Where once their reigned a mighty spruce, graciously adorning the front lawn of the Ivoryton Playhouse, an intricately carved piece of commemorative art will soon be there instead. The art will honor this captivating and beloved tree, as well the famously historic Playhouse and the quaint, small town of Ivoryton.
The tree met its demise at the hands of 80 mile an hour plus wind gusts during the height of hurricane Irene last fall. After more than a century of growth, the massive spruce could not fight back against the punishment of those whipping winds.
When it fell, it did so as it had lived-with grace and beauty, kissing the front door of the theatre where greats such as Katherine Hepburn, Mae West and Betty Grable have performed. Miraculously, there was no damage to the building from the fall. Once the damaged tree was removed, a ten foot stump remained as its memory. Locals wondered why this stump had not been ground down; Jacque Hubbard Executive/Artistic Director of the Playhouse, however, had plans.
“I knew I couldn’t just have this tree chopped up, especially since we had lost the 125 year-old Maple Tree, that was also part of our front yard, two years prior, to old age and disease,” explains Hubbard who has been with the Ivoryton Playhouse for the past 22 years.
The artist responsible for this new piece of art is sculpter Kris Connors of Clinton. Using a chain saw for 90 percent of his work and grinders, sanders and dremels for the rest, Connor has been carving wood, as well as bronze, clay and resin sculptures for the past nine years as a part-time business, while he worked full-time as an art teacher in the Madison school system. After twelve years as a teacher, Connors decided to step away from his teaching career this fall and break out as a full time, self employed artist.
“The idea is to be a full service sculpture. I do custom designs and work closely with my clients to ensure that I create a piece or pieces for them that they are happy with,” explains Connor of his new full-time venture.
“Once I met Kris and saw his wonderful design sketch of what he wanted to do with our stump, I knew that was it,” says Hubbard excitedly. “I am extremely happy that he has included a tree carving in the tree trunk, so really we have lost a tree and gained a tree at the same time.”
The sculpture, which is three dimensional in design, is split into two visual halves. One halfdepicts a scene of a boy reading a book beneath a tree, with a stack of books beside him; which is symbolic of the many actors that had practiced their lines beneath the fallen tree in the past. The other half depicts the architecture of the Playhouse, a large elephant head with very expressive old eyes, a stage backdrop and detailed piano keys paying homage to Ivoryton’s history.
“I am so happy that Kris showed up, he understood exactly what needed to go on the stump and what we wanted,” shares a very pleased Hubbard.
Other sculpture pieces of Connor’s can be seen adorning the tops of the pilings surrounding the Saybrook Point Inn’s patio depicting native wildlife, in the courtyard behind Chip’s Pub in Clinton, where his nine foot Grizzly bear, (which replaced the previous one because it was rotted) greets patrons and at the Cookoo’s Nest in Old Saybrook, where his six foot tall cuckoo bird holds the menus.
“I think that Kris’s sculpture will make Ivoryton really stand out. It is a wonderful piece of art that will be there to enjoy for a very long time to come,” says Hubbard, who has plans of formally unveiling the piece in March, when the theater’s season opens again.
Connor hopes to be finished with his sculpture in the next two weeks, weather providing. For more information about his work go to, customwoodcarvings.com.