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Kyle Bass. (Photo by Brenna Merritt)

Franklin Stage Commissions New Play From Kyle Bass

The creation of a Civil War-era piece called ‘Wakeman and Toliver’ is supported by a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts.

FRANKLIN, N.Y.: The Franklin Stage Company (FSC), a professional summer theatre in the Great Western Catskills of Delaware County, has been awarded a Support for Artists Grant from the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) for the commission of a new play by Kyle Bass with the working title Wakeman and Toliver. Bass is the author of Possessing Harriet, which FSC produced in 2019.

“We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Kyle Bass again,” said co-artistic director Leslie Noble in a statement. “Possessing Harriet was one of our audience’s favorite shows, and we’re very excited about this new piece, which is such a wonderful exploration of local and historical facts and imaginings.”

Set at the start of the American Civil War, Wakeman and Toliver will dramatize the experiences of two historical characters. Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, a young white woman born in Bainbridge, N.Y, who disguised herself as a man and mustered into the Union Army’s 153rd New York State Volunteers. 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.

“In reality their life paths did not intersect,” said Bass in a statement. “But in my play, poetic license in service to a poetical dramaturgy will bring them into each other’s lives—the imagined jazz of shared experience.”

NYSCA’s guidelines state that the Support for Artists grant seeks to “enhance the vibrant and diverse artistic voices of New York State-based art makers, invest in projects that represent significant growth in the artistic development of individual artists, and strengthen the relationships between individual artists and the artistic goals and mission of the sponsoring or commissioning organization.” The final component of the grant is a public offering such as a reading, presentation, or performance of the work in progress. FSC will release more information this spring about a staged reading of Wakeman and Toliver.

The Franklin Stage Company was founded in 1996 on the principle that great theatre should be accessible to all. Its dual mission is to produce professional, admission-free theatre that brings together audiences and artists to create community and celebrate the enduring power of stories; and to ensure the preservation of Chapel Hall, its historic home, as both an architectural treasure and a center of community activity.

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