A creepy life-size figurine in the lobby at Clark Street Playhouse. I was there to see a small production called The Tree Project that I’d heard about, mostly because the art in the lobby featured Tina Seamonster and Kristina Bilonick and other artists.
The website for the play was intriguingly cryptic. I kept trying to find out more by asking Tina but interestingly enough she didn’t know much about the play herself. By the website description, it sounded like something I really needed to see because of where my mind’s been: “When you die, your memories go to a BIG TREE. An original performance piece (part play, part installation) about the myth of memory, The Tree Project follows an experience of death through life’s memories.”
It was dark, a little dizzying, many moments of extreme silence and noise, very intimate and incredibly dramatic. The audience seating consisted of a few benches and sparse, uncomfortable wooden chairs surrounding the space. At times my personal space felt borderline challenged (in a good way) just because I could feel the breeze of the actors’ beings whisking by me while they briskly switched scenes in the dark.
The opening scene was quite memorable – the audience was cloaked in complete darkness, and from another room came the sad, bone-dry sound of an attic piano being played offstage. A man rushes in, and blurts out the lonely phrase “How to start…?” which then echoes itself on a tape recorder several times around him, before he finally concludes with “…a funeral?”
It was rather gorgeous thinking back on it. The sound effects were great, very percussive and industrial as if the actors were rapping on tin pails and machinery. The final scene was by far the most moving, the way the actress describes a moment so ordinary and yet one that captures the simple joys of life so beautifully.
Afterwards, it was hard to tell for certain if the play was over. The audience (all of 3 couples) lingered a moment amid the orange glow of the set before trickling out. As we entered the lobby, there was a curious scene… a small crowd of people (all the actors) huddled around a little table in the lobby, furiously writing. I realized they were scrawling fragments and memories onto sheets of paper and taping them onto a wall in the lobby. As we scribbled our own memories down, we also met Dan the director who was incredibly affable, soft-spoken and very nice.
This play happens almost every night until Saturday, June 7, the closing night when there will be a party in the lobby after the performance and La Tasca, the Spanish tapas restaurant, will be catering! Above is one of Tina Seamonster’s works, which decorated the artspace in the lobby, along with others.