Native Gardens Study Guide

Page 1

Study Guide Contents 3.)

Production Information

4.) Introduction 5.)

Letter from Community Engagement and Education Director


About the Playwright


Meet the Director


Play Structure

9.) Characters 10.) Synopsis 11.)

Rise Above the Stereotypes

12.) Native Plants in CNY




Invasive Species




Questions for Discussion


Elements of Drama


Elements of Design


Director of Community Engagement & Education Joann Yarrow (315) 443-8603

Associate Director of Education Kate Laissle (315) 442-7755

Community Engagement & Education Assistant MiKayla Hawkinson (315) 443-1150

Group Sales & Student Matinees Tracey White (315) 443-9844

Box Office (315) 443-3275

Written by Len Fonte

Robert Hupp Artistic Director Jill A. Anderson Managing Director Kyle Bass Associate Artistic Director





Karen Zacarías DIRECTED BY





Shoko Kambara

Lux Haac

Dawn Chiang

Elisheba Ittoop



Laura Jane Collins

Harriet Bass Casting

Native Gardens is produced by special arrangement with The Gersh Agency, 41 Madison Avenue, 33rd Floor, New York, NY 10010. Native Gardens was commissioned and first produced by Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park under Blake Robison (Artistic Director) and Buzz Ward (Managing Director). February 13 - March 3, 2019


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audience etiquette BE PROMPT Give your students plenty of time to arrive, find their seats, and get situated. Have them visit the restrooms before the show begins. RESPECT OTHERS Please remind your students that their behavior and responses affect the quality of the performance and the enjoyment of the production for the entire audience. Live theatre means the actors and the audience are in the same room, and just as the audience can see and hear the performers, the performers can see and hear the audience. Please ask your students to avoid disturbing those around them. Please no talking or unnecessary or disruptive movement during the performance. Also, please remind students that cell phones should be switched off completely. No texting or tweeting, please. When students give their full attention to the action on the stage, they will be rewarded with the best performance possible.



As you take your students on the exciting journey into the world of live theatre, we hope that you’ll take a moment to help prepare them to make the most of their experience. Unlike movies or television, live theatre offers the thrill of unpredictability.

GOOD NOISE, BAD NOISE Instead of instructing students to remain totally silent, please discuss the difference between appropriate responses (laughter, applause, participation when requested) and inappropriate noise (talking, cell phones, etc).

With the actors present on stage, the audience response becomes an integral part of the performance and the overall experience: the more involved and attentive the audience, the better the show. Please remind your students that they play an important part in the success of the performance.

STAY WITH US Please do not leave or allow students to leave during the performance except in absolute emergencies. Again, reminding them to use the restrooms before the performance will help eliminate unnecessary disruption.


Dear Educator, The best way of learning is learning while you’re having fun. When you hear something you can forget it, but when you see something it stays with you forever. Live theatre provides the opporutnity for us to connect with more than just our own story, it allows us to find ourselves in other people’s lives and grow beyond our own boundaries. We’re the only speicies on the planet who makes stories. It is the stories that we leave behind that define us. Giving students the power to watch stories and create their own is part of our lasting impact on the world. We invite you and your students to engage with the stories we tell as a starting point for you and them to create their own. Sincerely, Joann Yarrow & Kate Laissle Community Engagement and Education

2018/2019 EDUCATIONAL OUTREACH SPONSORS Syracuse Stage is committed to providing students with rich theatre experiences that explore and examine what it is to be human. Research shows that children who participate in or are exposed to the arts show higher academic achievement, stronger self-esteem, and improved ability to plan and work toward a future goal. Many students in our community have their first taste of live theatre through Syracuse Stage’s outreach programs. Last season more than 15,500 students from across New York State attended or participated in the Bank of America Children’s Tour, artsEmerging, the Young Playwrights Festival, Backstory, Young Adult Council, and/or our Student Matinee Program. We gratefully acknowledge the corporations and foundations who support our commitment to in-depth arts education for our community.


