Interview with SYRINGA TREE director Tosin Morohunfola

CRT: What drew you to the story of The Syringa Tree?

TM: That love that’s against all odds but still wins. Also the love of country, even in its flaws. At the heart of it, The Syringa Tree is a love story. Not a romantic one, but one much deeper: Family. The strength and bond of family that is inextinguishable. Seeing two characters age over decades and maintain their deep connection, even across seas, to me, that sounded like a powerful human story.

Also, there are many ways in which The Syringa Tree mirrors our nation, but the most pressing way, to me, has been in the reflection of our cultural landscapes; the lurking undercurrent of exclusion and white superiority in America; the examination of what type of person gets to exist in public spaces; and the battle over where one is allowed to live.

One of the most crucial societal liberties is the freedom to choose where you want to live; an ability to migrate and habitate and call your country home. To weave your thread of experience into the tapestry of American life.  And in an age where that freedom to exist is being threatened more and more—and by countries we once thought of as sanctuaries—it has become of utmost importance to preach the message of inclusion through stories that shed light on our mistakes.

CRT: What are you most looking forward to with this show? 

TM: I’m especially glad to be able to bring such a diverse show to Creede Repertory Theatre. A story set in South Africa, during Apartheid, that discusses racism, colorism, privilege, boundaries and access is a unique opportunity for Creede audiences. These same issues are lurking in America even now and there’s never been a more important time to topple White supremacy.

As far as Creede Rep audiences go, it’s an extra treat because it affords our patrons a rare opportunity to observe some of the same social and institutional problems we experience here but half-way across the world, a bit of immersion therapy of sorts. A diversification of their palette.

CRT: What do you think is the most challenging aspect of 2 actors playing multiple roles? 

TM: Memory, I’m sure that’s the actor’s answer. (It’s a lot of words to memorize.)  For me, as a director, the answer is specificity.  To make each character and each scene specific and clear will be half the task.  Much like a quick-change show or something like The Mystery of Irma Vep, there’s a lot of characters and these actresses have to be versatile, swift and clear in their transitions between them.  Plus, these characters are so grounded and honest, the work has to be more than surface-level.  It’ll be quite the workout, suffice it to say.

 CRT: Anything else about Creede, CRT, or the play you’d like us to know? 

TM: We’re very excited to be involving Trapeze work in our production.  Familiar CRT actress Caitlin Wise will play the young protagonist in the show and in real life Caitlin and her husband (John DiAntonio) are phenomenal trapeze artists.  Using their expertise, we’ll be weaving beautiful trapeze dance and movement into the story-line.  We’re very excited about this design addition.  It’s the first time CRT will be involving our favorite company member’s secret passion into a full production here.

And on a personal level, I’m just very excited to get to contribute to CRT as a director again.  CRT Patrons know me more as an actor (Guys & Dolls, The Presidents, Our Town, Harry the Great, The Drowsy Chaperone, Boomtown), but it’s an even greater honor to get to share my directing abilities and vision with them.  And I think they’ll enjoy the product.  And learn something too.

For more about the play and to order tickets online: