Forest for the Tree
an environmental operetta in one act
“…”Forest for the Tree” an ambitious piece of musical theatre…New Age-style music is stirring, often haunting, and despite an ominous theme, the overall production maintains a light comical tone that in no way diminishes the serious message...”.
excerpt from the review by Thurston Hatcher
Forest for the Tree – an one-act operetta - is about a group of people, living in their own isolated world, preoccupied with a work mode and being blind to its effect on the environment. Its topic is timeless and timely and is relevant to any developed country. Although the theme is slightly somber, it is accented throughout with humor.
The artistry of the production’s theme – industry versus nature - is a catalyst for community awareness, discussion and interaction pertaining to several related social and environmental issues.
Forest for the Tree is a unique, musical and visual interpretation about a group of people preoccupied with an isolated work mode and their blindness to its effect on their life and nature.
The theme of the operetta revolves around environmental issues, but in no way is it intended to implicate or cast blame in any one direction. Thus, the story is told and sung in a fabricated language (translated via video projection). The storyline and action depicts industry against nature, however it also presents a deeper message of the struggle and challenges of leading purposeful, fulfilling life. As a result, the production strives to draw a variety of opinions and viewpoints. And to stimulate discussion and awareness about community and social responsibilities.
Forest for the Tree was originally created and produced in 1990 in Greenville, SC and was performed at an abandoned warehouse.
The production was very successful and memorable; the audience received it with high enthusiasm and eagerness.
Today the topic of environment and sustainability is even more relevant and significant, and the reproduction of this operetta can serve as an effective, artistic tool bringing attention to the complex environmental issues.
Forest for the Tree runs approximately one hour with no intermission and can be produced in an indoor theater, or outdoors at a site-specific location.
The performance setting is simple: a section to represent industry and another to represent nature. No particular country. No particular people. No particular corporation.
The cast consists of male and female workers. Their attire is that of “white collar” office employees (coats & ties, skirts & dresses), but their actions and the setting is “blue collar” (sawing wood, welding metal, hauling crates & pipes).
The time period is nondescript, and there are two main areas of staging; the field (nature) and the factory (industry). These can be executed in a variety of ways. The elaborateness and detail is limited only by the producer’s imagination and budget.
The same is true for the music and the size of the cast; a live orchestra with singers, or a pre-recorded soundtrack allowing for fewer cast members.
As with Sumerel’s other signature works, Forest for the Tree is accessible and entertaining, while simultaneously provocative and message-driven.
Various scenarios can be offered for the re-production of this operetta. The production can be artistic and educational; can be aimed at universities, high-schools, theaters, or various communities to strengthen its social and environmental awareness. It can serve as a creative, entertaining and educational tool and can be easily modified for different age groups.
The first production’s success proves that people are open and craving a nontraditional experience, and, especially, highly appreciate the relevant topics in art, as well as humor. This production offers it all.
archival footage from 1992 proof-of-concept production