Wednesday, October 14, 2009

‘The Syringa Tree’ to open at Liberty

One-woman show tells story of South African life

Express Staff Writer

Company of Fools’ core company artist Denise Simone puts on a one-woman show for “The Syringa Tree.” Photo by Kirsten Shultz

Company of Fools' core company artist Denise Simone will perform a 95-minute, one-woman production of "The Syringa Tree" beginning Oct. 21 and running into November.

The play by Pamela Gien takes place in 1963 in South Africa and tells the story of two families, one black and one white, and the children born to both households who grow up together to the present day. It is a type of storytelling that engages the audience and draws on human emotion. The set is a raked stage with a swing, which is Simone's only physical apparatus on stage.

The play has 23 characters, whom Simone represents through dialect, body movement and characterization.

"It's like training for a marathon," Simone said. "I'm testing my body. I'm always aware of what needs to change and what needs to be tweaked."

As Simone channels the people of this rich and volatile South Africa life, she reveals a universal message of tolerance and the idea of good and evil not being the color of one's skin.

"It is storytelling in its purest form," said director John Glenn. "It is a very present play, full of life and easy to follow."

The story quickly draws the audience in from the moment the lights on stage go up because Simone is having a conversation between 6-year old Lizzy and her beloved nanny, Salamina. Salamina is pregnant and gives birth to Moliseng, which means, "protect her, leave her alone." The baby's name is never said outside of the home. This secret harbored by a 6-year old is a window into apartheid.

There is humor, suspense and lots of heart to be felt in this production of "The Syringa Tree." The play won a 2001 Obie Award for Best Play and ultimately became a novel based on the one-act play.

"The Syringa Tree" will open on Wednesday, Oct. 21, with Pay What You Feel ticket pricing at the Liberty Theatre in Hailey. The production will continue through Sunday, Nov. 8. Tickets are $25 for adults, $18 for seniors (62 and over) and $10 for students (18 and under). Groups of six or more receive reduced rates. For a complete schedule of performances and ticket prices, including Educator Nights and Girlfriend's Night Out, visit or call 788-6520.

Sabina Dana Plasse:

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