The Livingston County Historical Society premiered “Wicket Ways,” a play written and directed by Conesus resident Ruth Henry, on Oct. 1 at The Riviera Theatre. Henry was inspired to write “Wicket Ways” after a 2014 croquet match. It just so happens that Geneseo was home to the American Croquet Company, which manufactured 90 percent of America’s croquet sets in the 1860s.
Set in 1895, Henry’s play takes local history and historical figures in order to explore the relationships between them. The first of the notable figures is William Pryor Letchworth, played by Brian Lewis. Letchworth lived from 1823-1910 and was a businessman who bequeathed his estate, which is now the heart of Letchworth State Park. He’s known for his humanitarian efforts and various published works.
Clara Barton, played by Hannah May Henry, lived from 1821-1912. Founder of the American Red Cross, Barton worked as a nurse in the Civil War.
Perhaps most well-known to Rochester natives, however, is George Eastman, played by Chris Norton. Eastman lived from 1854-1932 and was an innovator and entrepreneur who founded the Eastman Kodak Company, popularizing the use of roll film.
Caroline Bishop, played by Tamara Albert, was a teacher, secretary and eventual executive assistant to Letchworth. Alive from 1849-1926, Bishop took over as the superintendent of Letchworth State Park after Letchworth’s death in 1910.
Rounding out the cast of main characters is John Rorbach—played by Dennis Dawson—Colonel of the New York 104th Regiment of NY Volunteers and president of the American Croquet Factory.
Gathered in what is now Letchworth State Park’s Glen Iris Inn, the characters are supposed to be enjoying a simple game of croquet. For most—since croquet was one of the few sports in which both women and men could compete equally—the game is an opportunity to flirt and to consider possible suitors.
The show was accompanied by the music of Geoff Clough, who proved excellent in the task of creating historically believable, yet contemporary tunes that kept the audience interested and engaged.
The play entertains the fascinating question of how this particular group of historically important figures would have interacted with each other. Placing the play at the Glen Iris—which is still in operation—allows for the audience to better picture the scene.
“Wicket Ways” provides a much-needed appreciation for Geneseo’s local history and the effect it has had on the country as a whole.