Passages in the Life of an Unpractical Man

Photo credit: Renee DeKona

one-man play by

Gerry Wright



36 Perkins St., PO Box 300040, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130-0030

Gerry Wright, Founder and President

Telephone: 617-524-7070


TTY/MA RELAY 800-439-2370


Celebrating Olmsted's Legacy:

"A hundred years after his death, America continues to be challenged with issues of social justice, health and conservation for which Olmsted was a most persevering, principled pioneer."
Frederick Law Olmsted oil painting by John Singer Sargent, 1895.

Gerry Wright has researched, written and produced a one-man show honoring the life and work of Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of landscape architecture. The play provides insights into Olmsted's passionate vision as he played critical roles in the dynamics of slavery as a writer, Executive Secretary of the U.S. Sanitary Commission in the Civil War, and as the landscape architect for New York City's Central Park, Boston's Emerald Necklace, the US Capitol grounds, along with multiple plans for colleges, communities and private estates.  Olmsted was a key pioneer in the movement to preserve land as national parkland, both at Yosemite and Niagara Falls.

Olmsted's life story from "vagabond" to dry goods salesman, sailor, farmer, traveler, journalist, author, publisher, executive (including a goldmine in California), to becoming the father of landscape architecture in America is both inspiring as history and reason for continued commitment in the 21st century.    

 “Passages in the Life of an Unpractical Man” has toured from the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site in Brookline, Massachusetts to the New Horizons Project in Vologda, Russia; Derby Academy in Hingham, MA to the New York City Central Park Celebration, Olmsted Parks Conservancy in Louisville, Kentucky to the "Biltmore" in Ashville, North Carolina.

Olmsted at Maryland Humanities Council "Chautauqua" in July 2010
"Beyond Boundaries"   Gerry Wright as Frederick Law Olmsted
Germantown Campus of Montgomery College Video on YouTube

The vision, purpose, and goal is to present a view into the life and works of Frederick Law Olmsted as akin to music, where in moments there will be silence, to be observed quietly with a mixture of thoughts and emotions. Perhaps we might say that the attempt is to create a "symphonic landscape" of Olmsted's life.

The stage setting includes a bed -- as a symbol of Olmsted's illnesses, "handicap" and compassion for humanity, book table -- for a Ralph Waldo Emerson book, a gift from Elizabeth Baldwin, chair -- for three critical passages in Olmsted's life, a desk and chair -- as a symbol of Olmsted's prolific writings, and a coat stand -- for both Olmsted's formal attire and work jackets and hats, indicating the breadth and depth to which he immersed himself in society. The play is approximately one hour long.

Click image for larger version and to download.

Photos by Renee DeKona

Gerry Wright:

The play is written, directed, and acted by Gerry Wright, who has been immersed in the work of conservation and human services for 50 years. Gerry Wright works in areas of human services, environmental advocacy, international relations.  In the 1960s he founded DARE Incorporated, a nonprofit agency in Massachusetts which pioneered new community services for adolescents with social and emotional problems due to poverty and neglect.  He has also championed projects that foster international communication, beginning at the time he ran the Moscow Marathon in 1982, and co-founded the Worldwide Running Club for Peace with the president of the Moscow Running Club.  He has received numerous awards, including the 2008 Robert F. Kennedy Embracing the Legacy Award and named Father of Community Based Caring in Massachusetts by president of the State Senate.  Wright is founder and president of Friends of Jamaica Pond and has been portraying Frederick Law Olmsted since 2003.  He holds a BS from the forestry school at the Univeristy of Maine and a MS in wildlife conservation from Cornell University, Further graduate study include philosophy, theology, sociology, psychology, and clinical counseling at Boston University and Harvard University.


Produced and presented in honor of the 20th anniversary of The Jamaica Pond Project; the work of Christine Cooper and Charles Hauck at Jamaica Pond; in honor of the memory of Justine Liff, Boston Park Commissioner; the Boston Park Rangers, the staff of the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site; and all citizens who are stewards of our parklands.

Gerry extends heartfelt appreciation to his family, Emily Tisei of the Jamaica Pond Project and the many others who have helped contribute to a meaningful, educational, and entertaining experience

Presentations and Fees:

Perfomances, School Assemblies & Residencies, Teacher Workshops
30 minute performance followed by question period for libraries, garden clubs and environment nonprofit groups
Roving performances and appearances at festivals, receptions and benefits

75 minute theater performances with lighting, costumes and props.  
Plus site specific researched references and play adaptations.

