The theater department of Wheaton will be showcasing the one-act musical “Once on This Island”, book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, with music by Stephen Flaherty. The show follows Ti Moune, an orphan girl raised by peasants in sea-swept, post-revolution Carribean village.
“The whole story surrounds Ti Moune seeking the gods who rule her island,” says Krystal Ssonko ’21, who plays the main character. “During this pursuit for life’s purpose, Ti Moune’s life is changed forever.”
The different gods who make appearances include Erzulie, the spirit of love, and Papa Ghede, who is believed to be the reincarnation of the first man to die, according to the official site for the musical. These gods and others teach Ti Moune lessons and help her along her journey.
The main conflict of the musical is between the two sides of one island; one side occupied by the “black as night” peasants – as described by the play – while on the other half of the island lives the paler descendants of the French occupiers and their slaves.
“The story focuses on topics like socioeconomic difference, racism, and colorism,” Ssonko continues. “These topics are so important and need to be discussed, and it’s amazing getting to see how we can express that through the arts.” Colorism is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group.”
“This is a musical I believe can connect to students from all walks of life,” Ssonko states. “The Wheaton community will love the show.” Currently holding the Tony award for the Best Revival of a Musical (awarded 2018), “Once on This Island” originally ran 1990 to 1991 on Broadway. The Wheaton production will run April 4–6 and 11–13, with Thursday performance beginning at 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday performances beginning at 7:30 p.m.