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Theatre Horizon to Open 10th Season with THE SYRINGA TREE, 10/16-11/9


Theatre Horizon begins its 10th Anniversary season by taking audiences into South Africa during Apartheid with Pamela Gien's renowned memory play, The Syringa Tree. This lovely work is set to run October 16-November 9. It opens Thursday, October 23 at 7:30 p.m. All shows are performed at Theatre Horizon's home space at 401 Dekalb Street. Tickets cost $20-$38. Discounts are available for students and senior citizens. Free tickets are also available for Norristown residents with proof of residency. Tickets are available online at or by phone at 610-283-2230.

In The Syringa Tree, Elizabeth, a white South African, shares the story of her black caretaker and of generations of family straining against the chains of apartheid. Throughout her memories, personal struggles of conscience mirror the political struggles that inspired the world. Love conquers fear as the stage is filled with the people, music, and verdant countryside of South Africa in this award-winning work. The play was traditionally performed by one woman. As it has been performed across the country theatres have stepped away from making it a one-person show. Theatre Horizon has cast two actresses in the show.

Director Steve Pacek said this about this casting idea. "We get to hear from the other main character in the piece. It will bring both sides of the conversation to the table and we'll get to see the sparks that fly when human beings interact in time and space. Sparks of love. Sparks of hate. Sparks of fear and of doubt. And sparks that can be doused by the power of forgiveness."

Kristyn Chouiniere and Alice M. Gatling will tell this story at Theatre Horizon. Chouiniere returns to the stage in this play after last appearing in Azuka Theatre's the terrible girls in 2011. She is making her Theatre Horizon debut. Gatling is a current Barrymore nominee for InterAct Theatre Company's Gidion's Knot. Steve Pacek makes his Theatre Horizon directorial debut after appearing in last season's closing hit The 39 Steps and directing The Cat in the Hat at the Arden Theatre Company.

Thom Weaver is designing the set and lighting. Weaver's set is a fantastical tree-like structure that will showcase the fragmented way the characters memories will surface. Toby Pettit is designing sound. Jill Keys is designing the costumes. The show's Technical Director is Stephen Hungerford and Melissa Erlick is the Stage Manager.

The Syringa Tree opened off Broadway in 2001 after its premiere in Seattle. It was a critical success and went on to receive an Obie Award for Best Play and Performance and a Drama Desk Award for Performance. The play was originally performed by Gien herself. Three members of the team have a very personal connection to the show. Pacek assisted Larry Moss with a show shortly after Moss directed the Off-Broadway premiere of The Syringa Tree. As Moss's assistant, Pacek learned a lot about the show and South Africa. Set and Lighting Designer Thom Weaver was the assistant Lighting Designer on the Off-Broadway production. In 2005, The Arden Theatre Company staged the Philadelphia Premiere of the show. Chouiniere was cast as the understudy, but never performed the during the regular run.

Added Pacek, "I first heard of The Syringa Tree while I was assisting Larry Moss on an Off-Broadway production of Beast on the Moon. The NY production wasn't too long before that, so Larry was talking about it all the time. One of the stars of our show had spent a lot of time in South Africa, so they would reminisce and talk about a lot of the places and events of The Syringa Tree. That got my curiosity peaked, to hear so much about this amazing place that I had only ever seen in the news. When I finally read it, I fell in love with the language and images and the emotion it evoked in me. I really connected to these people that feel so much and have a tremendous capacity to love and care for those who the rest of world think we ought not to love and care for -- such compassion in the face of such harshness."

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