When storyteller/writer/actor Jacqui du Toit first went into the communities that would be hosting Odyssey Theatre’s Neighbourhood Arts 150 project, Spreading Roots , to collect stories about trees, she found some hesitation and confusion at first. “Stories about trees? What do you mean?” Trees are an essential part of our communities, and our environment would be bereft and desolate without them, but perhaps we don’t always actively think about how we relate to them individually.
found that as the groups that she gathered with really started to think about the trees around them, that many beautiful memories and stories began to emerge. One man related that, as a child, he had a favourite tree that he would regularly go to, and he would whisper his secrets to that tree. The tree became his confidant and repository of his innermost thoughts. He grew up and went away and didn’t think about his tree until many years later when, as an adult returning to his boyhood home, he sought out his old friend. Sadly, he found that the tree had been cut down. This has inspired him to become active within his community to protect his neighbourhood’s trees.
There were many such stories from the communities that Jacqui visited, from Greely, Stittsville, Carlington, Westboro, Strathcona Heights, Carson’s Road and Orleans, and in creating a script for Spreading Roots she sought to weave different stories from each neighbourhood into the performance text.