I had the great honor of directing Once on This Island at Central High School which performed the first couple weeks of March. The show was added to the season after many students requested one more chance to do a show before the end of their senior year. I didn’t start off directing the show. I started off in my usual “helping” role. However, after the show was cast, and I had come up with a scene/role break down because I had done the show before, and the the director, Jeff, realized that life was super busy, I was asked to take the lead. I love this show. It speaks to me. Of coarse I would take on the responsibilities of directing the show!
My partners in crime were the usual… Jeff took care of music and costumes and set decor and anything I didn’t want to do. Linda took care of dance. We make a great team!
Rehearsals were a little crazy because the stage was booked. We danced and blocked scenes all over the school. I had to create a set on wheels. Everyday we moved the set on and off, switching from concert mode to the the play. Sometimes we would switch the set on stage up to 3 times. It was crazy!
I love good dance numbers and Linda came up with some great ones!
As an ensemble, the cast was perfection. By the time we got to performance the worked as a perfect unit! They danced together and the sang as a winning choir.
This is all because my team is great at helping these kids rise to their greatest potential.
I have great expectations for these kids. I believe they can be great performers and story tellers and I expect them to do so. When you set the bar high kids will rise and arrive.
I also love how these kids have become a family. I have a soft spot for this group of kids because I have been involved with them for so long. They are great human beings. I am excited to see these seniors move forward and make their place in this world, but sad that I won’t see them daily and feel of their goodness and energy. Still, I know they will continue to inspire me.
In addition to the challenge of having a set that needed to move on and off stage…. daily… and the need to share the space with so many other events (there was a concert the nigh before we opened), I needed to come up with a vision for the show. I have a soft spot in my heart for Polynesia because of my auntie Marara so the show took on more a Pacific Island feel. I figure it was ok because the French settled island in the Pacific too, even if the show was really written for island in the Caribbean. I also decided to have the “gods” represented in masks. I saw them as the puppet masters of the rest of the story. Jeff found someone to create the masks. They were fantastic! Even better, the cast members mastered acting with the masks. They were able to move so that you could believe that the mask had the expression and the motivation for the action. These four kids were amazing!
I also wanted TiMoune, the romantic lead, to turn into a tree. My friend John Hatch rebuild the trap door for me. We borrowed the school cherry picker from the generous custodian, Justin and my friend Bree created a “dress” to make it happen.
In the end… we had a tree!
I broke my fingers during the rehearsal process. Still I was able to help with make up (that is my hand).
Now the story. From here on I focus on why I love this story… “why we tell the story”. This is the story of life… a story of how God prepared for us, provides for us, guides us, protects us and gives us a destination. I believe with all my heart in a God that does all of this and more. The symbolism of this story reminds me of God’s love.
The show begins with a storm and a frightened little person. Her family members and the villagers come to her rescue. This is very symbolic for me. Let’s face it. The storms of life are scary. Darkness and storms rage around us physically and spiritually. Not only are the little ones scared, but the big people are too. God provided families to help us… to teach us the way and the stories that would help us remember God’s love. He gave us friends and church communities to support us and to give us a safe place to gather and to learn when things get wild. Many of the kids I meet are in need of those extra adults to help them. Some of these kids jokingly call Jeff and I their parents. In some ways we act as parents, encouraging them in their school efforts, counseling them in their future plans and hugging them on bad days.
“… we dance…”
The story continues as the darkness parts because they all begin to dance. They find joy in sharing the feelings of their heart as the lift the scared little girl and teach her to find joy.
The villagers introduce us to the first tree of the story… a tree that the little girl clung to when she first came to the island in the storm. I believe the greatest events to happen concerning this earth revolve around trees. The first would be the tree in the Garden of Eden. This tree started life as we know it… a temporal/physical life with bodies and trials. The next tree the characters introduce remind me of a family tree.
Our family trees nourish us with their roots and experiences. Families provide protection from the elements – shade in the heat of life experience and a roof through the storms that rage around us. Family trees nourish us with their fruits of goodness. Family trees grow into groves as the seeds fall and new trees sprout.
