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The Syringa Tree

The Syringa Tree
Your Price: $17.95 CDN
Author: Pamela Gien
Publisher: Dramatists Play Service
Format: Softcover
# of Pages: 92
Pub. Date: 2002
ISBN-10: 0822217929
ISBN-13: 9780822217923
Cast Size: 1 female (or flexible casting)

About the Play:

Winner of the 2001 Obie Award for Best Play

The Syringa Tree is a full-length drama by Pamela Gien. The celebrated multi-generational play about two families in apartheid South Africa – one black, one white – connected by love but separated by racism. The Syringa Tree tells the dramatic, heartbreaking and inspiring tale of a young woman's journey into adulthood.

The Syringa Tree is a personal, deeply evocative story of an abiding love between two families, one white, one black, and the two children that are born into their shared household in the white suburbs Johannesburg during the turbulent 1960s in South Africa. The story is told from the point of view of Elizabeth Grace, or Lizzie, a privileged six-year-old white girl who doesn't yet understand the tensions and conflicts in the household shared with her parents, her brother and her beloved black nanny Salamina. Lizzie likes to sit on the swing hanging from the safe haven of a giant syringa tree in her backyard; the same tree in which those without "special paper" hide from the police and around which black activists hold secret meetings at night. After Salamina gives birth to a daughter, Lizzie and her family are responsible for keeping the newborn baby hidden. Lizzie tries with humour and palpable fear to make sense of the chaos and comes to learn about the harsh realities of the rigid system of racism and segregation known as apartheid. The story of these families' destinies spans four generations, from the early apartheid in the 1940s to the present-day free South Africa. As originally written and often performed by Pamela Gien, and directed by Larry Moss, one actress plays all twenty-four characters, black and white, male and female, young and old. The Syringa Tree may also be performed by a company of actors, playing several roles or not as desired.

The Syringa Tree began as an acting exercise by Pamela Gien in the Los Angeles acting studio run by Larry Moss, the well-known acting coach. It premiered in 1999 at A Contemporary Theatre (ACT) in Seattle, and opened in New York at Playhouse 91 in 2000, winning the Obie Award for Best Play while breaking off-Broadway box-office records. It has been produced by countless major theatre companies to enthusiastic audiences across North America and Europe.

Cast: 1 female (or flexible casting)

What people say:

"Instantly engaging, exotic, complex, deeply shocking…a thoroughly persuasive transport to a time and a place…stun[s] with the power of a gut punch…." — The New York Times

"A tour-de-force solo drama…emotionally powerful without being overtly political; audiences regularly emerge from the theater crying." — The New Yorker

"…The Syringa Tree is a powerful play." — Wall Street Journal

"Astonishing…affecting…[with] a dramatic and heartbreaking conclusion…A deceptive sweet simplicity haunts The Syringa Tree…." — Associated Press

"The work is a virtuoso piece…." — New York Daily News

"Tragic and funny, it is much more than a riveting exposé of South Africa in its darkest hour. It is a play full of humanity, with an emotional punch that leaves the audience awakened and changed." — Backstage

About the Playwright:

Pamela Gien is an American playwright and actress who was born and raised in South Africa. Her acting credits include roles ranging from soaps to Shakespeare. She is the recipient of the Obie Award for Best Play 2001.