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Playing a Tree

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Trees: probably the most difficult of roles in the history of theater.

Slim: What's the point of going out there? They'll only laugh at me.
P.T. Flea: That's because you're a CLOWN!
Slim: No, it's because I'm a PROP! You always cast me as the broom! The pole! The stick! A splinter!
P.T. Flea: You're a walking stick. IT'S FUNNY! NOW GO!
Slim: You parasite.

A character performs in a play as an inanimate object, commonly on stages. It's often used to undermine a character, making them The Chew Toy of the moment. Sometimes they'll get One-Line Anxiety anyway, demonstrating them to be very strange or delusional. The need to have actors essentially playing props can be justified for School Play productions in which everyone in a class needs to have something to do, and the adults in charge are forced to stretch the definitions of "actor" and "character".

See also The Living Dead, when an actor gets the non-speaking role of a corpse. Actors' tendency to inopportunely get the giggles while playing such roles gave rise to the term Corpsing.

Not to Be Confused with actually becoming a tree or disguising as one.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In more than one Doraemon short where the main characters partake in a school play, usually Nobita - ever the hapless Butt-Monkey - would be cast as the tree. This even extends to a couple of the movies, notably in Doraemon: The Record of Nobita's Parallel Visit to the West where the gang have a performance of Journey to the West and Nobita somehow falls asleep while portraying a tree (and daydreaming himself as the hero, Sun Wukong) and in Doraemon: Nobita's the Legend of the Sun King with the gang's attempts at rehearsing Snow White - Nobita plays the tree in both the beginning and the end of the film.
  • Akari Kouda from High School Girls always gets these kinds of roles in her drama club productions because, despite her thinking she's a great actress, she's a huge ham.
  • In Glass Mask, Maya gets cast as a doll in one play. Her mentor does this intentionally in an attempt to teach Maya how not to steal the spotlight, something she does without meaning to.
  • K-On!:
    • Yui is cast as "Tree G" in the class play of Romeo and Juliet and is all too happy with her role.
      Azusa: A, B, C, D, E, F... Do they really need that many trees?
    • Later on, one of the members of the play couldn't perform, so Yui replaced her... getting the role of a bush.
  • In Ugly Duckling's Love Revolution, the drama club is putting on a play for the kindergartners, and after much ado over what fairy tale to do (and what role Hitomi will play), they go with Momotaro, and Hitomi plays a tree.
  • In Hime-chan's Ribbon Himeko says that her only stage experience is playing a flatfish in elementary school.
  • In Suite Pretty Cure ♪, poor Hibiki plays the tree. In this instance, unlike other times, there was no play — it was just an Imagine Spot as Hibiki and Kanade are trying to get Ellen ready for her first day ever of school.
  • Hakuya plays one in the ending credits for Engaged to the Unidentified.
  • In one episode of Himawari!, Himawari's instructor/master, Hayato, recounts to her how once, when he was a kid, he got upset about having to be an autumn tree a play, even though he had chosen the role himself. When he whined to his mother about it, she declared that they would make him the best tree ever. And they did, drawing and making many paper leaves together.
  • In Kamigami no Asobi, the characters - Yui and her Hot God harem - have a school play of Cinderella. They draw roles out of a hat, and Thor gets "various". He ends up playing a mouse (which Apollon comments he may be too big for), a horse, and finally, yes, a tree. Just then, Loki, who didn't want to play the Prince's servant, decides to stage a coup d'etat... and a fight breaks out on stage.
    Thor: "I... kind of can't move here" (looks down at his feet in a pot of soil)
  • Late in My Monster Secret we have the school play, where most of the supporting cast (including Those Two Guys) play trees. Except for Shimada, who was cast as "wild grass"...and he still tries to steal the scene.
  • Throughout the Ballet Episode of Sailor Moon, Usagi celebrates that the Yamagishi Ballet Company's production of Giselle gave her "a role that was made for her". It's not until the end of the episode she learns that role is the moon.
  • In Tomo-chan Is a Girl!, Junichiro gets cast as a tree in the class' performance of Cinderella. He takes it very seriously, talking to a tree in order to understand his character; when the play rolls around, the narration implies that he absolutely nailed it, but nobody even noticed...except for Tomo's father Goro, who's also Jun's martial arts instructor.

    Asian Animation 
  • Bread Barbershop: One of Bread's dad's greatest memories of Bread is him playing a tree in a play, as seen in "Father Bread".
  • Happy Heroes: In Season 2 episode 7, Careless S. takes the role of a tree in the School Play. He swaps the role with Smart S.'s role as the prince when Smart S. gets hurt and can't play his normal role properly.

    Comic Books 
  • MAD suggests that Keanu Reeves could not even convincingly play a Christmas Tree.
  • In one Little Arsehole story by Walter Moers, a girl named Annette plays a tree. He says she was very convincing. Some other students play boars.
  • In an issue of the Monster Allergy comic, Zick and Elena's class are supposed to perform "Little Bo Beep", which means that most of the students are stuck playing sheep or trees. Elena secretly makes her class prepare to stage a superhero action romp instead.

