Show History



Quilt, A Musical Celebration, is a musical based on stories for, from and about the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. The Quilt was created in 1987. The physical Quilt is described on its website as a poignant memorial, a powerful tool for use in preventing new HIV infections and the largest ongoing community arts project in the world.  

Quilt, A Musical Celebration, is mostly a collection of stories, accompanied by songs, that represent panels in the Quilt.

Bookwriter John Schak says of the inspiration for Quilt, A Musical Celebration, "The four people who did this [created Quilt], Jim Morgan, Michael Stockler, Merle Hubbard, and me [sic], had since the early '80s lost innumerable friends to the crisis.... So, the immediate impetus on our part was in some way to acknowledge this to the world in the format that we were all accustomed to expressing ourselves in, which was theater."


Quilt began as a workshop at Musical Theatreworks in 1991. It was first produced in 1992 at The University of Maryland and the Smithsonian Institute. Since then, the piece has been produced many times regionally. Notably, the cast of a 1993 University of Michigan production featured a number of actors who went on to have professional theatre careers in New York, including Erin Dilly.

In 2009, Wingspan Arts produced a reading of Quilt, A Musical Celebration, that featured new material.

Cultural Influence

  • The physical NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt was on display at the National Mall when the first production of Quilt, A Musical Celebration, happened at The University of Maryland and The Smithsonian Institute.
  • Co-bookwriter John Schak was familiar with the staff at MTI and MTI CEO Freddie Gershon, because he had worked on The Fantasticks, which is also represented by MTI. Because of this connection, Schak was able to give the material to Gershon to review. Gershon immediately recognized the cultural significance of Quilt, A Musical Celebration, and added it to the MTI catalogue, despite the show not having had a Class-A production. This decision resulted in many schools and community groups producing Quilt, A Musical Celebration, and allowed the message of the show to reach far and wide.
  • When Quilt, A Musical Celebration, first premiered, many Americans were still very uninformed about the AIDS epidemic. John Schak related an anecdote that is illustrative of the cultural importance of the show. He said, "Someone wrote a letter to the original producer stating that they would not bring their family to see a show about homosexuals. The producer wrote back a 2-page letter basically saying, 'you need to understand what's going on here, and I think maybe you really would want to come and see this show." 


  • In an attempt to help the piece reach the widest possible audience, there are several modifications for the actual script to make Quilt, A Musical Celebration, producible for theatre companies of all sizes, as well as ways to work around controversial material to make the piece workable in all communities.
  • Quilt, A Musical Celebration, was bookwriter/lyricist Jim Morgan's idea, and originally co-bookwriter John Schak was the director. However, the production opportunity at The University of Maryland came with a director attached, so Schak became a co-bookwriter.
  • Lyricist/bookwriter Jim Morgan was a winner of the illustrious Kleban Award for lyric writing.