Tree

Tree observers beaver, bird, and man. Man very crazy. Or maybe man something else.

Angel Oak Tree; Photo by Alison Brady

A man stands center stage. He is still. He is TREE. All singing is done by a second actor, who is MAN AS BLACK AS MOONLESS SKY. Reference for song: https://youtu.be/uhGYD1svTM4

I am tree. I know not how I came, or where I one day go. I watch. This all I do. Watch beaver. Watch bird. Watch you. Such is way of my kind.

Beaver… pretty damn crazy. Beaver build home with branches in rushing river for other beaver. Why river? I do not know. Such is way of beaver. Bird also little crazy. Bird feed other bird first, feed self last. Bird must feel hungry. Such is way of bird. Tree not crazy. Tree stay really fucking still and do nothing.

But you… you very crazy… you do everything. You cut branches. You make knife and bow and rifle. You kill beaver and bird. Then you kill your kind. I think: such is way of your kind. I think: to each their own. I think: Okay. I am tree. I do nothing. I watch.

I watch many of your kind. Some red like clay. Some pink like fish. I meet one of your kind… man as black as moonless sky. He sit beside me. He sometimes quiet like cloud. He sometimes make song like bird. He mostly laugh. I like laugh. I wish I laugh like man as black as moonless sky. I wish I make song like man. But I am happy. I am tree. I be shade for man.

SINGING
O sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.

When sun take her sleep over mountains, I see you with man as black as moonless sky. I wish he laugh. He not laugh. Blood drip from man’s side. I feel you tie rope to branches. Weight of man pulls them down. I not know him so heavy. I feel man’s heart pound like running buffalo, rustle my leaves in windless sky… branches bend and splinter as he struggle. He struggle as moon drift from cloud to cloud to cloud. Then man stop. He stop and never start again.

He hang heavy in silence of stars until sun wake again and you cut him down. You bury man into land.

SINGING
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
O sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Then… as you came… you go. Beaver build dam. Bird feed bird. Sun and moon dance around and around and around. Tree stay really fucking still. Do nothing. Just watch.

I not see you for long time. But you return. A young one of you, black as moonless sky, climb up my trunk. I hear boy laugh. Laugh. I miss laugh. Boy sing silly song. Boy climb onto branches. Then, many boys, pink like fish. You run to me. Scream like birds. Throw rocks.

SINGING
Were you there when they pieced him in the side,

I hear cry. I feel blood trickle like stream.

SINGING
Were you there when they —

I feel man, black as moonless sky. Feel him kick. Feel him shake. As moon drift from cloud to cloud to cloud.

SINGING
Tremble,

(Whispering) From cloud to cloud to cloud.

SINGING (same note as last)
Tremble,

(Pause). When sun take her sleep over mountains and lights of your kind dim into darkness of night, I see man as black as moonless sky. He still… like rock. I whisper into wind: do you see man? You quiet. Like cloud.

(Beat) I think: you just sleep. Such is way of your kind. You not crazy. Beaver crazy. Bird crazy. You … you something else.

I know not where you came, or where you one day go. But I watch. Watch you.

I WATCH you.

I am tree.

Such is way of my kind.

Lights fade to black. END OF PLAY.

An earlier version of TREE was first read on stage at Arena Stage in Washington, DC as part of OUR WAR (2014). OUR WAR featured a collection of curated monologues about and surrounding the US Civil War, and inlcuded such playwrights as Lynn Nottage and David Lindsay-Abaire. This version of TREE was presented by The Shelter as part of THE SHELTER PEEP SHOW: CIVIL WAR (2016). It was directed by Anna Strasser and starred Paco Lozano as “Tree” and Neil Tyrone Pritchard as “Man as Black as Moonless Sky.” All rights reserved by the author.

Paco Lozano (“Tree”), Dave Lankford (playwright), and Neil Tyrone Pritchard (“Man as Black as Moonless Sky”) at THE SHELTER PEEP SHOW: CIVIL WAR; photo by Noam Harary
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