by Susan Cornell
When the 73-year-old, 60-foot mighty spruce that stood before the Ivoryton Playhouse proved it wasn’t as quite as mighty as Hurricane Irene’s 80 mph winds, everyone was grateful there was no damage to the playhouse the tree had barely missed. But after the lion’s share was removed, there remained the question of what to do with the 10-foot stump. This is where the proverbial phrase about making lemonade comes in.
Ivoryton Playhouse officials commissioned local artist Kris Connors of Custom Wood Carvings & More to make a work of art from the stump.
After Ivoryton’s executive/artistic director Jacqueline Hubbard gave Connors a tour of the playhouse and a lesson on the history of both the town and the theater, he was by no means stumped about what to do next. The Clinton resident drafted up a few sketches and, before long, was chainsawing away.
Connors explains his design: “Visually it’s split in half. One half starts with the architecture of the playhouse roof. Underneath that is the elephant, which is symbolic of the factories, which used ivory for piano keys. Underneath that is a stage drop with some decoration that I pulled from inside the playhouse. Under the stage drop it looks like a stage coming out but it’s actually large piano keys. On the flipside is a boy sitting under a tree reading. He’s symbolic of all the actors and actresses who have practiced their lines under that actual tree.”
Jacqueline Hubbard never considered removing the stump of the huge tree, which actually fell during a performance. “It was almost miraculous; the top of the tree touched the building!” she said.
Afterwords, the theater could not be used but people came from miles around to listen to free performances outside.
“It was somehow inspirational. I knew I had to do something to commemorate this – something that shows how in the worst disasters we are still strong,” she said.
“He absolutely understood how to incorporate the 100-year history of the theater and the thing that brought the community together which, sadly, was elephants. The town of Ivoryton was built up specifically to make pianos. The elephant was the loser in that. And, we wanted to commemorate coming together as a community.”