The Great Rope Ties it all Together

OSWEGO – With the life-time tenure and legacy of Rosemary Nesbitt at SUNY Oswego, it’s not surprising the cast of her award-winning play would make a connection with SUNY Alumni and faculty.

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Under the direction of Jonel Langenfeld, Matt Soffietti, as James Cooper, shares a laugh during rehearsal for “The Great Rope.”

Recreating a 200-year-old event during the War of 1812 and involving a young boy named Jonathan, “The Great Rope,” will be presented August 2 at 6 p.m. at Fort Ontario and features the collaborations of SUNY Theatre Department, H. Lee White Marine Museum, CNY Arts Center and of course, Fort Ontario Historic Site.

Several cast members share memories of a school field trip to see the play first presented in Waterman Theatre on SUNY college campus while Anne Raynor enjoyed Mrs. Nesbitt as a professor and advisor while a theater student in the 1990s.

Anne plays the role of Storyteller in The Great Rope Play, guiding the audience through the action.

Since completing her theatre degree, Anne has been an actor, director and acting coach with several Syracuse area groups including Contemporary Theatre and Appleseed Productions and appeared in many Oswego Theatre and Oswego Children’s Theatre productions, the most recent being On Borrowed Time for Oswego Players.

The SUNY connections continue with Dan Williams, an actor, pianist and music director known locally and in Syracuse, Rochester, Albany and the Adirondacks.

Dan, who plays Alvin Bronson and is music director of “The Great Rope” is a graduate of SUNY Oswego’s School of Communication, Media and the Arts as a double major in Music and Spanish and a minor in theatre.

He is also organist at Minetto United Methodist church and teaches piano and voice lessons as well as acting/musical theatre.

Another local well-known businessman and SUNY alum, Brian Kocher, Oswego Printing Company, takes on the key role of Unundiaga, the son of a German settler family adopted into the Oneida Nation when he was very young.

Kocher has served on many boards from Oswego Players, to a number of environmental organizations and 16 years as councilman in the town of Scriba. He, along with his wife and daughter, have participated in living history for nearly 20 years with encampments, ten days at a time, living the life style of the mid 1700s; learning the skills and means of surviving the wilds of the Northeast using only the implements available in the era.

Oswego Printing is providing most of the printed materials for the production.

Current SUNY students populate the cast with Alyssa Otoski, in the role of Alice Cooper, Jonathan’s mother, who is starting her senior year at SUNY Oswego as a double major in English and Theatre.

This upcoming year she will be directing the Senior Honors Production of Circle Mirror Transformation by Annie Baker. Matt Soffietti, a Film and Cinema Studies major and Theatre Department volunteer plays double roles of Jonathan’s father James Cooper and British Officer Sir James Yeo.

Kyle Decarr, a Broadcasting  major delivers the role of Mr. McNair.

SUNY Faculty is well represented with Jessica Culligan, adjunct faculty in the Theatre Department serving as assistant prop designer and taking a role onstage as second woman. Her daughter, Ella Culligan, will play the role of Mary.

Jessica’s husband, Sean, is technical director for SUNY Theatre Department.

Milton Laoyza, adjunct faculty in the Department of Modern Languages, portrays a Native American onstage while Ana Djukic-Cocks, professor of German in the Department of Modern Languages serves as assistant to director/stage manager.

Sound engineer Brian Dice and sound consultant Gregory Brewster, SUNY electronics specialist, both provide sound expertise for Theatre Department and college events.

Wrapping up the college connection is director Jonel Langenfeld, Theatre Department professor who teaches classes in Acting/Directing, Movement/Fitness for the Actor, Storytelling and Developmental Drama.

She is also the director of the Expressive Arts Therapy minor and well-known locally for continuing Rosemary Nesbitt’s storytelling tradition with the annual Tales of the Haunted Harbor.

Nancy Fox, alum and former Tyler Box Office manager and adjunct faculty for the Department of Theatre is executive director of CNY Arts Center who is serving as assistant producing organization for “The Great Rope.”

Rounding out the cast of leads and possibly future SUNY students are 11-year-old Maya Sprague, playing Carlos, and 8-year-old Payton Ellingwood, playing Joel.

Maya, who had her stage debut as the title character in the premiere of “Yes, Virginia…the Musical” at CNY Arts Center, will enter the sixth grade at Kingsford Park School in the fall and loves basketball and acting.

A fourth grader at Riley Elementary School, Payton’s acting experience includes playing a little piggy in kindergarten and assisting his four sisters in producing and performing their own plays and skits at home.

The Great Rope Play will be presented one performance only, August 2 at 6 p.m. on the Fort Ontario Parade Grounds.

Audiences are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets.

Rain date is August 3.

Tickets are available at river’s end bookstore and Man in the Moon Candies in Oswego, Arts in the Heart Gallery in Fulton, H. Lee White Marine Museum and Fort Ontario Historic Site (both in Oswego).

For more information, visit, or or call 592-3373.