    Comic Strips 
  • Charlie Brown was the former trope namer. It never actually happened in the comic, hence the rename. But in an early 1980s arc, he was convinced to "help" Peppermint Patty's baseball team, which turned out to be wearing their Pelican mascot outfit. Peppermint Patty had this happen to her as well in a sequence. Both storylines were adapted into shorts for The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show ("The Pelicans" and "Play"), and the latter was also incorporated into It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown; see the Western Animation section.
  • In The Wizard of Id, Sir Rodney's standard disguise for infiltrating the Huns is as a tree.
  • One Calvin and Hobbes storyline has Calvin's school presenting a play on good nutrition, so everyone played inanimate objects. Calvin is cast as an onion, and Susie is "Fat".note 
    • Later in the story arc when Calvin's mother tells Calvin how difficult it is for her to design an onion costume for him, Calvin answers: "Just be glad I'm not Russy White, he has to be an amino acid."
  • In a classic Bloom County storyline, Opus played a cow in a Nativity play. He was the understudy for a Styrofoam cow that got crushed backstage.
    "MOO! MOO! MOO! MOOMOOMOO! MOOOOMOOMOOOMOO! Dramatic embellishment cannot conceal the frightening insignificance of a cow in this story."
  • Crabgrass: in this comic, Miles ends up getting cast as a tree after he auditions for the role of Native American in the schools Thanksgiving play, but he keeps criticizing the part.
  • Phoebe and Her Unicorn: Discussed in this comic, when Marigold is rejected for a musical role she auditioned for, Phoebe recalls how she once tried to get the role of a tree in a school play, but got the lead role instead.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • This was constantly happening to Slim (the "Walking Stick", a type of insect that looks like a stick) in A Bug's Life — he was always cast as inanimate objects such as a twig or a sword, because the ringmaster thought the idea of a Walking Stick playing a stick was punny. (Slim, however, thinks otherwise.)
  • Neil does this in ParaNorman. He's quite happy about it ("I'm a tree!")
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet the Wolfman: Brittany assumes she's playing "a girl named Willa who cries a lot" for the school play, only for Jeanette to tell her she's playing a weeping willow. It didn't help that the play was Jekyll and Hyde, which had no such character in the story.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Love Actually:
    • Not an inanimate object, but it has a pretty entertaining exchange on the subject.
      Kid: It's the Nativity play — and I'm the lobster. First lobster.
      Mother: There was more than one lobster present at the birth of Jesus?
      Kid: Duh.
    • We get to see a brief section of this Nativity play later on in the film, and It Makes Just As Much Sense In Context. There are three lobsters, a starfish, an octopus, a vomiting whale, and Spider-man. And they're singing "Catch a Falling Star", a song which has nothing to do with Christmas.
  • In Driving Lessons, Rupert Grint plays the bookish teenage son of a zealously fundamentalist Christian mother. At some point in the film, his mother directs a play at their local church; she casts the 20-something guy she's got a crush on as Jesus; Rupert is stuck playing a eucalyptus tree.
  • In Tootsie, Dustin Hoffman plays Michael Dorsey, an actor who can never get work because he's too much of a perfectionist. His agent, George, mentions that Michael was once given the role of a tomato in a commercial:
    George: I can't even set you up for a commercial. You played a tomato for 30 seconds - they went a half a day over schedule because you wouldn't sit down.
    Michael: Of course. It was illogical.
    George: YOU WERE A TOMATO! A tomato doesn't have logic. A tomato can't move.
    Michael: That's what I said! So if he can't move, how's he gonna sit down, George? I was a stand-up tomato: a juicy, sexy, beefsteak tomato. Nobody does vegetables like me. I did an evening of vegetables off-Broadway. I did the best tomato, the best cucumber... I did an endive salad that knocked the critics on their ass.
  • From a deleted scene in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events:
    White Faced Woman: It's a terrible life in the theater, you know. You never get your big moment. People think, "Oh, Imma be the star of the show," but then they make you the little tree in the background. Or maybe not even the tree. Maybe the dirt that the tree is planted in. I spent a whole day under a brown sheet, and then they forget about me and turn the lights out.
  • Max and Thor at the end of George of the Jungle. Of course, since it's ''George of the Jungle''...
  • In the closing scene of The Greatest Showman, Barnum's youngest daughter Helen appears playing a tree during her elder sister Caroline's ballet recital. She even waves to her parents in the audience.

