The Syringa Tree

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In Africa, the syringa tree is a fragrant, flowered tree that can survive in shade or blistering sun. In actress Pamela Gien’s memories, it is much, much more.

In her one-woman play, “The Syringa Tree,” the tree is a magic sanctuary for a young white girl living in South Africa under apartheid. For her black nanny, it is a hideaway from the police. For those who believe in spirits, the tree is the landing place for the dead, who roam in its limbs.

Gien wrote the play in the mid 90s and has performed it around the world. She makes a seamless tour de force of a work that features more than twenty characters. And at its center is a 6-year-old narrator Elizabeth — or Lizzie — Grace, a curious, clever wide-eyed innocent witness to the violence and racism that was apartheid.


Pamela Gein, actress and playwright of the award-winning play, “The Syringa Tree.”