The story continues with the Gods “testing” TiMoune’s resolve to do the right thing. I don’t think God really encourages bad things to happen, but I do know he allows them to happen. Agency is a gift. God gave us the gift to choose so that we can choose to return. He won’t force us to do that. He gave us the gift to choose because he wants us to experience true happiness. In the story, the “gods” decide to test TiMoune. Eurzulie believes TiMoune will choose love. Papa Ge believe TiMoune will choose death. Asaka will provide a place for the test and Agwe will help her on her way with trials. Well… it’s not too far off… except I believe in one God…who provides a testing place, a way, and allows for the trials.
“…where the road meets the sea…”
“… listen to her prayers, full of hope and pain…”
“Rain makes the road such a dangerous place…”
True that. Trial do make the road a dangerous place. Trials and sin can get in the way of our progress to our destination. But “rain” does not have to keep us from making progress… even if they can slow us down.
“let her wait…”
“Rain” FYI… I love this kid and he could sing the phone book and make people swoon. No wonder he did well at the State Thespian conference and is headed to the State Solo Competition… Great kid.
A young man is dumped into TiMoune’s life because of his own reckless behavior. I find that I am often asked to help “a poor wayfaring man” along my way. Like the Good Samaritan, we are asked to bind the wounds and lift the souls of people we meet on our journey.
Some times people even mock us for our efforts to help. Most of the time the people we help don’t even appreciate our efforts. But God knows. That is enough.
After Daniel’s family comes to get him from the village TiMoune decides to follow him… leaving her family behind. This most definitely speaks to me. I have raised 5 kids, 3 of which have moved on to adulthood. and one is about to embark on her own adult adventure.
It doesn’t get easier. It’s hard to let kids go and watch them fly… especially when they “think” they have all the answers. At those moments of watching those little wings spreading and flapping I have to force myself to remember that God let me fly. I left my heavenly home and God trusted that I would find my way home.
Good thing he is God and knows everything… But I do not. I have to exercise faith as I let them go. I have to show trust as I let my kids, even these adopted kids, fly into their futures. After all, I have done my best to help them and to teach them. I still can offer safety and shelter. I still trust in a God that knows them and loves them best. That all gives me the courage to not only let them fly….
… but to watch them soar.
This show has a special spot in my heart because it was one more chance to direct, teach, coach my beautiful and talented, spirited and stubborn daughter. This show gave me one more opportunity to share my feelings and love, not only for her, but for God and His gospel plan. I loved our little chats as I could share with her how this show was a symbol for so much of what I believe and hold dear. Watching her soar is scary but brings me great joy. I love this kid!
TiMoune leaves her family and journeys to make her own place in this world and to follow her heart.
She is reminded of all the great things created to make the journey pleasant and even fun!
“you gonna need a helping hand…”
Let’s face it. As spiritual beings on a temporal journey we are all a little like “a fish who has to learn to swim on land.” We need to have someone to walk with us… to guide us and to teach us the way. Friends walk with us. Families and parents guide, provide and protect us through the journey.
“Follow me, little girl, I will be your guide.” This is His invitation too! “Down the road, little girl you may lose your way all alone in the world that may seem too wide. But sit on Mama’s lap and I will draw a map…. Mama will provide.” We have a map… a map in the gospel of Christ… found in the scriptures and in the words of His prophets. God provides that map and guidance as he walks beside us in this journey. “walk with me little girl and I will take you far.” No one can take you further than home… home to the God that loves us most.
The story tellers continue the story.
TiMoune reaches the city and discovers more than she thought was out there to learn.
But she is not always accepted by the others around her.
The pride of others keep her down.
Many people in this world would like you to think you are not worth it. Many would like you to think that hope, faith and charity are so “yesterday”. They are wrong. Hope gives life. Faith brings light. Love makes the world go round. Together, they make the journey worth the effort.
Love is the language of God.
Love gives us strength and courage.
Love makes us a part of something greater than we can be as individuals.
Love brings joy into souls and lifts those that are down.