  • In Nutcracker Noel by Kate and Jim McMullan, Noel hopes to play a doll in her ballet studio's production of The Nutcracker. She is cast not just as a tree, but the second-to-last tree... a role that it turns out she loves.
  • Horrible Harry: Song Lee's role in the Thanksgiving school play is the dead fish that Squanto buries in the ground to grow the crops. However, she actually wanted this role: her shy nature prevented her from pulling off a speaking part, so she asked the teacher if she could be a dead fish like Harry, who suggested it first.
  • In Harriet the Spy, the class votes to do a dance for the Christmas program in which they portray a Christmas dinner. Harriet is forced to be an onion, and other students play peas, squash, turkey legs, and gravy.
  • In To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout is made to dress up like a leg of ham for a community pageant, but she fell asleep and failed to appear when she should. She was so ashamed, that she didn't take off the costume while going home. This may have saved her life, since the bulky costume provides some protection when Bob Ewell tries to kill her and Jem.
  • The first Diary of a Wimpy Kid novel plays with this. Greg is forced by his mom to audition for a School Play of The Wizard of Oz and he ultimately has to choose a part because everybody who auditions gets one. When he sees the movie, which has living trees throwing apples at Dorothy, he signs on to be a tree because Dorothy is being played by a girl he has a grudge, he won't have to sing. And most of the boys don't want to be in the show and thus want to be trees. He gets the part only to learn 1) there are no arm holes in his costume (until one boy trips and chips his tooth because he couldn’t use his arms to break his fall) and 2) the director feels everyone "deserves" a chance to sing, so the trees get a stupid song. Ultimately, he doesn't sing and does bean Dorothy — at the expense of the rest of the show. The trope is played straight with a poor kid playing a shrub when he auditioned for the Tin Man, but he sneaks a video game into his costume during rehearsals. He gets stage fright.
    • The movie has a Wizard of Oz play, and Greg plays a tree... and that's about all that the two versions have in common. Greg wants to sing, but his voice is too high for any of the male parts, so the teacher assigns him to play a tree. He gets stage fright when he sees his older brother filming him.
  • The Alice Series has Alice playing a bramble bush in her sixth-grade school play. She's very unhappy about it because she wanted to be one of the three main protagonists, but she can't sing. Her job while on-stage was to grab Pamela as she ran past, but their petty squabbles made her yank Pamela by the hair. Pamela walked off hurt and humiliated, leaving Alice alone on the stage because she couldn't move in her costume. This role of hers still gets brought up off and on over the years, usually as a gag.
  • In Henry Huggins, Henry was cast in the lead role in his school's Christmas play, which he found humiliating because the character was a young child, and Henry was chosen only because he was short. Henry was much happier once he was recast as a non-speaking elf.
  • The elementary school poetry book Don't Read This Book, Whatever You Do! features a poem called That Tragic Night in which a child is cast as a flower in their class play. He or she falls asleep while waiting onstage for their cue, and "I was supposed to bloom when the lights shone on my side of the room!"
  • In the picture book Evie and Margie, Margie gets the role of Cinderella in the school play while Evie is her understudy and a tree.
  • Ramona Quimby: Subverted in Ramona and Her Father when Ramona intentionally gets herself the role of a sheep in the Christmas pageant because she's tired of being in the choir. However, she isn't happy with the makeshift costume that her mom manages to make for her, and is reluctant to take the stage until an encounter with the Three Wise Persons (the Three Wise Men backed out) convinces her otherwise.
  • In Stephen Manes' Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days! the first step is to wear a piece of broccoli around your neck. Milo, when questioned by his parents, claims that they're doing a school play about nutrition and he's one of the vegetables, prompting his older sister to remark that it's a good thing he isn't playing the watermelon or he'd be falling over.
  • Used as a plot point in the children's book Chrysanthemum. The titular character, who is already being bullied by her classmates for her Embarrassing First Name, is cast as a daisy in the class musical, prompting Victoria, Jo and Rita to laugh at her even more. However, their music teacher gets them to stop teasing her by revealing that she is also named after a flower and that she thinks Chrysanthemum's name is beautiful. Even the nature of the trope itself is subverted: the epilogue reveals that "Chrysanthemum was absolutely perfect as a daisy" (while the Alpha Bitch forgot all of her lines).
  • In The Left-Outs by Jacqueline Wilson, a girl longs for a leading role in the school's production of "The Pied Piper of Hamelin", but is humiliated at being cast as a rat with no lines. She gets together with the other kids who were cast as rats or background props to put on their own play.
  • The first book in the Bad News Ballet series is about a group of girls whose overbearing parents push them into joining a ballet class. They bond over the embarrassment of being cast as rats in the ballet school's production of The Nutcracker and bullied by the more serious students who got bigger roles.
  • In one of the Adrian Mole books, Adrian's son William is cast as a goat in his nursery school's nativity play. Adrian is initially upset at his son being cast in such a "lowly" role but has the whole family show up to watch him with their cameras at hand, and triumphantly declares that William was the best performer in the show (calling the child cast as Joseph "gormless")
  • Invoked, if averted, in the short story "Miss Patterson's Pageant" where the narrator actually wished he had been cast as a tree, because he thought he might have been able to do the part justice. Instead, he got cast as a shepherd, which didn't go so well.
  • In The Art of Coarse Acting by Michael Green, the author relates how he was in a play where the set designer had the idea of using three pieces of mobile scenery, made up of flats joined into a triangle on wheels, with an operator in the middle to spin or move the arrangement when required for a scene change. Things went well until Michael Green, who was one of the operators, got disoriented during a black-out and nearly wandered off the stage, stopping only when he heard a terrifying shriek and the sound of the audience fleeing the front row.

