The Ouray County Historical Museum unveiled its bridal exhibit late last week. Ten wedding gowns dating from 1883-1966, plus a black “honeymoon dress” and husband’s wedding suit, are on display until June 30, when all these fragile creations must return to storage. As it is, at least one of the gowns is showing wear and tear. On Saturday afternoon, Sue Hillhouse, who researched and designed the exhibit, moved a mannequin around to show the wedding dress from behind: the silk was fraying. It’s not that the gown had been stored improperly. Between 1890 and 1939, silk fabric was “weighted” with metallic elements including arsenic to replace the heft it lost during the degumming process. Because fabrics were sold by weight, some dyers and finishers over-weighted fabrics to make more money. But the process weakened the silk. Hillhouse and her team were lucky: many antique silks of this era have been so weakened by overweighting that they can barely be handled without cracking, much less draped on a mannequin.
The museum’s team encountered another challenge when it came to waistlines: modern mannequins, like people today, are larger than people were back then, so several of the dresses, as Hillhouse delicately put it, “are gaping a bit at the back.” Most of the gowns were donated by local families, and reflect their eras, from a delicate lawn cotton dress (1836) to numerous gowns of satin, including the sleekest (and newest), belonging to Ouray resident Linda Wise Cracraft, whose 1966 peau de soie sheath would be just as stylish today. As, for that matter, would Hillhouse’s own wedding dress from the same era, a photo of which is in the exhibit. Hillhouse sewed her own gown, and plans to give it to the museum. She’d like it to become part of the fabric of history come late June. The museum is open Thurs.-Sat., 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. through May 16, when it opens daily.
Stuart Little in Telluride
“A writer should concern himself with whatever absorbs his fancy, stirs his heart and unlimbers his typewriter,” author E.B. White once remarked in an interview with George Plimpton. Jennifer Julia has taken the author’s words to heart. She directs Stuart Little, based on White’s first children’s book, the classic about the adventures of a boy mouse born to a human family in New York City, at the Sheridan Opera House May 4-6.
A script for Stuart Little is available as both a play and a musical, and Julia could have used either of them to direct her young cast. Instead, she chose to write her own script. “I read the book and created the play,” she says. Her Stuart Little isn’t an actual play, but a musical. The lead, moreover, isn’t an actual mouse (the way he is in E.B. White’s book), but a small boy who resembles a mouse – the better to help Julia’s young cast from grades 3-5 relate to the musical’s theme, which is “being different.” “I focused on how kids who are different are treated, how they feel, how they treat each other,” she says. “I like to think about how kids view the world, and themselves, and their place in it.” The play, a production of the Sheridan Arts Foundation’s Young People’s Theater, was cast the way Julia always does it: through a lottery system. “I don’t believe in auditions at this age,” she explains. Julia is similarly egalitarian when it comes to leads: those go to the oldest kids, so everyone’s assured of a bigger part in the production as he or she grows up. Julia’s no stranger to E.B. White; she’s directed Charlotte’s Web “a bunch of times,” and says her favorite book of the author’s is Trumpet of the Swan. Stuart Little, though, was more than just a pleasure to read: “It’s one I’ve been itching to adapt for a long time.” Julia’s version of Stuart Little runs nightly, May 4-6, at 6 p.m. at the Sheridan. Tickets are available at the box office or at sheridanoperahouse.com.
San Juan High School Band Festival
On Monday, April 30, at 6:30 p.m., the public will get a chance to hear what many local high school band members have long been waiting for: that once-in-a-year chance for all the bands from this region to play together. This year, “all” the bands will include not just students from Ridgway, Ouray, Norwood and Telluride, but band members from Montrose and Olathe.
In all, about 70 students will come together. This is a very big deal for students from small-town bands, says Ridgway School Band and Choir Director Kathryn Kubinyi, who has helped organize these get-togethers numerous times over the last seven years. “I’m really passionate about bringing together large groups to small towns, so students can have the large-band experience,” she explains. “It’s a really important event in the life of these kids, and it’s also the norm when you get into college.” For this year, the teachers of this region’s high schools, who work together to bring in a “guest band director,” have chosen Dan Bell, a respected music teacher and adjudicator at numerous jazz and concert festivals from Colorado Springs. “We love the guy,” Kubinyi says. “He’s extremely positive, inspiring, and fun.”
Bell will rehearse with the students all day on Monday, then lead the band in concert in the evening. The musical selections will include “St. Petersburg March” (“very exciting, with a Russian flavor”), a beautiful, slow number called “Ruminations” and “Adrenaline Engines,” a propulsive, percussive piece “with lots of accent marks and dynamic changes.” Josiah St. Peter, the band director at Montrose High School, is sending some of his best musicians to help fill 10 additional musical positions (among them: baritone sax, bass clef baritone and tuba) that will allow the group to play as a full band. “The kids work so hard leading up to this,” Kubinyi says. With so few students in each school’s band, “everyone is really motivated and accountable. And this year they’re especially inspired, because they want to sound better than the kids from Montrose and Olathe. We’ll have a blast.” The performance will be held in the Ouray School Multipurpose Room. It begins at 6:30 p.m.