Love comes from hope. True happiness comes from understanding unconditional love… the way God loves. Godly love comes from enduring – finishing the journey with grace and dignity – life’s journey. Love comes from appreciating and learning from the people who came before you and hoping for the people who continuing on past you. Love is a gift.
TiMoune helps Daniel to heal but death, Papa Ge, is determined to finish the test.
He tries TiMoune with some of the hardest trials anyone can suffer… betrayal, rejection, hate, revenge.
He threatens TiMoune with destruction.
He belittles her and attempts to destroy her hope and desires for good.
But TiMoune rejects all this negative energy by going deep into her soul to remember the power of love… the power of her family… the power in the things she had learned and in her desire to do the right thing because it is right. Love wins. Death is concurred.
Death is concurred. Men are free. Christ has won the victory. I believe that my faith and hope in Him is what carries me forward. Even in my most difficult moments of life my belief in Christ gives me the courage to do the right thing.
In the end TiMoune sacrifices herself for her love and dies that others might live and love. She returns as a tree.
“A tree that lived forever sheltering peasant and grand homme alike
A tree that watched over Daniel for his lifetime
A tree in which his children played
And one day as Daniel’s young son sat in the shade of the tree
He noticed a beautiful young peasant girl high in the branches
Looking out at the world
And the spirit of Ti Moune touched their hearts
And set them free to love”
TiMoune became a tree of life.
Many civilizations have stories of trees. In ancient Egypt the tree of life represented how things came to be. This ancient Egyptian tree stood on the threshold of life and death, connecting two different worlds. In ancient China the tree of life story has fruit that hangs low and nourishes the people. In the Norse legends the fruit of the tree of life brings eternal life. A tree of life appears in the Quran is the tree of immortality. I found the tree of life mentioned in the Baha’i faith to be very interesting.
From the Hidden Words of Baha’u’llah, “Have ye forgotten that true and radiant morn, when in those hallowed and blessed surroundings ye were all gathered in My presence beneath the shade of the tree of life, which is planted in the all-glorious paradise? Awestruck ye listened as I gave utterance to these three most holy words: O friends! Prefer not your will to Mine, never desire that which I have not desired for you, and approach Me not with lifeless hearts, defiled with worldly desires and cravings. Would ye but sanctify your souls, ye would at this present hour recall that place and those surroundings, and the truth of My utterance should be made evident unto all of you.”
This is so much like what I believe and love! Lehi dreamed of a life giving tree. People made their way down a path through a great mist of darkness – through storms of life. They pass people who mock them because they have hope… because they have faith… because they are on the path. Eventually, they reach the tree. They taste the fruit of the tree and they know the love of God. As long as they stay with the tree they have protection; they are sheltered. As long as they stay near the tree they are fed and they are nourished. As long as they stay near the tree they are filled with power and wonder. As they stay with the tree they wish others to join them.
“And she stands against the lightning and the thunder
And she shelters and protects us from above
And she fills us with the power and the wonder
Of her loveAnd this is why
We tell the story
Why we tell the story…
Life is why
We tell the story
Pain is why
We tell the story
Love is why
We tell the story
Grief is why
We tell the story
Hope is why
We tell the story
Faith is why
We tell the story
You are why
We tell the story”
These kids are why I tell the story. I tell them a story that includes them thriving. I tell them they are skilled and talented and worthy of great things. I share my love of performing arts. I share my love of life. I share my love for them. I share my love for God.
Dear cast, crew, friends, audience members, volunteers…. you are why I tell the story.
I tell the story… and leave this awesome experience with a little advice from an old tree:
Stand tall and proud
Go out on a limb
Remember your roots
Drink plenty of water
Remember the bark protects you, nourishes you and teaches you
Be content with your natural beauty
You are stronger in grooves so stand together
Enjoy the view!
A huge thank you to everyone that helped with this story. You are why I teach.
You are why I tell stories
You are why I create. You are why I nourish and protect.
“So I hope that you will tell this tale tomorrow
It will help your heart remember and relive
It will help you feel the anger and the sorrow
This is why I tell the story… to repent… to forgive… to love…
“Our lives become
The stories that we weave”