    Live-Action TV 
  • There's an episode of Strangers with Candy where we're alerted to a teacher's racism by the fact that he cast all the black kids as trees in the school play. The fact that it's a production of A Raisin in the Sun doesn't help his case any.
  • Dwight from The Office (US) once boasted about playing "Mutey the Mailman" in a play, which was a made-up character because there were too many kids in the class for all the normal roles. (Although it's more likely that his teacher just wanted a way to get him to stay quiet.)
  • One of Those Two Guys in Maid Marian and Her Merry Men had the title role in his school play - as a willow in The Wind in the Willows.
  • An example from the third season of Black Adder: Baldrick brags to Edmund that his father was once a famous Shakespearean actor. It turns out he played second codpiece, worn by Macbeth during the fight scenes (which, Blackadder remarks, made him a Stunt Codpiece).
    Edmund: Was it a large part?
    Baldrick: Depends on who's playing Macbeth.
  • In Everybody Loves Raymond, Frank is upset to learn that Ray's sons are playing fairies in the school play, so Ray speaks with the teacher to get them different roles. The only other roles available are rocks. When he tries to get them changed back to fairies, the teacher tells him that those roles have been filled by superior actors.
  • In I Love Lucy, when the Ricardos and the Mertz end up having parts in Little Ricky's school play, Ricky, who is arguably the most talented of the four adult characters, ends up being cast as a tree.
  • Inspector Fowler in The Thin Blue Line is a bit luckier: in the annual Peter Pan performance at Christmas, he always gets the part of the crocodile who swallowed a clock. Tick. Tock.
    • He does, however, end up literally playing a tree in a training role-play exercise in another episode. A tree to which his fellow officers pretend to tie themselves in the role of militant environmentalists. He really gets into the role.
  • One episode of Punky Brewster has the gang attend dance class. When Punky loses her confidence and is unable to be a flower in the concert, they decide to give her the part of the bee who pollinates all the flowers.
  • The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles: "Barcelona, 1917". While Indy is working as an allied spy, his friend Picasso gets him a job with the Ballet Russe. Director Sergei Diaghilev wants Indy to be a eunuch in the background for Scheherazade. It's good cover — one of the ballerinas is having an affair with the head German spy — and all he has to do is stand still. Subverted when Indy has to get a message to his comrades in the middle of opening night and does so by going to the front of the stage and flashing his spangly codpiece in Morse code.
    Diaghilev: This is the man I hired to stand still?
  • In Community when they fill in for the Glee club for the Christmas pageant Britta is cast as a mute tree. This harsh casting clues Abed into the fact that the director is not as nice and happy-go-lucky as he seems.
  • On Friends, Joey gets a role on a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie as a dying virus victim. But after he blows various takes with his hammy death throes, the role is rewritten from "dying" to "dead".
  • The endgame for one episode of Talkin' 'bout Your Generation was "delivered" by the tree outside Boo Radley's house in To Kill a Mockingbird.
  • Gilligan's Island had a scene where Gilligan walked in on Ginger doing an acting exercise where she was pretending to be a tree. Whether she actually had to play one in her career is never mentioned.
  • In the Call the Midwife Series 2 Christmas special, the parish Nativity play Chummy organizes (as leader of the Cub Scout pack) ends up with too many players after combining the Cubs with the Brownies to put on a better show for the Mayor of Poplar (who's dropping in). Seeing this, Chummy decides to personify the gifts of the Three Wise Men and have an awfully large number of sheep.
  • In Anne with an E, Anne is cast as a tree in the pantomime in the Christmas Episode of season two. The idea that playing a tree is a bad part is averted, because Nature Lover Anne finds it to be an exciting role:
    Anne: I've spent so many hours admiring the trees of Avonlea, but to actually be one! It provides so much scope for the imagination.
  • Discussed in the "Gaming" episode of The World According to Jeff Goldblum. It turns out that the virtual reality experience Goldblum is to undergo has him "being" a tree in a forest. He notes to the hostess that he's never played a tree before, not even in a School Play.
  • Mr. Furley in Three's Company mentions playing a rock in a school play in the 3rd grade.
  • Top Gear: During the Middle East special the hosts reminisce about appearing in Nativity plays as children. Jeremy Clarkson was one half of a pantomime donkey while Richard Hammond was a mouse, which opens him up to cracks about his short stature from the other two.
    Clarkson: I took the costume off halfway through so everyone could see it was me.
    James May: And nobody could tell the difference.
  • In Ugly Betty, Betty mentions being cast as a rock in a school play.
  • The Masked Singer: The Tree costume in season two naturally causes this for the celebrity wearing it. However, unlike most cases of this, the Tree is the focus of her performances.
  • In Murder, She Wrote, one of Jessica's recurring neices is married to an actor, and a Running Gag is that she wants to be supportive, but he keeps taking jobs that she doesn't think are proper acting. At the end of one episode, he excitedly announces he's been offered a role as a pineapple in a commercial.
    Victoria: No real actor would play a pineapple! The two things just don't go together! What do you think, Aunt Jess?
    Jessica: Oh, I think they go together very well. Pineapple ... and ham.

