Elmer is a city-dweller who loses his job, wanders into the countryside, and learns to revive a desolate landscape – and his own happiness. The tale is told by two forest beings who transform into all the characters from Elmer’s life: mother, boss, a wise nomad, a young woman, and of course – an Elder tree. But these beings can’t do it alone: the audience becomes both the show’s reason for being told, and players in it.
The tale is inspired by Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree” and Jean Giorno’s “The Man Who Planted Trees” and features original music by Aaron Sherwood, Peter Buchanan, and Wayne Smith.
“It was wonderful how the children were captivated by the narrative and willing participants in the play… The mural making workshop that incorporated [their] interpretations… was a beautiful reflection of their imaginations.” – Stephanie Ciccarello, Wetlands Administrator/Energy Task Force Coordinator and organizer of the Fourth Annual Renewable Energy Fair, Town of Amherst
“Engaging, interactive, simple, and straightforward – you don’t often see performances like this…where children get to use their imagination.” – Penny Burke, Executive Director, Northampton Center for the Arts
“A great show…colorful costumes and inventive set design set the scene for this nature fable..expressive dance to senseful music and a few heartfelt words tell the tale of Elmer and his Elder tree.” – Tonya Lemos, Founder, The Children’s Art Museum, and Director, Blazing Star Herbal School
“We loved Elmer and the Elder Tree – it was very interactive, the students were totally engaged with the production. They liked having the 5th graders be a part of it.” – Sandra Wyner, Principal, Zanetti Montessori Magnet School, Springfield, MA
“I have been impressed with the ambition and artistic integrity of their performances.” – Leo Hwang-Carlos, Associate Dean of Humanities, Greenfield Community College
Production Requirements: A minimum 20′ wide by 15′ deep by 12′ tall indoor or outdoor playing space – raised stage not required plus sound system capacity.
Length: 55 minutes
“Your show has given us lots of ideas about ways to appreciate and take care of our Earth.” – Margaret Riddle, Principal, R.K.Finn Ryan Road Elementary School
Beyond being a lot of fun, Elmer and the Elder Tree is an interactive learning event. In creating the story of Elmer and his tree, we researched the historical and contemporary uses of Elder trees and found a lot more than Elderberry tea; much of this research has found its way into the story.
The play is also about an ecosystem in crisis and one human being’s efforts to improve the situation. Shortly after Elmer’s arrival in a barren countryside, our audience becomes a group of villagers driven from their farms by drought. He doesn’t realize it at first but by planting one seed and nurturing a tree, our protagonist has created better living conditions for more organisms than just himself. Elmer experiences how trees help retain moisture in the soil, create food for insects, birds and animals, and how one tree leads to many.
By experiencing Elmer’s discoveries as a story, students get a chance to understand ecosystems, plant life, and humanity’s effect on the natural world (and vice versa) in a fresh way. Follow up workshops help to reinforce this learning and give young people a chance to put their own artistic and intellectual stamp on the show.
Thank You Sponsors!
Arvest Press, The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (Community Grand Making Fund and Credit Data Services, Inc. Fund), Massachusetts Cultural Council, Northeast Herbal Association (2009 Lyn Li Reisen Memorial Grant), Shelburne Falls Business Association, Western Massachusetts Electric Company, and Dr. Hauschka Skin Care