An Interview with Once On This Island Director Pascale Florestal

An Interview with Once On This Island Director Pascale Florestal

February 15, 2022

What attracted you to this project?  Why did you want to direct Once on This Island for SpeakEasy Stage?
I saw the 2017 Revival on Broadway and fell in love with the show. As a Haitian American, I loved that there was a musical about the country of my parents and I have been dreaming of directing a musical at SpeakEasy so it was a dream come true.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the show, what is Once on This Island all about?
The show tells the story of Ti Moune, a young girl living on a beautiful Caribbean island trying to understand herself and what her purpose in life is. During a terrible storm, she meets a young man from the other side of the island and her whole life changes forever. 

What is your vision for the piece? Do you see Once On This Island as a traditional fable?  A feminist tale? How would you categorize the show?
This show, for me, is a love letter to Haiti and the resilience of its people. It has all the elements of a fable — love, magic, faith, danger and power — but at its core its a story the celebrates the joy and importance of storytelling, that through these stories we learn more about ourselves and the world around us while keeping the people, traditions and their memories alive.

How might your own Caribbean roots influence what we will see on stage?
So much of the world that we are bringing to the stage comes straight from my Caribbean and Miami roots. From the costume and set design to the dances and props. This production is my love letter to Haiti and Miami, a place to celebrate my culture and family.

How do you think this production will be different from other productions folks might have seen?
I think for me, we are embracing the culture and history of Haiti from the moment the audience walks into the theater. Which means we are not shying away from the legacy colonization has had in the country and how it continues in this story and in the present day. So that will look like more traditional nods to Haiti and its culture, whether that’s in the clothes, the music and dances. 

Tell us a bit about the cast that you have assembled.
The cast is a group of local Boston actors and students from Boston Conservatory, where I teach. Many of these actors have been in previous SpeakEasy shows and productions of my own as well. This cast is my dream, and I am so looking forward to spending time with them telling this story. 

And what is your favorite thing so far about this show or project?

My favorite thing about this project is being able to revisit my childhood and my parents homeland. So often I don’t get the opportunity to incorporate my Haitian background into my work so it has been such a delight to make that the focal point of the show. 

What do you anticipate will be the biggest challenge you’ll face in rehearsal as you bring this story to life?
COVID is definitely the biggest challenge, making sure we are keeping everyone in the cast and audience safe to experience this show. Other than that, I think there is lots of magic in the show that feels a bit daunting in creating but I am always up for challenges.

What do you hope audiences will take away from seeing the show?
I hope audiences will take away a different perspective of Haiti, along with a better understanding of the history of the country. I also hope they will recognize the sacrifices the people we love in our lives make for the things we want in our life. 

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