A clap of thunder resonates through the Townsend Center, rattling the walls and rows of sears. A storm in coming. To calm a young child, a mythical folk story is told, harkening back to days past. In an era when race and social class determined love, one young woman is about to challenge the status quo.

Once On This Island, a musical production of the University of West Georgia’s Theatre Department opens Oct. 8 at the Townsend Center for the Performing Arts.

The story-within-a-story is set on a Caribbean island, and centers around TiMoune, played by Gabrielle Benson, a senior from Chicago studying Theatre and English.

“TiMoune was saved by the gods, and she wants to know why,” Benson explained. “She knows it was for a purpose, so that’s what drives her on this journey.”

Benson is joined by a cast and crew of more than 40 individuals, ranging from lighting techs to costume designers. The group has been working since the beginning of the Fall semester, and has drawn expertise from multiple areas of experience.

“I’m incredibly grateful to the entire creative team,” said Dr. Amy Cuomo, the play’s director and a professor of theatre at UWG. “Without every one of these people, this play could never have happened. I just can’t tell you how impressed I am with everyone. They really gave it all they had.”

The one-act musical will feature singing and dancing, underpinned by a live band, and is sure to entertain audiences and provoke thoughts, Cuomo said.

“Horace said, ‘Theatre should teach and please,’ and this show definitely pleases,” Cuomo said. “Probably pleases more than teaches, but there’s definitely some lessons in this show.”

Grace Griffith, a junior from Atlanta studying theatre, is the show’s stage manager, and said the most challenging aspect of her job has been the delegation of responsibility throughout the show.

“We have so many people involved,” she said. “It’s been a lot of work, but I really think we’re ready. Watching this all come together has been amazing.”

The show runs from it’s open-to-the-public preview Tuesday, Oct. 8, through Sunday, Oct. 13. Shows begin each day at 7:30 p.m. at the Townsend Center with additional matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets are free for students with an UWG ID card, and general admission is $10, senior admission $7.

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