Welcome to our Featured Play Spotlight. They Eat Sunshine, Not Zebras by Dara Murphy takes the expected and turns it upside-down.
The field believes in uniformity. Lovely rows of blades all the same height. Lovely rows of blades exhibiting standard behaviour of green grassness.
Nothing stands in the way of their orderly life. Until they wake up one morning to see a yellow dandelion in their midst. Sunny (that’s the dandelion) is bright and warm and just wants to be friends. The field wants nothing to do with her nonstandard, non-green ways.
A dandelion will turn their orderly way of life upside-down. A dandelion must be destroyed. Isn’t that what you do when something is different?
Why did we publish this play?
Dara Murphy loves looking at the dark side of life, always with a twist of humour. We love that about her writing.
Also, personification is a must at the high school level. It’s one of the best ways to get students out of their shells to take on a character that just doesn’t exist in real life. Personification is one of my favourite theatrical techniques. Who doesn’t want to see talking grass?
1. Why did you write this play?
When I was younger, my family owned a cabin in BC and we would visit fairly often. It had a large yard and every summer my mom and I would spend time pulling out dandelions. After digging up flower after flower, I started to feel bad for the dandelions. I thought the yellow flowers were pretty. I wondered why some plants were labeled weeds and some plants weren’t. Another part of me found the job tedious. Why spend time digging out healthy plants? Who was I to decide if they could live or die? I started to daydream about the dandelions and what their characters might be like. I ended up writing a short story about them, and eventually I adapted that story into this play.
2. Describe the theme in one or two sentences.
This play is a comment on the fear and misunderstanding that can occur when someone different moves into a community.
3. What’s the most important visual for you in this play?
I see a field of grass standing perfectly at one uniform height. The threat of the lawnmower has caused the blades of grass to continuously strive for order and perfection. Then I see Sunny, the funky, yellow dandelion. Sunny is an individual who is different in many ways. The field glares at Sunny and does its best to make Sunny feel completely unwelcome.
4. If you could give one piece of advice for those producing the play, what would it be?
The field of grass should be very lively and active. Instead of just waiting for lines, actors can mumble, cheer, shout out, and gossip about what’s going on.
5. Why is this play great for student performers?
I think this play is great for a lot of reasons!
• It has a large cast, gender doesn’t matter, and every character gets a moment to shine.
• If there are students who don’t want lines, they can still join in as blades of grass and have fun reacting with the rest of the field.
• The actors are on stage for the entire time, so there are opportunities for students to learn about ensemble acting.
• The costumes and the set can be simple, yet there is a lot of room for creativity.
• The theme is topical and this could lead to important discussions.