Designer
Jen Trieloff
Jason Fassl
Lighting Designer
Paul Hurley
Sound Designer
Hyewon Park
Costume Designer
Sydney Kreuger
Costume Designer
Jacqueline Singleton
Stage Manager
Kim Patch
Frank Honts
Assistant Director
Kimberly Yarnall
Ric Lantz
Technical Director
Have you ever wondered where the idea for a new play comes from? For Gwendolyn Rice it came from a news story about some photographs that were discovered amongst some long-lost possessions of Ernest Hemingway. That article eventually led to A Thousand Words. Watch the video to hear Gwendolyn talking about her inspiration
Artistic director and director of A Thousand Words Jennifer Uphoff Gray talks about her first experience with the play more than 3 years ago, and why she’s excited about bringing the full production to the stage now.

The alternating structure of A Thousand Words keeps things moving swiftly, propelling the action forward. Directed by Forward artistic director Jennifer Uphoff Gray, the production (which moves to Milwaukee Chamber Theatre after its Overture run) is entertaining, thought-provoking and a very welcome chance to see new work.
~Jennifer A. Smith, The Isthmus

In A Thousand Words, playwright Rice knows that it’s the stories behind the images, whether real or imagined, that fascinate us. In this often charming new play, the characters invite us to look again, reconsider, and perhaps discover something new.
~Lindsay Christians, 77 Square


Lecture and Art Exhibits in Conjunction with A Thousand Words

Forward Theater Company has partnered with artists throughout Dane County to present a series of art exhibits complementing A Thousand Words which focuses on many types of art – from the stunning black and white photography of Walker Evans, to crude patchwork quilts from Kansas.

To engage in a broader conversation around these themes, FTC, in close collaboration with David Wells and the Terry Family Foundation, assembled several mixed media exhibits created by local artists, including professional photographers and quilters, and members of the Center for Photography in Madison, the Mad City Quilt Guild, and the Madison Contemporary Fiber Artists. The collection of photos, quilts, embroidery, weaving, and fabric collages will be on display at several galleries in Madison, through March 2012. In addition to these exhibits, the Wisconsin Historical Society will host a lecture complementing the themes in the play, discussing antique and modern quilts.
December 19, 2011 – March 4, 2012
Overture Gallery II, 201 State Street, 2nd floor

Photos and fiber art in the style of Walker Evans, inspired by the play A Thousand Words.
Opening reception January 13, 6pm – 8pm
January 13 – March 4, 2012
Overture Hall Playhouse Gallery, 201 State Street, lower level

Mini quilts by the Mad City Quilt Guild, inspired by the play and the theme “A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words.” Opening reception January 13, 6pm – 8pm
January 14, 2012 1:00 – 2:30 pm

Wisconsin Historical Society Contemporary Takes on Classic Patterns: A Talk with Quilter Chris Lynn Kirsch Quilter, teacher, and author Chris Lynn Kirsch will discuss her original work in the exhibit New Quilts from Old Favorites. Hear Kirsch explain how the love for historic quilting patterns inspired her creation of vibrant, artful, decidedly modern quilts. Local playwright Gwendolyn Rice will also be on hand to discuss her play A Thousand Words, which features antique quilts and forgotten women fiber artists in its plot. Cost to attend is $10 per person. Register by Monday, January 9th. Call 264-6555, email, or visit to register.

Gwendolyn Rice’s Blogs about A Thousand Words

Thoughts on Rehearsal of A Thousand Words, Posted 1-21-12

-As an actress, director, or stage manager, I remember rehearsals being very long. As the writer, they seem to go by very quickly.
-I think the most wonderful thing a playwright can experience is hearing a line said out loud that’s better than he/she heard it initially in her head. It doesn’t always happen, but when it does. .. wow.

The Quilts of Gee’s Bend, Posted 1-8-12

In creating a play around the story of newly discovered photographs and the debate over who owns them, I found that it worked well with other themes I wanted to explore: the tension between unknown craftsmen, the art dealers who discover them, the public who clamor for their work, and the money that changes hands. The peculiar irony of “outsider,” “primitive,” or “folk” artists who are embraced by the conventional art world was illustrated poignantly for me a few years earlier, when the quilts of Gee’s Bend were featured at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, and then the Whitney Museum in New York. As a quilter myself I was fascinated with the unusual patterns, fabrics, and techniques employed in these pieces, created by a group of African American women from Gee’s Bend, Alabama, one of the poorest communities in the country.

You Wrote That?, Posted 1-5-12

For about a year now people have been asking me the same question: “How does it feel to have a play in Forward Theater’s 2011-2012 season?” And the truth is, it always felt a bit surreal.

The Audacity of Quilting, Posted 10-13-11

It is 11:30pm on a Friday night and I cannot sleep. This hardly ever happens to me. But tonight my mind is too full. Full of animated conversations I’ve had, phone calls, emails, dozens of work projects I’ve barely begun, laundry in piles at the foot of the bed that threaten to topple onto my children, burying them forever, and a nagging feeling I’m forgetting something important. . . I roll out of bed and pad down the stairs to the basement in my bare feet. I pull out a bag of fabric pieces and begin to put them in order. The tired is starting to make my head feel heavy, but I am so comforted by the sound of the sewing machine – the low hum of my Bernina, Quilter’s Edition – the smoothly moving parts of a device that is an efficient, hypnotic feat of engineering. Fast and sleek with a computer built right in, it is a powerful tool. If it was a techno gadget, it would be the latest iphone. If it was a car, it would be a Mazerati.

More from this season

The Farnsworth Invention
November 3 - 20, 2011
Love Stories
April 12 - 29, 2012
Wisconsin Wrights 2012
March 9 -10, 2012 and May 19, 2012