Posts Tagged ‘The Man Who Planted Trees’

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The Man Who Planted Trees – An Inspiration to Us All

March 19, 2010
There were four school performances of The Man Who Planted Trees at the Crossroads Theatre over March 16th and 17th. There were approximately 940 people there over the two days in grades 1 through 6 and every single person that walked out of the theater loved the show. Anybody who has seen the show is quick to tell you that the dog, who is one of the best puppets I’ve ever seen in theater, is their favorite part. The play follows the narrator, Jean, through France in the early to mid-1900s and through both World Wars, but he always manages to return to visit Elzéard Bouffier and his little dog. We watch as Elzéard plants hundreds of thousands of trees of all types all over southern France and turns a dry, barren expanse into a lush green area. To help us experience the change, the actors waft lavender throughout the auditorium and explain that in the original climate, the only thing that can grow is lavender, a durable plant that doesn’t need much water. Later, we are shown the new forest when we are misted with “rain” and get to experience a truly woodsy scent as it’s dispersed throughout the audience by one of the actors.

The adults and the children in the audience laughed at the dog’s comedic relief and watched in awe as the simple set, originally covered in brown fabrics, is transformed into bright green trees and landscape. While a very simple show, The Man Who Planted Trees showed that you don’t need special effects to connect with an audience and get them to enjoy the show.

—Jennifer Cunha, Education Assistant

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State Theatre presents school performances of Harold and the Purple Crayon and more for 2009-2010

June 9, 2009

Now that the 2008-2009 education season has wrapped up, we are well on our way to putting out information about next season’s shows. We’ve got some orders in already and school’s not even out! The 2009-2010 education season is looking to be a great one, seeing some familiar titles like The Grapes of Wrath, Harold and the Purple Crayon, The Nutcracker, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. We’ve also got some shows that you may not have heard of, including MacHomer, a one-man version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth told in the voices of characters from The Simpsons. Also, The Man Who Planted Trees a show based on a children’s book about a man who makes it his life’s work to plant trees all over the south of France. Although it’s still very early and we have just put these shows and several others on sale, we already seem to have some favorites including The Very Hungry Caterpillar and other Eric Carle Favorites for the preK-3rd grade crowd. This is a return event for us and already we have some big orders for the 3 performances. For older students, it looks like the returning of performance poets and New Jersey’s own the Mayhem Poets will be a favorite. They will be here to help us celebrate National Poetry Month in April. You can find more information about the entire education season at http://www.statetheatrenj.org/education/performancesschools.asp.

–Jenn Cunha, Education

The State Theatre is located at 15 Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick, NJ. For information or to purchase tickets call 732-246-SHOW(7469) or visit http://www.statetheatrenj.org/. Check us out on Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace.

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Report from the Children’s Theatre Showcase: Cleveland Rocks (But Sometimes It Doesn’t)

January 30, 2009

Last week in Cleveland I attended the IPAY Showcase of theater for young audiences. I got to see full-length performances of music, dance, drama, and physical theater from the U.S., Canada, Australia, Scotland, Denmark, and Israel. In all, I saw 14 shows in 4 days. Seeing the full-length performances was extremely valuable in helping to decide which shows we want to book for the State Theatre and (just as important) which ones NOT to book. As I’ve indicated in a previous post, you have to sit through a lot of mediocre/bad children’s theater in order to discover the real treasures. This year’s IPAY Showcase was no exception. 

Unfortunately, there were two productions—one from Australia and the other from the Republic of Congo—that were not allowed to perform at Showcase due to the U.S. Immigration Department’s refusal to grant them a work visa. I’ve seen the Australian show on DVD and it was so fantastic we will probably book it anyway if it ever tours to the U.S. 

My favorite performance at Showcase was The Man Who Planted Trees, from Scotland. The two actor/puppeteers have created a brilliant adaptation of Jean Giono’s short story about a French shepherd who devotes his life to transforming a barren wasteland into a fertile paradise by planting thousands and thousands of trees. The production is exactly what I look for in a show for young audiences. First and foremost, it’s an imaginative piece of theater, expertly performed. Yes, there’s an important message about caring for the environment, but it’s seamlessly integrated into the storytelling; the audience is never made to feel as if we’re sitting in a classroom instead of a theater. The star of the show is a dog puppet who was perhaps the funniest, cutest, and most talented performer in the entire showcase. 

The Man Who Planted Trees ended up winning the Showcase Audience Choice Award. This is a pretty big honor since the voters are all theater professionals. We’ve been trying to bring the show to New Brunswick ever since my boss, Wes Brustad, saw it at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland a couple of years ago. I’m thrilled to report that it will be on our 2009-10 season! 

Besides seeing lots and lots of showcases, I also attended sessions addressing important issues in the field of performing arts for young people. Particularly relevant to me was a conversation about the changing role of education directors at performing arts centers; many of us are seeing our jobs evolve beyond programming performances for schools to becoming an instrument for community outreach and engagement. We didn’t arrive at any earth-shaking solutions, but it was helpful to hear that many of my colleagues are grappling with the same concerns as I am. 

 —Lian Farrer, Vice President for Education

The State Theatre is located at 15 Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick, NJ. For information or to purchase tickets call 732-246-SHOW(7469) or visit http://www.statetheatrenj.org/.

Check us out on Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace.