“… when I pass peasant-forests that I have preserved from the axe, or hear the rustling of the young plantations set out with my own hands, I feel as if I had had some small share in improving the climate, and that if mankind is happy a thousand years from now I will have been a little bit responsible for their happiness. When I plant a little birch tree and then see it budding into young green and swaying in the wind, my heart swells with pride …” – Dr. Astrov, Uncle Vanya
It’s been five years since birch trees were part of the Long Wharf Theatre landscape – and those happened to be on stage in the 2007 production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya.
A backhoe dumped dirt into a concrete trench out in front of the theatre’s Mainstage. Later on, landscapers planted several small birch trees, bringing a welcome splash of green to the concrete and steel environment, just a small part of the $3.8 million renovation project currently taking place on the Mainstage.
Three five-year-old birch trees, each about 15 feet high, will take up permanent home outside the newly renovated Long Wharf Theatre. The trees, species name betula duraheat birch, each have three calipers extending from the root base – meaning, three tall branches extend upward from almost six inches off the ground.
“The green leaves will turn a distinguished yellow in the fall. The bark is textured and will be highlighted at night by accent lighting,” said Kyle Skar, a designer working with Gregg, Wies, and Gardner, project architects. “The intent is to lighten up the parking lot.”
In addition to the theatrical antecedent implied by the presence of the birches, there is a practical reason for their presence. Birch trees thrived in the wetlands that comprised this area of New Haven before Long Wharf Theatre’s founding – a wetlands teeming with hardy plant life. The birches are a visual reminder of that past.