On Friday, August 4th, Friends of Woodland Cemetery invite you to a full evening celebrating the life of Toliver Holmes and the world premiere of Kyle Bass’s new play, Toliver & Wakeman. This event will begin at Woodland Cemetery in Delhi for a talk by playwright Kyle Bass, followed by a picnic supper at the cemetery, and continue in Franklin at the Franklin Stage Company for the opening-night performance of Toliver & Wakeman, with a special reception after the show.
Toliver Holmes (the great-great-grandfather of Kyle Bass) was a 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). After the war, he raised a family in upstate New York, and eventually settled in Delhi where he died in 1920 and was buried in the Soldiers Circle in Woodland Cemetery. The play imagines and dramatizes the Civil War experiences of Holmes and Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, a young white woman from Afton, NY, who disguised herself as a man and mustered into the Union Army using the alias Lyons Wakeman.
The evening will begin at 5 pm sharp at the gatehouse entrance of Woodland Cemetery (corner of Orchard and Meredith) in Delhi for a short walk to the Soldiers Circle where Toliver Holmes is buried. There will be motorized transport at the cemetery; late arrivals can follow signs to meet up with the group. Kyle Bass will give a gravesite talk about Toliver Holmes, followed by a Q&A. Afterwards, join us for a light picnic supper in the cemetery. Feel free to bring your own, or reserve a picnic dinner box from Tiny’s Sandwiches (Hamden General).
For those planning to attend that evening’s premiere performance, you can reserve your seats on the Franklin Stage Company here. FSC is an admission-free theater that depends on the generosity of their audience and donors. After Friday night’s show, FSC will host a post-performance special reception with the playwright, director, and actors.
Please reserve your spot for the event and find out about the options and cost of the picnic dinner box by emailing the Friends of Woodland Cemetery to firstname.lastname@example.org. The talk at Woodland Cemetery is free to attend.
This event is organized by Friends of Woodland Cemetery, and co-sponsored by Bushel Collective in Delhi, and Franklin Stage Company in Franklin.
Kyle Bass is the author of Toliver & Wakeman, premiering at Franklin Stage Company; Tender Rain, which premiered at Syracuse Stage in 2023; Salt City Blues, which received its first production at Syracuse Stage in 2022; and Possessing Harriet, which premiered at Syracuse Stage in 2018 and was subsequently produced at Franklin Stage Company and at East Lynne Theater Company, and is published by Standing Stone Books. His play Citizen James, or The Young Man Without a Country, about a young James Baldwin, has streamed nationally and has been optioned for a feature-length film. Kyle is the co-screenwriter of Day of Days (Broad Green Pictures, 2017) and, with Ping Chong, Kyle is the co-author of Cry for Peace: Voices from the Congo, which premiered at Syracuse Stage and was subsequently produced at La MaMa Experimental Theatre. A three-time New York Foundations for the Arts (NYFA) fellow, Kyle is Assistant Professor of Theater at Colgate University and Resident Playwright at Syracuse Stage. A descendant of African people enslaved in colonial New England and in the American South, Kyle lives and writes in central upstate New York where his family has lived free and owned land for nearly 225 years.
The newly formed Friends of Woodland Cemetery is committed to safeguarding the historical, cultural, and natural significance of Woodland Cemetery as a cherished community asset in Delhi, New York. Donations to Woodland Cemetery can be made here.
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, their historic home, located in Franklin, NY, as both an architectural treasure and a center of community activity.
Image: The playwright Kyle Bass. Photo by Brenna Merritt.