Pre-show lecture: 7:15pm
Location: First Presbyterian Church of Dryden, 6 North Street, Dryden, NY
Dryden, N.Y. - On the evening of February 28th, the Cornell Savoyards will perform a musical, in concert, called Jennie's Will at the First Presbyterian Church of Dryden, 6 North Street, Dryden, NY. The show is about Dryden heiress, Jennie McGraw, her brief marriage and early death. Originally commissioned for the bicentennial of the Town of Dryden in 1997, and written by locals Mark Simon and Pamela Monk, Jennie's Will is being performed in honor of Cornell's sesquicentennial and being brought to Dryden for one performance only.
The opera centers on an early episode in Cornell University's history. Jennie McGraw, daughter of Dryden timber tycoon John McGraw, was an early benefactress of Cornell. She donated the set of chimes which still ring on the university campus. Willard Fiske, Cornell's first librarian, was a scholar with knowledge of over fifty languages. When Willard first met Jennie in 1869, he immediately began writing love poems about her in secret. Their differing social status made it impossible for them to marry, until her zealously overprotective father died. They married in 1880, but Jenny died eighteen months later of tuberculosis. A protracted legal battle ensued between Cornell and Willard Fiske over her estate, which was eventually won by Fiske in the Supreme Court of the United States. The wounds caused by this fight never fully healed. Many contemporaries considered Fiske a gold digger who married Jennie for her money. The debate among local citizens continues to this day.
The show is being brought to Dryden with the help of the Dryden Town Historical Society. A special treat will be a pre-show lecture by Corey Earle, Associate Director of Student Programs at Cornell, and Mary Ellen Rumsey, President of the Southworth Library board of trustees. They will provide background about Cornell, local history about Jennie McGraw and her ties to Dryden, and information about the lawsuit that ensued after her death.
Directed by: Rachel Hockett (artistic) and William Cowdery (music). Cast: Karen Wonder Dumont (Jennie) and Mark Lawrence (Willard Fiske) as well as Robin Booth, Geoffrey Peterson, Elizabeth Banlaki Frank, Doug Mathews, Stan Stewart, Kristen Park, Katrina Kuka, and Daniel A. P. Taylor.
Doors open at 6:45 PM. The pre-show lecture will begin at 7:15 PM and the concert will start at 8 PM. Refreshments will be available.
Tickets: $10 adults; $5 students; $25 family pass. For more information, contact: Kris Park, (607) 844-4039.
Pictured: Karen Wonder Dumont as Jennie McGraw (photo credit, Elizabeth Frank)