In this 3-part series, PerformInk takes you inside Spinning Tree Theatre’s production of ONCE ON THIS ISLAND through blog posts written by the people behind the scenes. To read past “Inside” articles click here.
Pictured: Allison Jones. Photo by J. Robert Schraeder.
By Allison Jones
What is there to say about a young woman who beams at all the creation laid at her feet? One who dreams and is assured that she is due purpose sweeter than anyone in her grasp can imagine? She is simply, Ti Moune.
ONCE ON THIS ISLAND is a tale of islanders who live in two different worlds. One world full of high iron gates, beautiful clothes and fancy Beauxhomme balls, while on the other side of the island lives peasants constantly at the mercy of the gods that rule over them. Ti Moune is a peasant girl who has never seen her “peasant-hood” as something to mourn, but rather a place where she can climb higher and dive deeper, discovering life beyond.
I must admit I did not know much about Ti Moune, except that she is a young Caribbean islander and I am a young-ish American with a Midwestern, newscaster, accent. The more I began to understand Ti Moune, the more I began to understand myself. Characters always seem to be funny that way, don’t they? She’s free and ready. She’s more fearful of non-discovery than anything else. She’s passionate about her purpose but holds a heart of grace for everyone she meets through the end. In her “naivety” her heart breaks, but she is gifted with an everlasting, present, heartbeat. She learns lessons and still rises. I get it. While discovering her seemingly simple layers as an actor, I’ve come to trust that my humanity is just the same and it’s freeing to know in the end it’s all going to be okay.
Ti Moune, however, does not become the young woman that she is on her own. She is the collection of the people within her community. Her adopted parents, the other peasants, the gods and even the Beauxhommes people; they love her heart, her innocence, her energy and have no choice but to feed it back to her. Just as Ti Moune does not become herself on her own neither does the telling of this story. The pictures you see painted through lights, props, movement, music, costumes, and bodies come from a collective trust as cast and crew. Constantly learning from each other by our individual discoveries. Our heart for this piece is in the details; these details grip the audience, jolting every emotion just as life does.
ONCE ON THIS ISLAND is an unceasing journey that we as actors are taking with the one another and the audience. It also represents the journey that we take each day in our real lives. None of us can do any of this without one another. Our purpose and path is layered with pieces of self, others and the unknown.
This story shows us how life is layer upon layer of pain, love, grief, hope, and faith. Why do we tell the story? So that none of us have to alone.
Allison Jones (Ti Moune): Spinning Tree: Debut. Local: Sister Act (Barn Players), Sondheim on Sondheim (Summit Theatre Group). Education: BS in Biology, Alabama A&M University.