A forbidden love affair. A sibling you never knew. This family tree drips with Spanish moss and mystery in Horizon Theatre Company’s 27th season closer, Tree by award-winning playwright Julie Hébert, running September 16 to October 16. Secrets are revealed when two strangers, siblings by blood, uncover their parents’ hidden truths and make the difficult choices to stop living in the footprints of others. The professional Southeastern premiere of Tree runs Wednesdays through Sundays at Horizon Theatre in Little Five Points (1083 Austin Avenues NE, 30307, corner of Euclid and Austin Avenues). Tree will have you on the edge of your seat as you unravel the mystery of this family tree!
In a stash of love letters, a mystery is born that brings Didi, a white professor of gender studies, all the way from the bayous of Baton Rouge to the Chicago home of Leo, a divorced African-American chef caring for his ailing mother and free-spirited daughter. When these two strangers discover they are connected by blood, they must bridge the divides of race, gender and culture to weave together a common history from the unreliable threads of an old woman’s memories. In our supposedly post-racial world, this play reminds us that sometimes we have to know where we’ve come from to know who we are.
About the Playwright and the Play
“I set out to write a play about race and ended up writing a play about family,” says playwright Julie Hebert about Tree, “About the inescapability of family, of being known over time, of recognizing yourself in others, of continuing relationships after betrayal and suffering. In my family (and the one in this play), we have profound differences in our belief systems, our politics, our ways of life… and yet we find a way to sit at the same table. We keep each other honest. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes painful – and so it is with this play.”
Julie is a writer and director who divides her time between the Hollywood television and film scene and the regional stage. Tree premiered to critical acclaim and sold out houses in Los Angeles, produced by Ensemble Studio Theater-LA in 2009, and received its second major production last spring at Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago. In its premiere productions, Tree has been called, “moving, sophisticated and authentic” by the Chicago Tribune and “wry, complex and tender” by the LA Times. LA Weekly wrote of the play, “Go! Riveting family drama…Julie Hebert is a lovely writer.”
First a playwright, Julie has written for some of television’s most popular dramas, including Numb3rs, ER and Third Watch. Julie also wrote screenplays for “Female Perversions”, nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, and “Ruby’s Bucket of Blood”, a Showtime film based on Julie’s play, starring Angela Bassett. She has directed episodes of The West Wing, ER, Third Watch and Numb3rs. Her first work as a playwright, TRUE BEAUTIES, won the Bay Area Critics Circle Award for Best Play. She followed that success with the much-acclaimed ALMOST ASLEEP, RUBY’S BUCKET OF BLOOD, and THE KNEE DESIRES THE DIRT, which won a PEN Center Award for Drama.
In 2009, Julie had three plays premiere: TOUCH THE WATER, a commission with Cornerstone Theater about environmental justice, was performed on the banks of the Los Angeles River; ST. JOAN AND THE DANCING SICKNESS was performed in rep at the Open Fist; and Tree in its world premiere at Ensemble Studio Theater-LA.
The Director & Cast
“Tree is funny, touching, and a perfect fit for Horizon mission of bringing diverse audiences together for smart and provocative stories of our times,” says Tree’s director and Horizon Co-Artistic/Producing Director Lisa Adler. “The play is a mystery, a ghost story and a family drama with plenty of humor that bridges generations and cultures.”
“It also touches on issues that matter to many or our audience members: What we give up for love and to keep our family together – and how it helps or haunts us; The difficulty of change as we grow into people we never expected to be; The twisted pasts that all families share and the ways in which we negotiate our differences; Children and grandchildren coping with aging relatives and the honest challenges and unexpected gifts of care-taking; Generational attitudes about race relations – pre-Civil rights, Civil Rights, and Post-Civil Rights – and how they affect our actions; Secrets – why we bury them and the consequences of doing so. We hope audiences will be engrossed in the story we weave, and also come out ready to share their own stories – experiences that relate to the play with each other, their families, and their friends.”
Tree brings together a dynamic onstage family of Atlanta-based professional actors, including some Horizon favorites. Playing the matriarch Mrs. Jessalyn Price whose memories are unearthed is the Suzi Award-winning Donna Biscoe, most recently seen in Theatrical Outfit’s The Green Book and at Horizon in the 2009 production A Cool Drink A Water. Her chief care-giver and son, Leo Price, is Geoffrey Williams last seen at Horizon in Blue and who will appear in Alliance Theatre’s God of Carnage in the coming winter. Megan Hayes from Horizon’s Charm School and The Perfect Prayer and who will return to The Santaland Diaries for her second year this holiday season will play Didi, the professor who comes searching to solve the mystery her father left in letters. Closing out the cast is Joy Brunson as Leo’s college student daughter JJPrice. Joy, a graduate of Spelman College, is making her professional theatre debut in Tree.
The Creative Team
Creating a blended world of the lush Louisiana Bayou of a woman’s memory and the reality of a Chicago home are a creative team of Horizon family favorites. Suzi Award winning scenic design duo Moriah and Isabel Curley-Clay, props mistress extraordinaire MC Park, and Suzi Award-winning resident lighting designer Mary Parker all return to Horizon where they all last worked together on the summer’s smash hit, Avenue Q. Costume designer Nyrobi Moss, who won a Suzi in 2010 for Horizon’s Shakin’ the Mess Outta Misery and who recently designed Three Sistahs, returns for this contemporary ensemble play. Sound designer Thom Jenkins, another frequent Horizon collaborator, will design the atmospheric soundscape.
Critical Acclaim for Tree
“Hébert’s characters — profane and stubborn — have an ornery charm. Tree suggests that real families are the people who know you well enough to push you into becoming someone new.” – Los Angeles Times
“Moving, sophisticated, authentic and clearly grounded in empathy for those of us who must navigate the territory of messy families” – Chicago Tribune
“Wry, complex and tender…gets everything right.” – LA Times, Critic’s Choice
“GO! Riveting family drama…Hébert is a lovely writer.” – LA Weekly
“Julie’s work aims, certainly, for the heart, but it strikes more specifically, in the breath — the shock of breath when we become aware of all that animates us” –Todd London, New Dramatists
The play runs September 16 through October 16, Wed, Thurs and Fri at 8pm, Sat at 8:30pm and Sunday at 5pm. Sat at 3pm performances are Sept 24th and Oct 8th and others may be added. Tickets start as low as $20* (plus 8% sales tax) for general admission seats on weeknights. Prices are subject to availability, so get your tickets early for the best prices. Tickets and information are available at www.horizontheatre.com or 404-584-7450.
The Artistic Team/Cast
Directed by Lisa Adler
Jessalyn Price Donna Biscoe*
Didi Marcantel Megan Hayes
JJ Price Joy Brunson
Leo Price Geoffrey Williams*
*Members of Actors Equity Association
Tree Creative Team
Scenic Designer Isabel & Moriah Curley-Clay
Costume Designer Nyrobi Moss
Light Designer Mary Parker
Sound Designer Thom Jenkins
Prop Designer MC Park
Stage Manager Rodney Lamar Williams*