It's taken four years to move the idea for this play from the playwright's mind to the stage. The Tree Play has been blessed by the participation of some of the best area artists a new play could wish for. Below, please read a little about the incredible artists who gave so generously of their time and energy, craft and courage to help this project make it to the stage.
Susan Peterson (The Tree)
Susan Peterson has performed in Austin with Rubber Repertory (Jubilee, B. Iden Payne award for Outstanding Cast Performance) and Tongue & Groove (Seven Wonders), and has also worked with Glass Half Full (Once There Were Six Seasons). A budding storyteller, she recounts true, personal tales, and has recently told one at a Grownup Lady Story Company house concert. By day, Susan works as the Green Initiatives director for affordable housing developer Foundation Communities. She has lived and worked in Guinea, Senegal, Morocco and France, is a transportation cyclist and loves to cook with leftovers.
Bird Caviel (The Tree)
Crystal Bird Caviel is a unicorn (a native Austinite). She is currently pursuing a Performance degree from Texas State University. She has most recently appeared in The Mountaintop in Philadelphia, and in Beauty is the Best Priest, Babel for Your Soul and Love, Anarchy and Other Affairs in Austin. She is a passionate death penalty abolitionist, community organizer and is writing a one woman show about capital punishment. She loves exploring how art can be used as a tool for social justice and intends to implement theatre rehabilitation programs in prisons. When she's not acting or protesting, she can be found galavanting around town with her fantastic five-year old, Osira.
Blake Robbins (The Tree)
Blake Robbins is a native of Austin, Texas. He performed most recently as Haemon in Antigone (ACC); other credits include Antipholus in The Commedia of Errors (Vortex) and, at Anderson High School he played George in Moon Over Buffalo, for which he won All Star Cast at UIL State. Blake was an assistant director at Hyde Park Theatre for their production of Port Authority. He is currently writing a comic series with Blake Bohls that will be published by Raw Paw Press in the near future, and he can also be seen performing in the disgustingly misguided rock group Smith + Robot. Blake enjoys the films of Krzysztof Kiewslowski. He is very excited to be acting in this play — hey, how are you doing?
April Perez Moore (Girl)
April Perez Moore received a BA in Theatre and Dance from the University of Texas at Austin and has been performing on Austin stages on and off since 2001 (Austin Critics Table nomination for Best Actress in a Drama in 2006, B. Iden Payne Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical in 2007). She took a hiatus from Austin to perform and continue her studies at dance schools and festivals in New York City (The Ailey School), Massachusetts (Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival), Maine (Bates Dance Festival) and Madrid, Spain (Karen Taft Estudio de Danza). April is a member of the Austin-based theatre company paper chairs, as well as a member of the local folk-rock-punk band East Cameron Folkcore. When not creating and performing, she can be found working as a Certified Pilates Instructor and studying to become an Osteopathic Physician.
Kevin Gates (Father)
Kevin Gates holds an M.A. in Theatre from Texas State University, where he teaches Theatre History. Recent acting credits include Hamlet (EmilyAnn Theatre and Gardens), Creon (Antigone, ACC) and Richard of York (II Henry VI, Roving Shakespeare). Kevin also directed the award-winning Macbeth at City Theatre. Although these classic works still speak to our times, it's a refreshing change to participate on a new work that directly addresses contemporary concerns, and especially so with such a talented and generous team.
Jonathan Salazar (Boy)
Jonathan Salazar is an Austin native and, for the past two years, a student at Texas State University. He moves to New York at the end of August to attend Pace University to pursue a dual degree in performance and business. Favorite roles include the lead as the ridiculous Pirate King in Pirates of Penzance, Tommy Boatwright in The Normal Heart, the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, a member of the ensemble of Catch Me if You Can and as part of the award winning Rocky Horror Picture Show in San Antonio. He's excited about his new journey in New York and would like to thank his friends and family, ". . . for supporting me, and my crazy dreams!"