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About the Playwright Karen Zacarías “I grew up in a time where a woman’s voice was expressed through her decor. I guess now, it’s through her weeds.” -Native Gardens

Karen Zacarías’ award-winning plays include The Book Club Play, Just Like Us (adapted from the book by Helen Thorpe), the Steinberg Citation Award-winning play Legacy of Light, the Francesca Primus Award-winning play The Sins of Sor Juana, and the adaptation of Julia Alvarez’s How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. Her musical Chasing George Washington premiered at The Kennedy Center for Performing Arts and went on a national tour. Her script was then adapted into a book by Scholastic with a forward by then First Lady Michelle Obama. 6



Zacarías is the first playwright-in-residence at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., she is the founder of Young Playwrights’ Theater, an award-winning theater company that teaches playwriting in local public schools in Washington, D.C. Born in Mexico, Karen Zacarías now lives in Washington with her husband and three children.

-adapted from

Meet the Director Melissa Crespo Melissa Crespo is a New York-based director of theater, opera, film, and television. She is most passionate about collaborating with playwrights. She has developed new work at: The Lark, Atlantic Theater Company, Two River Theater, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Ars Nova, Labyrinth Theater Company and more. She is most known for ¡Figaro! (90210) which had its world premiere at LA Opera and performed twice Off-Broadway at The Duke on 42nd Street. Crespo also directed the most recent incarnation of Tar Baby written and performed by Desiree Burch with Dan Kitrosser. Hailed as one of Huffington Post’s “Favorite Female Comedians,” Tar Baby was awarded the prestigious Scotsman Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and has since had productions in London, New Zealand, and Finland. Crespo has served as a 2016-2018 Time Warner Fellow at WP Theater (formerly The Women’s Project), the Allen Lee Hughes Directing Fellow at Arena Stage,Van Lier Directing Fellow at Second Stage Theatre, and is an alum of the Drama League. She received her MFA in Directing from The New School for Drama. -adapted from


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Play Structure The play’s the thing… Native Gardens is a good example of how contemporary theater plays with conventional dramatic form. On the surface, it’s a traditional comedy, unfolding sequentially to the happy ending, but on close examination, we see how Karen Zacarias blends several styles to keep the show zipping along. Native Gardens begins with a prologue, with characters are in spotlights and speaking directly to the audience. A prologue, in drama as in fiction, sets up a situation before dramatic action takes place. Here, the prologue breaks the fourth wall, that invisible barrier between the stage and the audience, to have Pablo, Tania, Frank, and Virginia state the opening situation: the Del Valles are moving into a neglected home, and the Butleys are ready to welcome them. Each of the following scenes, segments with dialogue that are action and character driven, is introduced with a vignette, a short silent piece that captures a moment in images. In Native Gardens, that leads to the action of the following scene. After the last scene, the four characters speak in an epilogue, a wrap-up, tying up loose ends, again directly addressing the audience. The prologue and the closing epilogue show the influence of film documentary and the TV “mockumentary” form where characters will sometimes speak their thoughts directly to the camera in an interview with an unseen other person. This style, pioneered in reality shows, became a staple of comedy in shows like The Office and Modern Family.





Costume designs by Lux Haac

Tania Del Valle- is a 29 year-old PhD candidate married to Pablo Del Valle. She’s positive, passionate, and eight months pregnant. Tania is excited about creating a native plants garden in her new backyard. Although she’s from New Mexico and of Mexican heritage, she speaks very little Spanish—except for cursing. Pablo Del Valle- is a 31 year-old lawyer who has just started working for a prestigious Washington firm. He’s smart, ambitious, and ready to climb the ladder in the firm. He comes from an influential Chilean family.

Frank Butley- is in his sixties. He is a detail-oriented semiretired Federal employee who is rightfully proud of his meticulously designed and maintained garden. Virginia Butley- is Frank’s supportive wife and is a no-nonsense engineer doing defense work for Lockheed Martin. She and Frank have one child. She’s Polish-American from Buffalo, NY.


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Costume designs by Lux Haac

Pablo and Tania Del Valle have just moved into a fixer-upper in a good Washington, D.C, neighborhood. Their beaten down and neglected backyard is separated by a dilapidated fence from Frank and Virginia Butley’s pristine English-style garden. That garden, Frank’s passion, is slated to be judged by the Potomac Horticultural Society for its Garden of the Year award. The grass on the Butley’s side of the fence is truly greener. On the Del Valle side of the fence, Tania envisions a garden of native plants only, thriving without the help of pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Pablo has impulsively invited his new colleagues at the law firm to a party at their home. Panicked, the pregnant Tania turns the planned event into an outdoor barbecue. When they work out the details for a new fence to be erected immediately, Pablo discovers that Frank’s beloved garden intrudes two feet into the Del Valle yard. This news turns the backyards into a comic battleground that exposes some of the lightning rod issues of American life.




