As a part of Eastern Michigan University’s Theatre Second Stage series, planting its seeds in the Sponberg Theater this weekend is the production of Jose Cruz Gobzalez’s magical allegory Lily Plants a Garden.
Inspired in part by 9/11, the play takes place in a rubble house where the protagonist, Young Girl, finds a doll and creates a magical tale about a “Zobeing” named Lily who, like herself, exists in a war-torn world. Lily is brought to life through the words of Young Girl where in the story, after being abandoned, Lily is found by a Wuluman couple. However with the arrival of Lily in the Wuluman community, the community reacts negatively against Lily because she is a Zobeing, their enemy.
Long ago, Zobeings and Wulumans used to live in a community together in which they planted beautiful gardens but after an argument with a Zobeing and a Wuluman a fight began that later led to the Great Endless Forgotten War. In this, they separated and left their gardens non-existent.
As the war continues centuries later the knowledge about the garden and why it came to be has disappeared. By going against the odds, Lily plants a garden of hope and beauty in the world around her.
A third-year graduate student in EMU’s MFA of applied theatre for the young program and the director of Lily Plants a Garden, Elizabeth Shaffer, wanted to direct the play for three years after reading some of the plays written by the playwright.
“I loved what the play was about and that it didn’t have an answer,” she said. “I love plays that let you think at the end. I was just really drawn to the story.”
A significant part of the play that Shaffer mentioned that she loves is the incorporation of puppetry.
“Having the puppets adds to the magic of the show,” she said. “They are absolutely beautiful.”
Shaffer’s husband, Seth Shaffer, has an MFA in puppetry arts at the University of Connecticut and has helped the production with the handing and performance of the puppets.
“We have three different types of puppetry,” she said. “What I like about it is that it will open people up to see the different types of puppetry because I feel like in our culture we are more exposed to hand puppets.”
The show will also include original music written by Howard Cass who has written original music from the earlier theatre production of Anne of Green Gables. Shaffer called his music “a good driving force.”
“He wrote very beautiful music for Lily’s character in the play and it’s just about the actor moving in the space and the lighting and the sound is almost like another character. It is a very collaborative process,” Shaffer said.
An imaginative story that touches on topics such as identity, acceptance and family, Shaffer believes Lily Plants a Gardenis for everybody.
“It deals with war and the play does not give an answer about war but the play gives us something to think about with our actions and why we do what we do. That is why this play is good for everyone because it reminds us of our actions,” she said.
Lily Plants a Gardenwill be performed March 11-12 at 7 p.m. and March 13 at 2 p.m. and school matinees performances will be March 15-16 at 10 a.m. in the Sponberg Theatre in Quirk Dramatic Arts Building. Ticket prices are $7.
Tickets are available in person at the Convocation Center, the Student Center ticket office or the Quirk Box Office, by phone at 734-487-2282 and online at emutix.com. Recommended for ages 8+.