Huck Huckaby (Journalist)
Huck Huckaby has trod the boards for 25 years in Austin, appearing in a ton a shows . . . too numerous to count. As an acting company member at Austin Playhouse, Huck has appeared in Chicago, Time Stand Still, A Lion in Winter, Noises Off, Dancing at Lughnasa, The Dead President's Club and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, just to name a few. He has appeared on the Zilker hillside for five summer musicals, including The Secret Garden, Big River and Into the Woods. Last summer he appeared as Hannibal Lector in the Doctuh Mistuh production of Silence, the Musical.
Nathan Porteshawver (Logger)
Nathan Porteshawver is a playwright, actor, director, producer, data scientist, educator and co-author of the children's book, Little Cheese. He is the founder and artistic director of the Internet Players, a non-profit theater company dedicated to the production of new and original theater works. The German American Heritage Center, New Ground Theater Company, Davenport Jr. Theatre, Soren Bennick and Waltham Playback Society have produced some of his plays. He was last seen on stage as the Butler at the Vortex Repertory Company's original production of Salvador Dali's Naked Feast. While he finishes his M.S. in Predictive Analytics at Northwestern University you can find him managing The Butterfly Bar at The VORTEX.
John Grewell (Hunter/Forest Chorus)
John Grewell got his start in theatre at a young age, lighting up the stage with his carefree personality in church productions and eventually Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci with the Dayton Opera. In high school he performed in Singin' in the Rain, The Wizard of Oz and Peter Pan, he wrote, directed and acted in The Looney Bin while in college. John has dabbled in all forms of creativity: film, art, music, fashion; and he has recently found a love for modern dance, which he believes was always trying to find its way out. John is currently finishing his bachelor's degree in American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin and hopes to use his experience to study how we (humans) use the arts to tell stories.
Toni Baum (Forest Chorus)
Toni Leanne Baum is a classically trained actor and physical theatre practitioner, as well as a spoken poet, fiction writer and technical writer. She received her B.A. in Theatre Arts from Vassar College and trained at The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. Toni has performed around Austin most recently in Paradox Players' New Jerusalem, City Theatre's Julius Caesar and Something for Nothing Theater's Henry IV part I. Favorite past roles include Caliban in The Tempest, the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet and Angie/Dull Griet in Caryl Churchill's Top Girls. When not creating or performing Toni can be found hiking in Austin's greenbelts, traveling the world (Japan is next in 2016) or curled up with a good book.
Corinne Franks Oh (Forest Chorus)
Corinne Oh is a cast member of the Fé Fit home fitness program for women, a lead talent for Fé Fit online streaming workouts, and she has made numerous appearances on local television as a women's fitness expert. Past theatre experience includes holding "applause" and "boo" signs in her 8th grade production of Robin Hood. (See why I led with my fitness resume?) Corinne is ecstatic to make her stage debut in this production.
Choreographer: Toni Bravo
Set Design: Ia Enstera
Costume Design: Buffy Manners
Lighting Design: Jennifer Rogers
Sound/Projections: Lowell Bartholomee
Dramaturg: Michelle Polgar
Writer/Director: Robi Polgar
Technical Director: Cameron Allen
Stage Manager: Alyssa Dillard
Lighting Crew: Eric Johnson, Monica Kurtz, Adam Gunderson, Pixie Avent
Set Crew: Marcela Spammer, Edward Kohler
To see more about the play -- how it was conceived and the art we uncovered in making The Tree Play:
Explore the website
Read the blog
Follow/Like The Tree Play on Facebook
Last, if you want to know about future productions and creative offshoots of The Tree Play contact Robi via the sites above. Because there is more to come!
Not only is there more Tree Play to come, there is much to share about the plight of the Amazon rainforest and the people who struggle against great odds to live in sustainable co-existence with the forest.
For more background on the topic, we encourage you read the story in The New Yorker magazine that kick-started this project.
Watch a video (two parts) that dives much deeper into the story upon which this play is based.
Murder in the Amazon (part 1)
Murder in the Amazon (part 2)
There is long list of thank yous (it's a growing list!) and you can read it here.
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