Rise Above the Stereotypes “You are Estado Unidense, United Statesean.” - Pablo In the neighbors’ first conversation, Native Gardens introduces stereotypes and hot-button issues about Latinos. Because of her looks, Frank mistakes Tania for Mexican, when she is American and from New Mexico. He is confused when Tania refers to herself as Latinx, which is non-gendered way of referring to people of Hispanic heritage. With smiles, the Butleys bring up drug trafficking, immigration, and even the wall. When they talk about ethnicity, it takes Pablo, who is from Chile, to remind them that they and Tania are all Americans, “Estado Unidense.” What Frank and Virginia don’t understand is that the thread of Latino achievement is woven thoroughly into the fabric of American life. Although it’s impossible to tally all the contributions of Americans of Hispanic heritage, any list would include the work of the following: Joaquín and Julián Castro, twin politicians from San Antonio, Texas. Julián Castro was Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Obama and has declared his intention of running for president in 2020. Joaquín Castro is a member of the House of Representatives from Texas. Lin-Manuel Miranda, playwright, actor, and songwriter is a driving force in the American stage. His musical Hamilton re-writes the rules for popular theater. Natalie Morales is the West Coast anchor for NBC’s Today. She also appears on Access Hollywood, Dateline, and NBC Nightly News. Mario Molina, a Mexican-born American chemist was co-Nobel Prize winner in 1995 for his work on the threat to the ozone layer. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013. Rita Morena, actress, often described as a national treasure, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004 and the National Medal of the Arts in 2009. The Academy Award winner for West Side Story is one of 12 performers to have achieved an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and, Tony. Ellen Ochoa, the first Latina astronaut, made four flights into space on the space shuttles Discovery and Atlantis, where she conducted research. Ochoa is the director of NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. She is also a classical flutist! Sonia Sotomayor, born in the Bronx to Puerto Rican parents, is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court appointed by President Obama. She is the first Supreme Court justice of Hispanic heritage. Celebrated performers of Latino heritage include pop star Christina Aguilera, singer Gloria Estefan, The Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia, actor and writer John Leguizamo, singer and actor Jennifer Lopez, singer Ricky Martin, and rock legend Carlos Santana.


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Native Plants in CNY Tania Del Valle wants to plant and maintain a native garden, which Frank Butley identifies as weeds. What exactly are native plants, and are they really just weeds? Actually, “Weed-ness” is in the eye of the beholder. There is no scientific test for it. A weed is basically a plant that grows where it isn’t wanted. It takes up the space planned for a cultivated plant. A plant is considered native when it exists or occurs naturally in an area for a very long time. Native plants provide habitats for wildlife. They protect biodiversity and are the foundation of our natural ecosystems. Since they are adapted to local conditions, they don’t need pesticides or fertilizers. Native plants even require less water than those originating on another continent and forced to flourish here. Such familiar flowers as the Northern Blueflag (Iris), the Aster, and the delicate-looking but hardy Bluet are native to New York State. The Trumpet Honeysuckle that adorns suburban decks and attracts hummingbirds is also indigenous to our area.The beautiful Red Maple and White Spruce that anchor much of our domestic landscaping are native trees.

From Purple Loosestrife to Periwinkle: Invasive Species You can see them along the thruway and along the edges of streams and swamps. The tall plants with pretty purple spikes of flowers are Purple Loosestrife, an invasive species that chokes out native water plants and reduces habitat for fish and birds. Native to Europe and Asia, it was probably first brought here by settlers in the 1800s and by have been clinging to rocks used as ballast on ships. Purple Loosestrife is easily identified as invasive because it grows wild, but many of the most common decorative garden plants are really non-native, and therefore invasive. A walk through most nurseries will find enticing displays of species that are not native to North America, require more care to cultivate, and may even be harming the ecosystem. Examples include the following familiar plants (visuals on following page) : Periwinkle Bamboo Pampas Grass English Ivy Japanese Honeysuckle Wisteria Lily of the Valley