  • In the song Captain Beaky's Christmas Pantomime, the snake Hissing Sid gets cast as few inanimate objects as well as playing the Demon King:
    And so they all did pantomime, skating on the pond
    And Hissing Sid played the Demon King, the beanstalk and the wand
  • There's a Christmas poem recorded on tape about a school Christmas play in which the narrator is seemingly proud of, or at least content with, being a tree.
    Then we took our bows together, everyone except me
    I stood there green and fragrant, for I played the Christmas Tree.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Bear in the Big Blue House: "The Best Thanksgiving Ever" has Ojo cast Bear as Plymouth Rock in her Thanksgiving Pageant.
  • In an episode of The Muppet Show, Fozzie agreed to do the "telephone pole skit", not realizing that he would be playing the telephone-Pole: a telephone pole by the name of "Mike Oznowicski". While he is rehearsing, he plays the telephone pole so convincingly that he is mistaken for one by a woodpecker and a telephone lineman. When someone finally lets him in on what the actual punchline is, he is utterly convinced it's going to be a bomb. Reread that: Fozzie thinks something's not funny.
  • A Sesame Street Christmas record (not sure if it was recorded from an actual episode, but if it was it must have aired a while ago) includes a skit in which Bert is very excited to hear that he has the lead role in the Christmas pageant, only to discover that he's playing a Christmas tree.
  • The modern (puppet-era) SuperMarioLogan episode “Three Little Pigs” has Jackie Chu announce the school rendition of the fable (despite the characters being of middle-school age). While Junior, Joseph, and Penelope get the title roles, Cody gets to be a tree and Jeffy gets to be the Big Bad Wolf. The subplot has Cody lamenting about being a tree instead of the Wolf and not having any lines.

  • Adventures in Odyssey, "A Class Act" Charles is cast as a tree. Edwin just simply remarks "The less said about that the better."

  • There is a Play Within A Play in A Midsummer Night's Dream, and one of the actors has to play a wall. Then again, he still gets lines. In response to the wall's performance, Demetrius can't help quipping: "It is the wittiest partition that ever I heard discourse."
  • Another Shakespeare example: the uncannily realistic statue of the late lamented Hermione in The Winter's Tale turns out to be the alive-after-all Hermione playing a statue of herself. (Unless you accept the minority interpretation that she really had been turned into a statue and came back to life on cue. Given the play's other surreal events, it's not completely inconceivable.)
  • Eugène Ionesco's absurdist play, The Bald Soprano, features a character who plays the house door. It's then subverted when, after waiting just long enough to convince the audience that this man with a doorknob attached to his elbow isn't going to move, he is greeted enthusiastically by one of the other characters and they proceed as though he was a normal person. It's that kind of play.
  • Downplayed in The Fantasticks, which requires an actor to play "the wall." It's not a speaking part, but it consists of a lot more than standing around doing nothing.
  • The Real Inspector Hound includes a body which is kept on-stage throughout the entire show. This role is traditionally cast.
  • In the Swiss play Der Besuch der alten Dame (Better known as The Visit), the titular old lady and the father of her child (for lack of a better term) go to the forest where they went in their youth. But for some reason, the trees and so on are played by four citizens of the city. The two old people don't seem to notice. And it Makes Just as Much Sense in Context.
  • The Christian musical I Was a Teenage Christmas Tree: While not for a school play, exactly, the kids in a youth group stranded from home for Christmas thanks to a snowstorm forced the Butt-Monkey of their group to pose as a Christmas tree for them to decorate.
  • Inverted in the Evil Dead musical, where the trees are monsters and attack the main characters.
  • In Dracula: the Musical, there is a scene where the tables, the paintings, the chairs and a bear rug start dancing during Van Helsing's song number.
  • In Fancy Nancy the Musical, Nancy is cast as a tree in a ballet, despite the show having an underwater theme.
  • In Don DeLillo's surrealist play The Day Room, a motel TV set is played by an actor in a straitjacket. (Although it has a substantial amount of dialogue, including a fairly lengthy monologue.)
  • Into the Woods: Milky White the cow, when not being played by a wooden cutout, is usually an unfortunate cast member in a comically bad-looking cow suit.

