OSWEGO – Bring the whole family to Fort Ontario State Historic Site, 1 E. Fourth St., Oswego, for a performance of “The Great Rope,” the award-winning play written by the late Rosemary Nesbitt of Oswego. The one-time-only show begins at 6 p.m. on Saturday.
“We’ve put together a great group of children and adults from the community to help us bring this play to life again and honor Rosemary’s vision,” said director Jonel Langenfeld Rial, professor of theater and education in the SUNY Oswego Theater Department.
Originally written and performed around 1976, “The Great Rope” is a children’s play that tells the story of militiamen carrying the huge anchor cable for the U.S.S. Superior from Big Sandy Creek to the U.S. Navy shipyard at Sackets Harbor, N.Y.
“Lake Ontario was the main theater of action during the War of 1812 and the Oswego River was part of a major route used to transport vital naval stores to the U.S. Navy shipyard at Sackets Harbor,” said Fort Ontario State Historic Site Superintendent Paul Lear, chairman of the Oswego County War of 1812 Bicentennial Committee.
On May 5 and 6, 1814, a large British fleet attacked and captured Fort Ontario, intending to stop that flow of supplies. However, a small American force removed and hid the naval stores from British forces.
Weeks later, a small American flotilla attempted to move these supplies along the lakeshore when they were spotted by the British who drove them up Big Sandy Creek.
The British were then ambushed and captured by American riflemen and Oneida Indians and most of the supplies were loaded onto wagons and transported by land to Sackets Harbor.
The one exception was a 600-foot anchor cable that weighed 9,600 pounds. This “Great Cable,” or “Great Rope,” was lifted onto the shoulders of hundreds of militiamen who carried the rope in shifts more than 20 miles to the shipyard at Sackets Harbor.
“The cable-carriers were cheered when they delivered the great rope and, within a few months, the U.S.S. Superior and other warships were completed and launched, giving the U.S. Navy the advantage over the British on Lake Ontario in late 1814,” Lear added. “Fortunately for all, the War of 1812 ended in January 1815 and peace returned to the North Country. Life returned to normal, but the story and legend of ‘The Great Rope’ lives on.”
The performance of “The Great Rope” commemorates the bicentennial of this chapter in local history and is planned to take place on the fifth anniversary of the passing of its author.
“Rosemary would have loved to have been here for this,” said H. Lee White Marine Museum director Mercedes Niess. “She loved theatre and history and enjoyed sharing that with others through her gift of storytelling. She wrote several children’s plays and books and spoke regularly about Oswego’s history.”
Some of the actors hail from SUNY Oswego, where Rosemary Nesbitt once taught in the theatre department.
“Several cast members remember seeing the play in the Waterman Theater at SUNY Oswego when it was first presented,” said CNY Arts director Nancy Fox. “We are also lucky enough to have many seasoned veterans of the stage from the community and are happy to introduce new talent from recent productions at the CNY Arts Center.”
Many volunteers have come together to see this play through in honor of the woman who did so much for this community.
“This project has been such an amazing collaboration between so many individuals and organizations,” said Mary Kay Stone, the play’s production manager. “From the talent, venue and publicity to the costumes, props and sound, there is a strong spirit of teamwork and everyone is working hard to make this performance the best it can be.”
This performance of “The Great Rope” is made possible by the Richard S. Shineman Foundation, NBT Bank, Wayne Drugs, Oswego Lions, Stewarts Shops, Elks Lodge #271, Oswego Printing, Friends of Fort Ontario, Fort Ontario State Historic Site, H. Lee White Marine Museum, CNY Arts Center, the SUNY Oswego Theatre Department and the hard work and dedication of its many volunteers.
Admission is $5 for adults, $2 for teens, and free for those aged 12 and younger. Advanced tickets can be purchased at Fort Ontario State Historic Site, East Fourth Street, Oswego; H. Lee White Marine Museum, West First Street Pier, Oswego; Arts in the HeART Gallery, South First Street, Fulton; river’s end bookstore, West First and Bridge streets, Oswego; and Man in the Moon Candies, West First Street, Oswego.
Audience members are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets to watch the performance on the parade grounds of the fort.
In the event of rain, the show will be re-scheduled for Sunday.
For more information, call the Fort Ontario State Historic Site at 315-343-4711 or visit www.fortontario.com, www.hleewhitemarinemuseum.com, or www.cnyartscenter.com