Gainesville Theatre Alliance to Present ONCE ON THIS ISLAND, 2/9-20

As winter chill hits Northeast Georgia, things are only heating up at Gainesville Theatre Alliance with their production of Once on this Island as part of its annual February Festival of plays. This Olivier Award-winning musical runs Feb. 9-20 at Brenau's Hosch Theatre in the John S. Burd Performing Arts Center 429 Academy St., Gainesville.

Based on Trinidad-born novelist Rosa Guy's book "My Love, My Love: Or, The Peasant Girl," Once on this Island features an invigorating tropical score, lively island dance and a heart-warming story. On a thunderous night in the Antilles archipelago, thunder booms, making a small girl cry in fear. To comfort her, the village storytellers tell her the story of Ti Moune, a peasant girl who falls in love with a handsome gentleman, Daniel Beauxhomme - a story of life, love, grief and hope. Once on this Island comes from the Tony Award-winning songwriting team of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. GTA produced Ahrens and Flaherty's acclaimed hit Ragtime in 2002.

The Gainesville Theatre Alliance is a nationally acclaimed collaboration between University of North Georgia, Brenau University, Theatre Professionals and the Northeast Georgia Community.

Director/Choreographer David Rossetti returns to the MainStage this year for his 5th production with GTA. His work has been seen in such shows as Hairspray, Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Wedding Singer, and Singin' in the Rain. Rossetti has been busy since working with GTA, performing and assistant choreographing the national tour of Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat and performing on Broadway in the recent revival of Annie. Rossetti is excited to be back working with GTA.

"I love that they not only have the most dedicated and talented students and artists, but also some of the best creative teams I've ever worked with," Rossetti commented.

He explained how the story of Once on this Island has elements of the tragedies Romeo and Juliet and Han Christian Anderson's The Little Mermaid,

"Through this tragedy comes a re-birth for the island through the suffering and pain of one person. So it's tragedy by definition."

But Rossetti sees much hope in this Caribbean fairytale. He continues, "[Once on this Island is] also an uplifting story about one girl who managed to change the hearts and minds of an entire island by simply never giving up on her dreams. Love always wins in the end."

Dance forms an integral part of the world of Once on this Island. Characters express themselves through movement. "For me, a big challenge of this show is how incredibly important movement is to the culture of Haiti, where this show is based," says Rossetti. "I wanted to honor that as best I could so I've taken 30+ hours of Haitian dance from numerous world-renowned teachers in New York City."

GTA also welcomes back D. Conner McVey, an alumnus of its technical design program, as guest Lighting Designer. McVey's lighting designs have been seen in past GTA productions of Oklahoma!, The Great Gatsby and Chicago for which he won Undergraduate Lighting Designer of the Year for 2015 from the Southeastern Theatre Conference.

"Every play is different and as such my design approach differs slightly, but these big musicals usually require some amount of photographic research in order to prepare my ideas," he said. "Time of day is crucially important to Once on this Island. Weather is a major player as well. I've been taking a lot of photos of the sky before or after a storm, and sunrises and sunsets"

Pamela Workman, the newest addition to GTA's in-house professionals, is designing the costumes for Once on this Island. She describes creating for this show as "completely different" from working on Mary Poppins, which she also designed. "Mary Poppins is very specific in style and period. [It's] a detailed show with lots of layers. Once on this Island is a Caribbean voodoo theme with a relaxed style. I am creating a world of people that you would see living in this environment," says Workman.

Workman shared that director Rossetti's summary of the show's setting, for costume and set purposes, was that life was being rebuilt on the island with only what the characters have found washed up on shore. So lots of creativity is going into the costumes as much of the wardrobe will be made of found objects.

"This world is the aftermath of a huge storm, (i.e. like the earthquake of Haiti). These Storytellers are trying to live in this new environment," Workman says. "As the Storytellers are moving through the events, their costumes are items found in the debris of the storm. Our costume add-ons will be a lot of up-cycling found items."

One example is a cape for the god-of-the-sea character made from shower curtains that have been heated and shaped to form a richly textured shell, embedded with sea glass and driftwood.

Another alumnus on the design team is Scenic Cesigner, Lainey Kennedy. Her design work has been seen in WonderQuest's The Emperor's New Clothes as well as at numerous other Atlanta theatres. Longtime GTA Favorite, Dale Grogan joins the production as music director. He will be conducting a 6-piece orchestra on stage, and guest artist Emma Lipsitt rounds out the design team as Sound Designer. Her work is often featured at the Alliance Theater as a sound engineer.

North Georgia theatre patrons can travel to the tropics in this island fairytale beginning Feb 9, at Brenau's Hosch Theatre, 429 Academy Street, Gainesville. The show is rated PG. The show is half of GTA's seventh annual February Festival of Theatre, which includes a production of DRACULA this year, also playing Feb. 9-20, but on UNG-Gainesville's Ed Cabell Theatre stage (3820 Mundy Mill Road, Oakwood, 30566).

The play runs Feb. 9-20, with a, $10, general admission Preview on Monday, Feb. 8. Tickets for all other performances range from $12 to $24. Patrons can select their own seats at or by calling the GTA Box Office at 678-717-3624. Group reservations (at a 20% discount) are available by calling the Box Office; Phonic Ear devices and large print programs are available for all performances.

Photo Credit: Simpson Custom Photography

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