AN OAK TREE
by Tim Crouch
directed by Mark Lerman
Wed April 4 - Sat April 14
Firehouse Theatre is proud to present the regional premiere of Tim Crouch's play AN OAK TREE. This unique performance experience revolves around a traveling hypnotist who discovers that the volunteer he's called up from the audience for his show is the father of a girl he accidentally killed in a car accident. As Crouch explains, for the grieving father "nothing now is what it is. It’s like he’s in a play – but he doesn’t know the words or the moves."
Crouch named his play AN OAK TREE after Michael Craig-Martin's famous conceptual artwork from the '70s (pictured to the right). Craig-Martin's AN OAK TREE is installed in two units – a glass of water on a glass shelf with text mounted on the wall below it. The text takes the form of a Q&A where Craig-Martin describes changing "a glass of water into a full-grown oak tree without altering the elements of the glass of water," and explains that "the actual oak tree is physically present but in the form of the glass of water." Craig-Martin's work originated in his view that the artist speaks to a receptive viewer/listener.
In Firehouse's production of AN OAK TREE Landon Nagel performs the role of the Hypnotist. As Crouch requires in his text, the role of the Father will be "played" by a different guest actor at each performance. The guest actor will walk onstage without having any prior knowledge of the play they’re now in. As Crouch says, "AN OAK TREE is a breathtaking projection of a performance given from one actor to another, from a hypnotist to their subject, from an audience to a person."
AN OAK TREE won the Herald Angel award when it premiered at the 2005 Edinburgh Festival. It was a sold-out hit at the Barrow Street Theatre in NYC in 2006/2007 and received a Special Citation OBIE award. It went on to break box office records during its run at Soho Theatre in London. AN OAK TREE has toured the world and over 250 actors have appeared in the role of the Father including Mike Myers, Alan Cumming, Frances McDormand, Roger Lloyd Pack, Joan Allen, F. Murray Abraham, Lili Taylor, Sophie Okonedo, Linda Bassett, Saskia Reeves, David Morrissey, and Kwame Kwei-Armah.
Hypnotist - Landon Nagel
Father - Guest actors who'll perform the role at one of the performances are Aaron Anderson, Brandon Carter, Audra Honaker, Boomie Pedersen, Tawnya Pettiford-Wates, Alan Sader, Foster Solomon, and Tyler Stevens.
Mark Lerman - Director
Tennessee Dixon - Production Designer
Robbie Kinter - Sound Designer
Todd Labelle - Lighting Designer
Lori Seman - Stage Manager
Wed April 4 @ 7:30pm (preview)
Thu April 5 @ 7:30pm (press opening)
Fri, April 6 @ 7:30pm
Sat April 7 @ 7:30pm
Sun April 8 @ 4pm
Thu April 12 @ 7:30pm
Fri April 13 @ 7:30pm
Sat April 14 @ 7:30pm
Since the second actor who performs the role of “Father” is new and must not know anything about the show we had to recruit rehearsal
actors from among our colleagues in the professional acting
community to come to rehearse with us, even though by doing so they would be disqualified from being part of the performance run.
This AN OAK TREE is a direct result of the input and feedback we received from the following actors who worked with us during rehearsals: Addie Barnhart, Emma Givens, Bryant Pugh, Jeff Darland, Brian Bassett, Wes Seals, Andy Wynn, Janel Miley, Happy Mahaney, Jennings Rice, Daniel Moore, Elyse Jolley, and Chauntee' Schuler Irving.
Michael Craig-Martin's An Oak Tree
Q. To begin with, could you describe this work?
A. Yes, of course. What I’ve done is change a glass of water into a full-grown oak tree without altering the accidents of the glass of water.
Q. The accidents?
A. Yes. The colour, feel, weight, size …
Q. Do you mean that the glass of water is a symbol of an oak tree?
A. No. It’s not a symbol. I’ve changed the physical substance of the glass of water into that of an oak tree.
Q. It looks like a glass of water.
A. Of course it does. I didn’t change its appearance. But it’s not a glass of water, it’s an oak tree.
Q. Can you prove what you’ve claimed to have done?
A. Well, yes and no. I claim to have maintained the physical form of the glass of water and, as you can see, I have. However, as one normally looks for evidence of physical change in terms of altered form, no such proof exists.
Q. Haven’t you simply called this glass of water an oak tree?
A. Absolutely not. It is not a glass of water anymore. I have changed its actual substance. It would no longer be accurate to call it a glass of water. One could call it anything one wished but that would not alter the fact that it is an oak tree.
Q. Isn’t this just a case of the emperor’s new clothes?
A. No. With the emperor’s new clothes people claimed to see something that wasn’t there because they felt they should. I would be very surprised if anyone told me they saw an oak tree.
Q. Was it difficult to effect the change?
A. No effort at all. But it took me years of work before I realised I could do it.
Q. When precisely did the glass of water become an oak tree?
A. When I put the water in the glass.
Q. Does this happen every time you fill a glass with water?
A. No, of course not. Only when I intend to change it into an oak tree.
Q. Then intention causes the change?
A. I would say it precipitates the change.
Q. You don’t know how you do it?
A. It contradicts what I feel I know about cause and effect.
Q. It seems to me that you are claiming to have worked a miracle. Isn’t that the case?
A. I’m flattered that you think so.
Q. But aren’t you the only person who can do something like this?
A. How could I know?
Q. Could you teach others to do it?
A. No, it’s not something one can teach.
Q. Do you consider that changing the glass of water into an oak tree constitutes an art work?
Q. What precisely is the art work? The glass of water?
A. There is no glass of water anymore.
Q. The process of change?
A. There is no process involved in the change.
Q. The oak tree?
A. Yes. The oak tree.
Q. But the oak tree only exists in the mind.
A. No. The actual oak tree is physically present but in the form of the glass of water. As the glass of water was a particular glass of water, the oak tree is also a particular oak tree. To conceive the category ‘oak tree’ or to picture a particular oak tree is not to understand and experience what appears to be a glass of water as an oak tree. Just as it is imperceivable it also inconceivable.
Q. Did the particular oak tree exist somewhere else before it took the form of a glass of water?
A. No. This particular oak tree did not exist previously. I should also point out that it does not and will not ever have any other form than that of a glass of water.
Q. How long will it continue to be an oak tree?
A. Until I change it.