Invasive Species Pampas Grass



Lily of the Valley

English Ivy Periwinkle

Japanese Honeysuckle


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Mending Wall

BY ROBERT FROST Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it, And spills the upper boulders in the sun; And makes gaps even two can pass abreast. The work of hunters is another thing: I have come after them and made repair Where they have left not one stone on a stone, But they would have the rabbit out of hiding, To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean, No one has seen them made or heard them made, But at spring mending-time we find them there. I let my neighbour know beyond the hill; And on a day we meet to walk the line And set the wall between us once again. We keep the wall between us as we go. To each the boulders that have fallen to each. And some are loaves and some so nearly balls We have to use a spell to make them balance: “Stay where you are until our backs are turned!” We wear our fingers rough with handling them. Oh, just another kind of out-door game, One on a side. It comes to little more: There where it is we do not need the wall: He is all pine and I am apple orchard. My apple trees will never get across And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him. He only says, “Good fences make good neighbours.” Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder If I could put a notion in his head: 14



“Why do they make good neighbours? Isn’t it Where there are cows? But here there are no cows. Before I built a wall I’d ask to know What I was walling in or walling out, And to whom I was like to give offence. Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him, But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather He said it for himself. I see him there Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed. He moves in darkness as it seems to me, Not of woods only and the shade of trees. He will not go behind his father’s saying, And he likes having thought of it so well He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.” 1.)

PABLO What is that American saying: Good fences make good friends? VIRGINIA Good neighbors. Good fences make good neighbors.

*What Pablo calls an American saying is really a quote from “Mending Wall,” a poem by Robert Frost. Do you agree that “good fences make good neighbors”? Project: Either on teams or individually, design a garden using native plants only and create a visual representation of that garden. You may render it on a computer screen or on foam core using illustrations of plants from print sources.

1) Native Gardens is a comedy and is, on one level, a gentle play about good people having a silly dispute about a fence. However, beneath the surface, Karen Zacarías exposes some of the social and political issues that roil American life. How do the following lines and pieces of dialogue from Native Gardens open discussion about ethnic stereotypes, sexism, ageism, and racism. FRANK And drug trafficking, illegal immigration—and that wall business.

FRANK Is this Native Garden something that springs from your rich Mexico

PABLO Isn’t this what the struggle is for you? Moving up? Buying a house? Becoming the boss? Isn’t this the American Dream?

VIRGINIA You think you’re better than us because you’re young and hip. That, young lady, is ageism.

VIRGINIA You attack us because we are rich and white. That’s classism and racism. Would you make this kind of ruckus if Frank and I were black? Or Latino?

PABLO No. Tania’s problem is that your plants are colonialists . . . with gross disregard for the indigenous population. VIRGINIA I was constantly tested or being asked to get coffee, or— FRANK Interrupted. VIRGINIA …The lady jokes. But I had the last laugh. I fought to get where I am now….

FRANK It’s just that you look so Mexican.

VIRGINIA Are you the token?


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2) The Butleys have use of land that really belongs to the Del Valles. How does this function as a metaphor? 3) Native Gardens takes a look at how foreign plants are imbedded in our own backyards. What are some other invasive species? Consider animals, birds, and insects. What are the some of the environmental effects of other plants or animals imported either by design or by accident? 4) Given the larger ecological problems we face, does the typical decorative garden really pose a threat? Debate the merits of a typical garden, using plants that originated from around the world and a native plant garden using plants from this area only. The two books on native gardening that Pablo brings to Tania are real and readily available in libraries or online vendors. Bringing Nature Home by Douglas W. Tallamy is published by Timber Press. The revised edition, was published in April 2009. ISBN-10: 088192991 ISBN-13: 978-0881929928 Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast: a Field Guide, by Peter Del Tredici, is published by Comstock Publishing Associates. The publishing date is February 19, 2010. ISBN-10: 0801474582 16



elements of drama PLOT

What is the story line? What happened before the play started? What do the characters want? What do they do to achieve their goals? What do they stand to gain/lose? THEME

What ideas are wrestled with in the play? What questions does the play pose? Does it present an opinion? CHARACTER