Contact Gerry Wright for details and fees at Telephone: 617-524-7070 Email:

FREDERICK LAW OLMSTED: Passages in the Life of an Unpractical Man

Play Outline (60-75 minutes):

Introduction: Fred Olmsted, New Haven, 1845

Prologue: McLean Hospital, 1898

Act One: April 26, 1822-1846

Scene 1: Family: Mother, Father, Brother John, Grandfather

Scene 2: Schooling

Scene 3: New York

Scene 4: At Sea "A Voice from the Sea"

Scene 5: Friendships: Charles Brace, Fred Kingsbury, John

Scene 6: Romances: Elizabeth Baldwin & Farming

Act Two: 1847-1857

Scene 1: Sachem's Head Farm

Scene 2: Staten Island Farm: Johnís Marriage to Mary

Scene 3: England

Scene 4: "Walks and Talks of an American Farmer In England"

Scene 5: Southern Travels: Brother John

Scene 6: Writer, Publisher

Act Three: 1857-1861

Scene 1: Inn, Connecticut Coast

Scene 2: Campaign for Superintendent, Central Park

Scene 3: Death of brother; Children: John Charles, Charlotte, Owen Frederick

Scene 4: Calvert Vaux: "Greensward," Andrew Haswell Green

Scene 5: Central Park; Marriage: Mary; Carriage Accident

Scene 6: Conflicts, Personal & National, Edwin Lawrence Godkin

Act Four: 1861-1865

Scene 1: Civil War & Sanitary Commission; Henry Whitney Bellows

Scene 2: Conflicts: In Battle & Bureaucracy

Scene 3: Hospital Transport Ships

Scene 4: Conflicts & Termination; George Templeton Strong

Scene 5: Mariposa Gold Mine

Scene 6: Yosemite; "The Nation"

Act Five: 1865-1881

Scene 1: Calvert Vaux: Prospect Park

Scene 2: "Olmsted and Vaux, Landscape Architects" Parks, Parkways Universities, Asylums, Estates, Communities

Scene 3: Split with Vaux/Father's Death

Scene 4: Illness; Children: Marion, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., John C. Charlotte, Owen F.

Scene 5: Conflicts & Termination

Scene 6: "Spoils of the Park"

Act Six: 1881-1898

Scene 1: Metropolitan Boston; Adirondacks, Buffalo, Rochester, and Niagara, New York

Scene 2: Stanford University: Leland Stanford, Harry Codman

Scene 3: Biltmore Estate: Vanderbilt, Hunt, Pinchot

Scene 4: World's Columbian Exposition, 1893; Louisville, Kentucky

Scene 5: Death of Brace; letter to Elizabeth Baldwin Whitney; Recognitions: Harvard, Yale, Local & National

Scene 6: Struggles with Son, Death of Vaux

Epilogue: McLean Hospital, 1903

Click images for larger version and to download.

Black and white photo credit: John Swan. Color photos credit: Steven Sternbach



Gerry Wright at 617-524-7070 or email


Saying Goodbye To The Historic Olmsted Elm
at the Olmsted National Historic Site

Interview with Gerry Wright on NPR - WBUR

Frederick Law Olmsted -- one man play by Gerry Wright flyer PDF click here

Frederick Law Olmsted -- one man play by Gerry Wright media reviews PDF click here


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 Photographs and Video Clip

Click image for larger version and to download. Photos by Renee DeKona

Video clip excerpts from performance at the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site in Brookline on August 31, 2003.
DVD high resolution versions of the entire performance available upon request.
Click on image to view or download video.

Olmsted Play Video Image

YouTube version at

Olmsted at Maryland Humanities Council "Chautauqua" in July 2010
"Beyond Boundaries"   Gerry Wright as Frederick Law Olmsted
Germantown Campus of Montgomery College Video on YouTube

Frederick Law Olmsted -- one man play by Gerry Wright

Programs Description

Calendar and Tour Schedule

Travels to Louisville, Knntucky and Ashville, North Carolina

Teacher Guide, Links and Resources

Friends of Frederick Law Olmsted

Sample Press Release

Opinion on New York Central Park Mission


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