    Video Games 
  • In Mega Man Star Force, shut-in hero Geo is convinced to return from his three-year homeschooling to regular school thanks in part to being told he has a very important role in local Tsundere/Rich Bitch Luna's school play (ironically, based off the first mission of the game). It turns out (after a rather funny Shout-Out to Megaman's "Blue Bomber" title) that his "important role" is as a tree.
  • Luigi's starring role that he complains about in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is later revealed to have been grass. Played for Laughs because he was performing for plant people who absolutely loved it. His sidekick at this stage is a Dayzee theater impresario who wants Luigi to do his next show (as grass, of course), and whoever writes the books about Luigi that keep showing up in the Rogueport shop apparently felt this wasn't cool enough, describing his role as "a nature spirit".
  • The Curse of Monkey Island: Guybrush Threepwood claims to Slappy Cromwell that he played a tree in a school play, which still wasn't enough to land him a part in the production of "Speare!"
  • The main character of Mission in Snowdriftland is a snowman who, up until recently, was only given these kinds of roles as a background prop in video games. He comes looking for work, hoping to find a developer who won't put him in a Shifting Sand Land, just when the video game world needs a hero who's immune to extreme cold...
  • In Deadly Premonition, during the town meeting, York mentions that last time he was onstage, he was playing a tree (a bright red one, at that) in his elementary school play.
  • During the ending credits of Undertale, Burgerpants finally gets his chance to be on stage with Mettaton. Unfortunately, it's as a bush.
  • In Eternal Fighter Zero, playing a tree actually has a practical use: Ikumi Amasawa's blocking animation has her disguise herself as a tree to block high, a rock to block low, and a cloud to air-block.
  • In Movie Merge Amanda Rutherford throws a fit because the actress who was supposed to be playing a "scruffy-haired tree" in her production quit to work for Movie Merge.
  • In Homescapes when Lisa mentions that she's playing the title role in Sleeping Beauty, Robbie comments that he spent three years playing a tree.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Asagao Academy: Normal Boots Club Jon tells Hana she has just the right skill set to be a star in the drama club's performance of Romeo and Juliet... as a tree.
  • Little Busters!: When the Little Busters get roped into organising a puppet show for a group of kids, Masato insists on getting a role with lots of action sequences and manly dialogue. Kyousuke replies instantly that he will be a tree. A moment later when they decide to set the play in a big city, Masato points out that there wouldn't be any trees there, only for Kyousuke to reply that in that case, Masato will play an empty can.
  • In the second book of the Choices visual novel The Freshman, the protagonist and her friends are all chosen to take part in a play written by James. Madison, the Brainless Beauty of the group, is so used to playing the part of the tree that she becomes disappointed when she doesn't get to be a tree in James' play.
  • In Monster Prom, Scott's auditorium outfit is a tree costume.
  • In Sucker for Love, Estir asks if the player character has even been in a play and responds he played Tree No. 4 in his school production of MacBeth, then admits he was joking and actually played MacBeth.
    Estir: I... wasn't aware that was a role.
    Dearest: It's not.
    Estir: ...You weren't even the leading tree?

  • That Deaf Guy: In this strip, Cedric dreads playing a candy cane for the school's holiday show, but Ms. Fritz requests him to teach the class "Jingle Bells" in sign language. Cedric calls her out for it, saying that a Deaf consultant and hours of translation and rehearsal are needed to authentically teach the song in ASL, so he reluctantly plays a candy cane "until he sees social change".
  • You Damn Kid shows the narrator having to play a tree in his class play and needing to go to the bathroom seconds before going on stage, but not having enough time to remove the costume and go: "So on the video you can tell which one is me, because there's only one tree hopping up and down and squeezing its wiener."

    Web Videos 
  • In Hermitcraft Season 8, TangoTek takes advantage of using carved pumpkins by using mods to create a custom tree for him to confuse his friends. He manages to prank ImpulseSV, Mumbo Jumbo, Grian, Cubfan135, and GoodTimesWithScar in order. He gave the tree costumes to Mumbo Jumbo and Grian to prank the latter two later on.

