Culture Map Austin

War, puppets and paradise: The Man Who Planted Trees is an all-ages tale that makes a difference

Right on the hysterical heels of their wild inaugural Moontower Comedy Festival, the Paramount immediately welcomed a quiet monolith into the Stateside Theatre on Congress Avenue on Sunday night.

The Man Who Planted Trees details the fictional story of a peaceful shepherd and his button-eyed dog who, amidst the ravages of war, cultivate a thriving, beautiful Garden of Eden in their local region of France. Based on the 1953 story by French author Jean Giono, the play is an understated but powerful allegory about the impact that one person can have on his environment and the lives of those around him.

The story, as imagined by the Edinburgh-based Puppet State Theatre Company, has become a giant in the world of theatre for young audiences because of its clever combination of puppetry, storytelling, choreography and multi-sensory engagement. As funny as it is heartwarming, the much-loved and heavily decorated production has toured across Europe, the United States and Australia, with no signs of stopping.

According to Paramount Education and Outreach Director Jennifer Luck, the Paramount has been working to bring The Man Who Planted Trees to Austin for quite some time.

It was too intimate a production to perform on the Paramount stage; so as soon as the Stateside stage was reopened, they knew they were ready to bring this life-changing piece to the ecologically and ethically-minded audiences of Austin.

“This is the kind of sophisticated theatre for young audiences I love the most,” says Luck. “The play truly respects the child audience member and challenges them with more mature content. I also have to say, this is one of those rare pieces that truly does impact adults and children alike.”

While the show is technically intended for young audiences, the story is indeed rewarding and the performances engaging enough for any age to appreciate it. This production draws the viewer in with a winning combination of spot-on emotional connection and inventive performance techniques that will completely envelope you into the storytelling.

While Giono’s story is a fictional one, it’s allegory you’ll also take to heart. We all need hopeful reminders of our own efficacy in the world right now, and The Man Who Planted Trees will leave you and your children feeling like you can actually make a lasting difference just by taking deliberate action to “put things right.”

By Michael Graupmann

Culture Map Austin review here