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Questions for a Tree

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Event Details:

Questions for a Tree is a presentation of student Vivian Leilani Shay's Honors in the Arts and Earth Systems Capstone work.

This interactive, site-specific work will feature poetry, dance, and music to explore how the arts can serve as a rigorous mode of environmental inquiry. 

Performances are at 7:00pm on Friday, May 17, and Saturday, May 18 at the O'Donohue Family Stanford Educational Farm.


In scientific descriptions of environmental processes, a fundamental barrier exists between the language we use to describe nature and the language of nature. As scientists, we attempt to translate the language of nature into the language of science: an objective framework that facilitates an objective understanding of the natural world. However, our innate curiosities about the natural world–our questions for the trees, for the rocks, for the water–cannot always be answered through science. 

Inspired by Shay's longing to communicate with the natural world, Questions for a Tree is an interactive, site-specific piece of dance theatre set on the O’Donohue Family Stanford Educational Farm. Questions for a Tree reimagines how we approach environmental understanding by putting forth poetry and dance as rigorous modes of inquiry capable of articulating the complexity of environmental systems and our place within them. By ultimately engaging this artistic inquiry in conversation with scientific inquiry, we can achieve a more holistic, nuanced, and intuitive understanding of the natural world.