    Western Animation 
  • In an episode of Family Guy, Stewie's preschool puts on a play about Terri Schiavo, and Stewie plays the apparently coveted role of the plug that gets pulled.
  • In the first episode of Hey Arnold!, "Downtown as Fruits", Arnold and Gerald are supposed to be in a play about the food groups. Arnold plays a banana and Gerald a strawberry.
  • In The Simpsons, both Bart and Milhouse were apparently sheep in the school nativity play.
    • In the same series' 20th season anthology episode, Homer initially played a tree in a production of Macbeth. (Although Macbeth is one of the few plays with walking, fighting trees.) However, after a series of brutal murders, Homer is promoted to the lead role.
    • One episode had a President's Day play where several students played the "lesser-known Presidents" like Millard Fillmore, Rutherford B. Hayes, and William Henry Harrison ("I died in 30 days!"). Though really, their musical number was probably the second-best part of the night.
    • In an episode where Marge gets agoraphobia, the family tries to ease her back into social situations by acting out a trip to the Kwik-E-Mart. To her annoyance, Lisa is cast as a magazine rack.
    Homer: Hey, I'll be the first to admit I don't write good parts for women.
  • In Dave the Barbarian, Dave ends up casting almost everyone as a tree in the Udrogoth pageant.
  • Rugrats (1991): In "The Santa Experience", Chas gets the idea to dress up as Santa and come down the chimney on Christmas morning to give Chuckie a special Christmas. Although Drew likes the idea, he hires a professional actor to play Santa, much to Chas' dismay.
    Chas: What's wrong with me? I'm a good actor! Remember our fourth-grade play? I got the title role in Wind in the Willows!
    Drew: were a tree.
    Chas: I was the willow!
  • Arthur
    • This happened to Binky in one early episode, except that he enjoyed being props because he was "real steady."
    • In another, the class puts on a play about Thomas Edison, and Francine, who plays Edison, has the only major role that's not an inanimate object. Getting to play the first light bulb is sort of a big deal even if there are no lines, but Francine's perfectionism manages to make it an ordeal anyway.
    • In another episode, Francine chastises Brain by reminding him of a group project they did together - he wrote a script that cast himself as Napoleon & her as France, refused to give her any lines to speak and spent part of the presentation standing on her as she lay on the floor.
  • In an episode of Camp Lazlo, Lumpus insists on being part of the play and brags to Miss Doe about his "strong" part. "Strong," it turns out, was literal; he plays a rock but being a Large Ham, he insists on having lines anyway even if they belong to someone else. Also from that episode, everybody playing one of the seven deadly sandwiches. It Makes Sense in Context... sorta.
  • Somewhat subverted in Futurama, when Bender is cast as Calculon's son in All My Circuits only to find that the part has been rewritten to suit his abilities—the character is in a coma. Needless to say, this does not last.
    Bender: Now THAT'S hospital dancing!
  • In the Peanuts special It's Christmas Time Again, Charlie Brown, Peppermint Patty complained about being cast as a sheep in the school Christmas play.
    Peppermint Patty: [on stage] Woof, meow, moo! Whatever.
    [the audience laughs]
    Peppermint Patty: [singing as Marcie drags her off-stage] And a partridge in a pear tree!
  • In an episode of Chowder, Shnitzel plays a tree in Mung Daal's dinner theater. He's actually very good for the role: he's tall and he has a head shaped like a truncated cylinder. Unfortunately, the costume is terrible. He looks more like himself with an afro and pom-poms than a tree (this is probably Played for Laughs).
  • In one episode of Class of 3000, Sunny Bridges mentions having played "the title role" of 'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn' as a kid.
  • In an episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Billy gains the ability to see a short period of time into the future, and has visions of people suffering horrible injuries including Mandy's head on a table. It turns out that she was just cast as a table in the school play.
  • Phineas and Ferb:
  • Happened once to the title character of Madeline and a few of her friends. The director lifted their spirits by giving them a dance number.
  • In one episode of Mike, Lu & Og, the islanders put on a play about the founding of the island, and Lu ends up playing the ship that brought them there.
    • Also, Alfred plays a rock.
  • Bob's Burgers: In "Hamburger Dinner Theater", Tina actually requests to be a tree in Linda's murder mystery dinner theater. Oddly, said tree plays some sort of role in the plot, gets murdered, and is even listed as one of the suspects at the end. She's later given a line in the show, though Tina fails to say it on cue due to stage fright.
  • Adventures from the Book of Virtues: Not an inanimate object, but in the first part of the "Compassion" Christmas episode, during a school play based on A Christmas Carol, Annie apparently got cast as Ebeneezer Scrooge by her teacher because she yells at her classmates for not making up their mind.
  • The Emperor's New School: Yzma used to play a tree at school plays back when she was a student.
  • In one episode of WordGirl, Becky's school puts on a production of Romeo and Juliet, and Scoops is cast as a wall. When none of the leads show up on time, Scoops, as the only actor on-stage, simply tells the audience the entire plot of the play. His performance is very well-received.
  • In "The School Play" from Timothy Goes to School and also adapted as a book for the Yoko and Friends series, Yoko is upset when she is cast as the cavity in the school's dental hygiene play. Truth be told though, most of the cast are fictionalized, anthropomorphized versions of things like teeth, toothbrushes, and toothpaste.
  • In The Fairly Oddparents episode "Love Triangle", Cosmo mentions that he once played the "pivotal role" of Table #3 in a nursery school play, and he makes Timmy perform that role for him when he's directing a rehearsal.
    Timmy: There's gum under here.
    Cosmo: Stick with the script! That was Table #2's line!
  • In Total Drama Presents: The Ridonculous Race, we learn that Mickey had been cast as a tree when he was ten, only to trip over his own roots and cause a domino effect where the whole production crashed on top of his head. Jay still insists that he was the best tree in the show, though.
  • In one episode of Alvin and the Chipmunks the boys are participating in a school play. Theodore plays a rock, Alvin plays an angel, and everyone else plays a shepherd.
  • The Rupert episode "Rupert and Growler" had the elderly pirate order his two grandsons to pretend to be tourists as part of another scheme to steal valuables. One of the grandsons gloats that he's a very good actor, his cited experience being that he played a tree in a school play.
  • On Franklin and Friends, Bear plays a tree in the play in "Franklin and the Snow Princess." Goose plays the glistening snow, Rabbit is the whooshing wind.
  • In The Powerpuff Girls, Blossom takes umbrage at losing the role of Juliet in a school play of "Romeo and Juliet" to Bubbles and being consigned to playing a rock. However, she is assigned as Bubbles' understudy. So Blossom eventually tricks Bubbles into a closet and locks her in it. From the episode "A Star is Blossom."
  • The Magic School Bus: In "The Magic School Bus Gets Planted", the school is doing a stage adaptation of Jack and the Beanstalk, but Phoebe was unable to grow a real beanstalk in time, and the fake one they (poorly) made as a substitute gets knocked over. So Ms. Frizzle decides to turn Phoebe into a bean plant herself and use the opportunity to teach the class about how plants are fed so that she can grow in time.
  • In The Loud House episode "Deep Cuts", Luan's boyfriend, Benny, spends the whole episode in a cactus costume, even during the protest at the end.
  • In the My Dad the Rock Star episode "Home For The Holly Daze" Crystal is cast as a tree in the school Christmas paegant. A rare instance of this trope where the character LIKES playing this role.
  • Tiny Toons Looniversity: In "The Show Must Hop On", Babs casts Plucky as a cactus in ACME Looniversity's school play, much to the latter's ire, since the cactus doesn't have any lines. Ironically, Hamton hoped to be able to get the part of the cactus, much to Babs' surprise, as he played vegetation in seventeen different school plays growing up.