Who are the people in the story? What are their relationships? Why do they do what they do? How does age/status/etc. effect them? LANGUAGE

What do the characters say? How do they say it? When do they say it? MUSIC

How do music and sound help to tell the story? SPECTACLE

Any piece of theatre comprises multiple art forms. As you explore this production with your students, examine the use of:



At its core, drama is about characters working toward goals and overcoming obstacles. Ask students to use their bodies and voices to create characters who are: very old, very young, very strong, very weak, very tired, very energetic, very cold, very warm. Have their characters interact with others. Give them an objective to fulfill despite environmental obstacles. Later, recap by asking how these obstacles effected their characters and the pursuit of their objectives.

How do the elements come together to create the whole performance?

Other Elements: Conflict/Resolution, Action, Improvisation, Non-verbal Communication, Staging, Humor, Realism and other styles, Metaphor, Language, Tone, Pattern and Repetition, Emotion, Point of view.


How are each of these art forms used in this production? Why are they used? How do they help to tell the story?


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elements of design LINE can have length, width, texture, direction,

and curve. There are five basic varieties: vertical, horizontal, diagonal, curved, and zig-zag. SHAPE is two-dimensional and encloses space.

It can be geometric (e.g. squares and circles), man-made, or free-form. FORM is three-dimensional. It encloses space

and fills space. It can be geometric (e.g. cubes and cylinders), man-made, or free-form. COLOR has three basic properties:

HUE is the name of the color (e.g. red, blue, green), INTENSITY is the strength of the color (bright or dull), VALUE is the range of lightness to darkness.

TEXTURE refers

to the “feel” of an object’s surface. It can be smooth, rough, soft, etc. Textures may be ACTUAL (able to be felt) or IMPLIED (suggested visually through the artist’s technique).





defined and determined by shapes and forms. Positive space is enclosed by shapes and forms, while negative space exists around them.

sources AARP, “Latinos Shine in All Spheres of American Life,” AARP, September 2013. Frost, Robert, “Mending Wall” Poetry Foundation, 2019. “Invasive Garden Plants.” HubPages, Accessed January 9, 2019. “Native Flowers for Gardening and Landscaping,” New York State Division of Lands and Forests. Accessed January 8, 2019. “Native Plants,”Cornell Cooperative Extension, Chemung County. Cornell University. Accessed January 8, 2019. “Native Plant List for New York, Pennsylvania and Northern New Jersey,” Plant Native. Accessed January 9, 2019. “The 101 Most Influential Latinos,” Latino Leaders, September 2017. “Western New York Guide to Native Plants for your Garden,” Grassroot Gardens. Accessed Jan 9, 2019. “Karen Zacarias” (The official website of playwright Karen Zacarias.)


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with dynamic stories & vibrant characters NOISES OFF





MAY 29 - JUNE 16

By Michael Frayn Directed by Robert Hupp The funniest farce ever written . . . a festival of delirium.

By Karen Zacarías Directed by Melissa Crespo Co-produced with Geva Theatre Center & Portland Center Stage

Written and Composed by Jason Robert Brown Directed by Jason Alexander Musical Direction by Brian Cimmet A musical of love gained and love lost.


A spot–on new comedy skewers walls, border disputes and more from adjoining backyards in Georgetown, Washington, D.C.


MARCH 7 - 10


By Kyle Bass Directed by Tazewell Thompson Commisioned by The Onondaga Historical Association Presented by Nancy and Bill Byrne A world premiere inspired by the true story of Harriet Powell who escaped slavery while visiting Syracuse in 1839.


Book by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin Music by Matthew Sklar | Lyrics by Chad Beguelin | Directed by Donna Drake Choreography by Brian J. Marcum | Musical Direction by Brian Cimmet | Based on the New Line Cinema film by David Berenbaum Co-produced with the Syracuse University Department of Drama Great songs, great fun, and tons of holiday cheer.





By Kate Hamill Directed by Jason O’Connell

COLD READ FESTIVAL Curated by Kyle Bass Featuring Playwright-In-Residence Larissa FastHorse

Jane Austen’s classic gets a bright and lively makeover for the 21st century.


By Stephen Karam Directed by Mark Cuddy Co-produced with Geva Theatre Center The 2016 Tony Award winner for Best Play.