Skip to content

Keuka College News

How Did Walt Bates Die?

Jessamine Qualman (l) in a scene with Mackenzie Ellis.

Keuka College’s fall theater production will be Lanford Wilson’s mystery Book of Days.

The play will be staged Oct. 27-30 in the College’s Red Barn Theatre. The Oct. 27 performance will benefit the cast members’ trip to the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in January.

“It’s a revisit of small-town mid-America with conservative ethics in a crucial life-threatening situation,” said Mark Wenderlich, professor of theatre and director of the production. “It deals with not only black and white, but a lot of shades of gray of truth and how people see things.”

The story revolves around Dublin, a quiet Missouri town with more churches than bars, and a cheese factory at the center of commerce.

When the owner of the cheese factory, pillar of the community Walt Bates, dies suddenly in what appears to be a hunting accident, the plant’s bookkeeper Ruth suspects foul play. Like the tornado that tears through Dublin in the first act, she launches an investigation into Walt’s death that begins to tear the town apart. But Dublin’s intricate system of loyalties means that no one—not the local sheriff, not even Bates’ grieving window—wants to face the possibility of treachery among their own.

Members of the cast include: Jessamine Qualman (Ruth Hoch), a junior unified childhood/special education major from Glassboro, N.J.; Elijah Snipes (Len Hoch), a sophomore psychology major from Rochester; Mackenzie Ellis (Martha Hoch), a freshman exploratory major from Owego; Caleigh Alterio (Sharon Bates), a sophomore occupational science major from Akron; Jacob Banas (Walt Bates), a freshman exploratory major from Delmar; Kelsey R. Marquart (LouAnn Bates), a senior English major from Auburn; Seth Case (Earl Hill), a freshman unified childhood education major from Newark; Samantha Gavin (Boyd Middleton), a criminology/criminal justice major from Andover; Makenna Moon (Ginger Reed), a senior political science/history major from Atlanta; Logan Ackerley (Reverend Bobby Groves), a sophomore political science/history major from Liberty; and Darryl Hamlin (Sheriff Conroy Atkins), a junior mathematics major from Syracuse.

Brian Cobb '08, M'11 portrays James Bates in the fall theatrical production "Book of Days."

Penn Yan resident Brian Cobb ’08, M’11 will return to his alma mater to portray James Bates in the production. Cobb teaches English at Penn Yan Middle School.

Costumes for the performance are designed by Crystal Cochell, a senior visual and verbal art major from Trumansburg. P. Gibson Ralph, lighting designer, is an associate professor of theatre at SUNY Brockport, while Dan Roach, sound and projection designer, has worked with the Eastman Opera production of Inherit the Wind.

Danica Zielinski, a sophomore American Sign Language-English interpreting major from Congers, serves as stage manager and set designer. Sierra Lynch, a sophomore criminology/criminal justice major serves as sound board manager while Erica Ruscio, a junior visual and verbal art and English major, will manage the light board.

According to Wenderlich, the set has multiple locations that must flow from one area to the other quickly, such as from someone’s house to a church. Called a unit set, it functions as a representational or symbolic place, and projections on a screen will reinforce that.

“This is three-quarter round—with the audience on three sides of it—and Danica has to work with other theater professionals,” said Wenderlich. “Dan Roach is a professional sound designer and Danica had to design a surface upon which they can project, which is what those arches are onstage. It’s a stunning visual.”

Roach's light design showcased in Zielinski's unit set.

Tickets are $4 for members of the Keuka College community and $7 for the general public. All seats for the Oct. 27 performance are $7, and are available at the box office or online at:

Leave a Reply

All comments are governed by the Community Standards.
Want your photo next to your name?