    Real Life 
  • After Dave Barry wrote a column disparaging opera, he was invited by the Eugene Opera to play a corpse in their production of Gianni Schicchi. He found it nearly impossible to stay still and resist the suddenly unbearable urge to cough, scratch, or, especially, lick his lips, to the point where he wished Puccini put a scene where the other actors, for some reason, lick the corpse's lips (that particular opera has the corpse lying front stage center for the entire 30 minutes long first act). This is the sort of thing that gave rise to the theatrical term "corpsing", meaning to laugh or giggle at an inappropriate time during a play.
  • For many years on-stage nudity was banned in Britain - except if the performers didn't move a muscle, on the grounds that statues weren't obscene. In particular, the Windmill Theatre Girls were famous for their nude tableaux vivants. Covered (or uncovered, if you will) in the film Mrs Henderson Presents.
  • This is a common occurrence in school nativities which follow the storyline of the birth of Christ. In the story of Christ, there'll usually be fewer characters than there are people in a class, and so some children will usually end up in roles such as "sheep" or "Shepherd who stays in the background and does nothing", just so each child has a role in the play but the play doesn't get overtaken by too many unnecessary characters. If you're exceptionally unlucky, you'll be lumped with the "choir" who doesn't appear on stage at all or simply not be given a role.
    • Overlaps with research failure: a lot of nativity plays will add the Three Wise Men in, even though they're not supposed to have been there until quite a while after the birth of Jesus, so that there are more "important" roles and fewer sheep, etc.
    • Its also quite common for more angels than Gabriel to be added to talk to the Shepherds, so more roles with a few lines are created, which do not overtake the story. Also, occasionally the star will have lines.
  • The rules book for Nero, a fantasy LARP, suggests casting additional NPCs in roles like statues. In actuality, there are seldom enough NPCs to cover all of the roles needed, let alone extras to make into furniture.
  • Invoked by Vin Diesel in an interview for Guardians of the Galaxy (2014); on being asked what his ten-year-old self would make of where his career has gone, he points out that he'd have been horrified if anyone had told him that after 25 years in the business he'd be glad to be playing a tree.
  • A weird Painting the Medium example is partly responsible for the cultural perception of Ninja. The stereotypical black ninja costume is actually that of prop handlers (Kuroko) in Kabuki theater, who were on-set all the time "playing" special effects and items like trees or doors. The audience was basically trained to ignore them, so some later plays would screw with audience expectations by having a kuroko suddenly brandish a weapon and attack the hero to represent an assassination attempt. Over time, this trick was pulled so often that the kuroko costume gradually became a cultural shorthand for someone being a ninja, even though real ninja didn't actually dress like that (at least, not all the time).


Video Example(s):


Cinderella - Tomo-chan

A play starring the aloof Misuzu as Cinderella, the ditzy Carol as the Stepmother, Tomo (a girl) as the Prince, and Jun as a tree.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / SchoolPlay

Media sources: