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Written By Editor on 7/24/23 | 7/24/23




Performances August 4 – 20, 2023

Franklin, NY: The Franklin Stage Company (Patricia Buckley, Executive Artistic Director), Delaware County’s renowned professional summer theater, will present a new play by Kyle Bass entitled TOLIVER & WAKEMAN, directed by Vernice Miller. It will begin performances on August 4 and run through August 2, 2023.

Set at the start of the American Civil War, TOLIVER & WAKEMAN theatricalizes the wartime experiences of two actual historical characters from two very different (and not so different) backgrounds who lived in Delaware and Chenango Counties. Toliver Holmes was a young black man born into slavery in Virginia who escaped to New York, changed his name to avoid capture, and mustered into the Union Army’s 26th Regiment of Colored Troops (NY), later settling in Delhi, NY. Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, a young white woman born in Bainbridge, New York, disguised herself as a man and mustered into the Union Army—the 153rd New York State Volunteers—using the alias Lyons Wakeman. 

“In reality, their life paths did not intersect. But in my play, poetic license in service to a poetical dramaturgy brings them into each other’s lives,” said playwright Bass. “Theirs will be a shared narrative drama and a drama of identity.” The play is a historical fantasia, exploring what two very different characters have in common, as each has escaped something they find untenable. Each has cloaked their true identity before joining the Union Army. Each is looking to define freedom on their own terms.”

The cast includes Brianna Joy Ford (Regional: Our Town, Summer and Smoke), and Jelani Pitcher (Regional: Topdog/Underdog) as Toliver. The creative team Zachary Paul (Fiddle player), Scott Holdredge (Set Design/Lighting Design/Technical Direction), Kevin Bartlett (Sound Design),  Lindsey Quay Voorhees (Costume Design),  Riley Israel (Stage Manager), Katrina Ali (Assistant Stage Manager), and Evan True (Production Manager) 

FSC began developing the work through a 2021 Support for Artists Grant from the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA). The commission is written by the author of Possessing Harriet, which FSC produced during their 2019 summer season. The production will be directed by Vernice Miller. “It's wonderful to have the opportunity to bring this new play to life and to produce our first world premiere," said Artistic Director Patricia Buckley, "Possessing Harriet was an audience favorite, and we're thrilled about Kyle's new piece, an exploration of local and historical facts and imaginings." 

The Franklin Stage Company season and the play run through August 20 at Chapel Hall, 25 Institute Street, in Franklin, NY. The show will play Thursday–Saturday at 7:30 pm, Saturday Matinee at 3:00 pm, and Sunday at 5:00 pm. General Seating. Admission is free—the suggested donation is $25 per person.

FSC will not require masks but will provide them for anyone who prefers to mask. Any updates to FSC's Covid policy can be found on their website. For more information and reservations, visit The New York State Council on the Arts makes programming at the Franklin Stage Company possible with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.


KYLE BASS (Playwright) is also the author of Tender Rain, which premiered at Syracuse Stage in May 2023. Salt City Blues which was produced at Syracuse Stage in 2022, Citizen James, or The Young Man Without a Country, about a young James Baldwin, which was commissioned by Syracuse Stage, has streamed nationally since 2021 and has been optioned for an international feature-length film, and Possessing Harriet, which premiered at Syracuse Stage in 2018, was subsequently produced at Franklin Stage Company, at the East Lynne Theater Company, and is published by Standing Stone Books. The Society for New Music commissioned his libretto for Libba Cotten: Here This Day, an opera based on the life of American folk music legend Libba Cotten. With National Medal of Honor recipient Ping Chong, Kyle co-authored Cry for Peace: Voices from the Congo, which premiered at Syracuse Stage and was subsequently produced at La MaMa Experimental Theatre in New York. Kyle also worked with Ping Chong on Tales from The Salt City, which premiered at Syracuse Stage. Kyle is the co-author of the original screenplay for the film Day of Days (Broad Green Pictures, 2017) and is a three-time recipient of the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship (for fiction in 1998, for playwriting in 2010, and for screenwriting in 2022), a finalist for the Princess Grace Playwriting Award, and a Pushcart Prize nominee. As a dramaturg, Kyle worked with acclaimed visual artist and MacArthur "Genius" Fellow Carrie Mae Weems on her theatre piece Grace Notes: Reflections for Now, and he was the script consultant on Thoughts of a Colored Man, which premiered at Syracuse Stage in 2019 and opened on Broadway in 2021. His plays and other writings have appeared in the journals Callaloo and Stone Canoe, among others, and in the anthology Alchemy of the Word: Writers Talk about Writing. Kyle is an assistant professor in the Department of Theater at Colgate University, where he was the 2019 Burke Endowed Chair for Regional Studies. Previously, he was faculty in the MFA Creative Writing program at Goddard College. He taught playwriting in the Department of Drama, theater, and dramatic literature courses in the Department of African American Studies at Syracuse University and playwriting at Hobart & William Smith Colleges. The Susan P. Stroman Visiting Playwright at the University of Delaware and the Flournoy Visiting Playwright at Washington & Lee University, Kyle holds an MFA in playwriting from Goddard College, is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild of America and is represented by the Barbara Hogenson Agency. A descendant of African people enslaved in colonial New England and the American South, Kyle writes in central upstate New York, where his family has lived free and owned land for nearly 225 years. He thanks Colgate University for the support of his creative research. And he is indebted to his cousin, historian Diane Ciccone, whose research into their family history remains a gift and an unceasing source of inspiration.

VERNICE MILLER (Director) Most recently directed the world premiere of Our Verse in Time to Come for Folger Theatre in Washington, DC. She is a Jamaican-born, Afro-Caribbean theater artist passionate about the arts as the most universally accessible agent for positive social change. Directorial highlights from Miller's career include long-term collaborations with; Pulitzer Prize-winning jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, opera diva Jessye Norman, HBO comedienne Hazelle Goodman and Hip Hop legend Malik Work. International credits: Three Women (Break the Silence) by anthropologist Dr. Omotayo Jolaosho for South Africa's Market Theatre Lab (a performance about women finding their voices amidst gendered repression of their bodily and sexual autonomy); Nomansland (performed/co-directed) with Seth Baumrin's Subpoetics International in Slovenia, Ukraine, and Poland. Network television: Shadowed director Felix Alcala on the CBS series “Madam Secretary” while filming season 6, episode 9 of “Carpe Diem.” Miller directed the inaugural and revived productions of Bee Trapped Inside the Window by Saviana Stanescu for Heartbeat Ensemble, the Romanian Cultural Institute, and Ithaca's Civic Ensemble. Commissioned by Godfrey L. Simmons, Jr., Bee is a work that explores the effect of modern-day slavery on the lives of three ethnically different American women living in CT. She co-founded A Laboratory for Actor Training Experimental Theatre Company with Joann Maria Yarrow to evolve the work they began with Roberta Carreri at Eugenio Barba's Odin Teatret in Denmark.

 FRANKLIN STAGE COMPANY'S dual mission is to produce professional, admission-free theater that brings together audiences and artists to create community and celebrate the enduring power of stories; and to ensure the preservation of Chapel Hall, our historic home, as both an architectural treasure and a center of community activity.

Founded in 1996, the Franklin Stage Company is dedicated to producing classic and new plays that stimulate thought and provoke discussion to illuminate as well as entertain. FSC also presents both emerging and established artists working in a variety of performance disciplines. The company was founded on the principle that great theater should be accessible to all.

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