"Once on This Island" – Why We tell the Story
Posted on 06/05/2019
The cast of "Once on this Island" performing a musical number

“Once on This Island” is a one-act musical and it is set in the French Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean Sea. It concerns a peasant girl on a tropical island, who uses the power of love to bring together people of different social classes. Potomac High School’s production brought this fantastic tale to life as their spring musical.

One stormy night, thunder booms, making a small girl cry in fear. To comfort the child, the village storytellers tell her the story of Ti Moune (Sally Deen), a peasant girl who falls in love with a wealthy man. In this story, four gods rule an island known as the ‘Jewel of the Antilles’ where poor peasants worship them. The four gods are Asaka (Ednali Figueroa), mother of the earth, Agwé (Annika Deomano), god of water, Erzulie (Mia Aragon), goddess of love, and Papa Ge (Kevin Patterson), demon of death. The peasants live on one side of the island, while wealthy landowners live on the other. One night, Agwe unleashes a terrible storm upon the island, which in turn causes a disastrous flood, wiping out many villages. However, the gods save the life of a little orphan named Ti Moune by placing her in a tree above the flood's waves.

Years later, a grown-up Ti Moune prays to the gods to let her know her purpose. Agwe arranges for the car of Daniel Beauxhomme (Casey Dejesus-Webb), a young wealthy man, to crash during a storm so that they meet. Ti Moune rescues him. When Papa Ge comes to take Daniel's life, Ti Moune offers her life in exchange for Daniel's so that he will not die.

Daniel’s family comes for him and he returns home. Ti Moune follows Daniel to be with him. He is still ill, unable to walk, and does not remember her but believes her after she describes the scar on his chest. As they spend time together, Erzulie gives them the gift of love. Daniel ignores the townspeople's gossiping over the unlikely relationship of a wealthy man and a poor peasant.

During a ball hosted by Daniel’s family, Ti Moune learns that he is engaged to be married to another woman. Daniel goes through with the arranged marriage, although he insists he and Ti Moune can remain lovers. Papa Ge reappears and reminds Ti Moune of her promise to exchange her life for Daniel’s but offers to revoke the bargain if she kills Daniel. Ti Moune loves him too much to kill him - proving love is stronger than death.

Ti Moune waits for two weeks meet Daniel at the gate. After Daniel is married, he follows an old tradition of throwing coins to the peasants outside the hotel gates. Ti Moune calls to Daniel, who gently places a silver coin in her hand, kisses her cheek, and leaves. The gods, moved to tears by Ti Moune's selflessness and love, chose to bestow a final kindness on her and transformed her into a tree.

The tree becomes a celebration of life and love that cracks open the gates of Daniel’s family hotel, allowing those of all social statuses to become one. Years go by, and the story of Ti Moune is told again and again, passed down through generations as proof of the power of love and stories to bring people together.

Once on This Island’s Standout:
Beyond the wonderful performances of the actors, the standout of this production was the set. It was simple, allowing the story to be the center of attention. Ti Moune’s tree was placed in the center of the set. It was painted black, giving the impression of a silhouette, while showcasing the importance of the tree throughout the production. The four gods each had a decorative banner, hung vertically on a pole, that symbolized water, earth, love, and death. Platforms in front of each banner, provided a place for them to watch over Ti Moune.