Experience ‘The Oak Tree of Maryland’ with our students

Experience ‘The Oak Tree of Maryland’ with our students

Experience ‘The Oak Tree of Maryland’ with our students:

The play begins with a traditional MEAC introduction. Joanne Margolius explains the setting is Western Maryland during the American Civil War. The scenes are centered around an oak tree that witnesses the lives of two brothers. She then asks for complete silence. This simple instruction can be a challenge for many of our ADHD clients as this play is sixty minutes long. This practice at being quiet and attentive is much needed. The opening ballet then takes place.

After the opening ballet Joanne and her fellow performer will begin interaction with the students. The performers sprinkle ‘magic dust’ into the hands of the students to facilitate contact. Many of our clients have trouble communicating how they feel with words and it is hoped that this physical contact gives our clients the opportunity to express how they feel in a appropriate way without verbalization. The eye contact the clients get during this time helps them make a connection to the performers. When Magic dust is over the character, Elisha begins to play hide and seek with his brother Sam. Each take turns hiding behind the students, using a silk cloth as a prop. This typically brings many smiles to the youth, it also provides an easy way for the clients to remain focused and invested in the play. This also demonstrates appropriate ‘play’. The relationship of the brothers is now established.

After the game, a narrative talks of the coming war. Elisha then dresses in a Northern uniform, Sam in the garb of the South. When this takes place the happy faces are gone. The performers project a sad emotion. Joanne then brings over a prop of a drum. She uses the tool to help the clients maintain a connection with the characters even when they are sad. She attempts to connect with each student one at a time. This kind of exercise helps the RICA clients learn to express emotion and helps them with emotional strength. While Elisha is searching the battlefield for those she can help, Sam lays wounded near by. This establishes the separation and loss the brothers in the play are enduring. Elisha ends this part of the play by beginning to ask if anyone needs “help”. She repeats this several times. Eventually the brothers see each other once again. They remove the northern and southern forage caps, reunite and together help others on the Antietam battlefield. The mood is immediately lifted. This is a fantastic example of how to express courage and share it in an appropriate fashion. The play now takes us full circle, as the Civil war brothers sit down by the base of the oak tree, and become modern day school children on a field trip to Antietam. Their teacher lets them play a game before they depart -Hide and seek. The play then takes a drastic change. Joanne invites all the students to dance with her in a circle. The clients dance enthusiastically. They spin and jump and generally have fun. After this excitement the students are asked to lie down and relax. They are calm and reflective as they await the last task of the workshop.

The group ends with everyone sitting in a circle, where each will process the experience of the MEAC performance. This is arguably the most important part of the session. The clients are encouraged to talk about their feelings and share them with everyone in the group. Out clients also use this time to ask questions about history and clarify points of the play. Some times things that have happened in the past are difficult for our clients to understand but Joanne does an incredible job of explaining things to the students in away they can understand, educating them and emotionally freeing them from their disabilities.


Jack W. Rose, Activity Therapy Associate