MUSIC FESTIVAL – 1 – 8 p.m. Celebration of Local Musicians features performances by 5 local bands, myriad individuals musicians. Donations support Gary Johnson Memorial Music Scholarship Fund. at Maple Street Park, Oneonta. 607-431-1001 or visit www.facebook.com/CleinmanNetwork/
ART & MUSIC FESTIVAL – 10 a.m – 4 p.m. Find vintage items, collectibles, art, more and enjoy variety of musical performances at City of the Hills Art & Music Festival. Main St., Oneonta. Visit cityofthehillsartsfestival.com
PUPPET SHOW – 7:30 p.m. Catskill Puppet Theater presents, “The Willow Girl,” about adventures of 3 young immigrant children and a magical willow tree on the American Frontier. Free, suggested donation $20/person. Franklin Stage Company, 25 Institute St., Franklin. 607-829-3700 or visit www.franklinstagecompany.org
MUSIC FEST – Noon – 3 p.m. Enjoy music from Leatherstocking Pipe and Drum Band as they march down Main St. to St. James Episcopal Church where they will be followed by Cajun Pete’s Jazz Band ), and Pipe Organ and Vocalists in the Church. All welcome. Begins at Mueller Plaza, Main St., Oneonta. 432-1458 or visit www.facebook.com/St-James-Church-Oneonta-128875903812158/
THEATER – 7:30 p.m. Set in 1839, “Possessing Harriet” portrays the enslaved Harriett Powell escaping from a hotel, finding refuge with an abolitionist and his young cousin Elizabeth Cady. Free admission, suggested donation $20/person. Reservation strongly recommended. Franklin Stage Company, 25 Institute St., Franklin. 607-829-3700 or visit franklinstagecompany.org/shows-events/this-season/
Final Performances This Weekend • Check www.franklinstagecompany.org
By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
FRANKLIN – For “Possessing Harriet” director Leslie Nobel, it was about helping people witness history.
“In her diary, Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote about meeting Harriet Powell and that the conversation affected her deeply,” Nobel said. “The playwright, Kyle Bass, took dramatic license to imagine that conversation.”
“Possessing Harriet,” which opened to a packed house Thursday, July 11, at the Franklin Stage Company, tells the true story of Harriet Powell, an escaped slave who, while staying with abolitionist Gerrit Smith, meets and speaks with his young cousin, Elizabeth Cady, in the hours before Harriett leaves for Canada.
The play, which Bass had work-shopped at Syracuse University, where he is the director of the drama department, had its world premiere last October with the Syracuse Stage company, where he is the associate artistic director.
“I was able to watch this develop from a one-act play to full-length,” she said. “Though this is a period piece, it’s not a museum piece.”
When Pat Buckley took over the Franklin Stage in 2017, she spent two years producing from a “stash of plays” the company had wanted to perform.
“This year, we read a lot of new plays, and this one really stood out,” she said. “It’s breathtakingly historical, but also modern in the conversation about race, gender, equality and identity.”
All of the characters in the show are real people, including Thomas Leonard, a free man working at the Syracuse Hotel, the Underground Railroad stop where Harriett meets with Gerrit.
“Not a lot was known about him, so Kyle gave him his great-grandfather Joliver Holmes’ story,” said Nobel. “He was a slave in Virginia and escaped to Delhi, then fought in the 26th Regiment in the Civil War. He’s buried in Delhi; you can visit his grave.”
The show is also part of the Franklin Stage Company’s commitment to make its range of shows more inclusive. “While you can cast people of color in classical shows, we wanted to move towards bringing in women’s voices and people of color,” said Buckley.
Bass was able to help cast the show; Gary Kayi-Fletcher, who plays Thomas Leonard, had auditioned for the show in the initial Syracuse run, and Erin Christine Walsh, who plays Elizabeth Cady, had been one of Nobel’s acting students at Syracuse University.
“It was very helpful to have those names,” she said. “And because we’re a union stage, all of them are professional actors.”
And as they were finalizing the show, they had another chance to fully immerse themselves in the period when Harriet and Elizabeth would have had their conversation.
“At the Stagecoach Run, there was an photographer, Melissa Perkins, who uses a tin-type camera,” said Buckley. “We got one done of the cast in their costumes, just like they would have had in 1839.”
This is the second time the show has been performed and into the second week of its three-week run, many of the performances have been sold out.
They’ve also continued their “Talk-Back” program, where the audience is invited to talk with the actors and director after the play. “If the play is good, the audience will see their lives reflected in it and they want to talk about that,” said Buckley.
Bass will be on hand for the final performance on Sunday, July 28 and will be participating in the talk-back.
“There’s a lot to talk about,” said Buckley. “I think that theater is a safe space, because you’re not getting into it with family, you can sit in the dark and reflect.”
ART EXHBIT – 5 – 7 p.m. ARC Otsego celebrates opening of 15th annual Voice! Of work by artists with intellectual/developmental disabilities. Reception includes refreshments, art for sale, prize, people’s choice voting, more. Martin-Mullen Art Gallery, SUNY Oneonta. 607-432-8595 or visit www.arcotsego.org/voice/
PLAY – 8 p.m. The play, ‘The Night They Lit Up Wrigley’, about a serendipitous meeting at a Cooperstown bar, by THE CHURCH producers, opens. $20-$17, 2381 State Hwy. 205, Mt. Vision. Info, 607 638 5119, www.upsi-ny.com
SUMMER SUNDAY SERIES – 1 – 3 p.m. Learn about local legend with Jack Ewan presenting “Timothy Murphy: Fact & Fiction” Revolutionary war soldier, sharpshooter, area resident, tall tale hero. Swart-Wilcox House Museum, Wilcox Ave., Oneonta. 607-287-7011 or visit swartwilcoxhouse.wordpress.com/calendar/upcoming-events/
SESQUICENTENNIAL – Noon – 9 p.m. Celebrate 150th anniversary of Cooperstown-Charlotte Valley Railway with golden spike, speeches, music, celebratory train ride followed by cannon shoot, ice cream social, historical presentation, fireworks, more. Cost, $30/adult. Depart Milford Depot, 136 E. Main St., Milford. 607-432-2429 or visit www.facebook.com/cacvrr/
PREVIEW PARTY – 5 – 7 p.m. Celebrate opening of 84th Annual National Juried Art Exhibition and award ceremonies. Cooperstown Art Association, 22 Main St., Cooperstown. 607-547-9777 or visit www.cooperstownart.com