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Moving forward in a “One Room” theatrical engagement

By IDA ZECCO

“Once” is a sincere and enchanting musical production that shines with its simplicity and authenticity. “Once”, book by Enda Walsh; the music and lyrics of Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová capture the universal themes of love, desire and the pursuit of one’s dream. Wilbury’s production fully immerses the audience in both the storytelling and the action. This “one room” experience, led by Wilbury Artistic Director Josh Short, offers a truly moving and unforgettable evening of theater running through June 23. I had the opportunity to catch up with Josh Short in a recent interview.

Ida: What made you select “Once” as a production for Wilbury Theater Group?

Josh: I think there are a lot of thematic elements of “Once” that resonate with me and the community right now. It’s a beautiful story about two people who feel stuck in their own lives. Coming out of COVID over the past few years, many people were looking for connection. This play is about that and about two people stuck in their own minds, finding each other and helping each other move forward. The musical recognizes the inherent loneliness that we all carry within us as individuals. Everyone is immersed in their own story, but it’s hard for us to look outside of ourselves until someone comes into our life and gives us the kick we need.

Ida: So how does “Once” resonate with the theater’s artistic mission and vision?

Josh: It’s a great set, a piece of music that we really enjoy doing here and that the team here does very well. All the actors play their own instruments and we use all the space. This is definitely one of those plays that I’ve long thought would be a good thing for the Wilbury. “Once” clearly engages and provokes the audience, which is what our productions offer to the community. John Carney, who wrote and directed the film, was asked why it was called “Once.” He said, “Because everyone goes through life thinking that once I do this, then I will have that or once that happens, then I can do that.” » We delay pursuing the dreams we want. . I’m excited to share this production with audiences and have this conversation.

Ida: What were some of the unique challenges in bringing “Once” to life on your stage?

Josh: We had a very long casting process, trying to find actors who were also great musicians. I admit we have an A team of string players. I’m so happy with how everything turned out, but it was definitely a challenge. We also maximize space creatively, because as you know, we have a small black box theater with a 70-80 seat room. We have 18 actors with instruments pushing the space to its limits.

Ida: What particular elements of the series do you think will resonate most with your audience?

Josh: Well, I think in addition to the performances, which are truly moving, I hope people come away recognizing the talent in the room as well as the way we engaged them creatively as participants in this production . I hope they’re excited about it.

Ida: How did you work creatively with the cast and crew to really capture the essence of “Once”? Did you do anything unique in terms of staging, direction or design?

Josh: I think what’s unique is the size of the theater which is very intimate and so the audience and actors are there together all the time, sharing the space together. As a design team we wanted to create an expensive community and shared storytelling was important to us and so from the moment the audience walks in, the actors mingle with them. The audience is not far from the action of this piece which we call “immersive” or “one room theater”. You can’t do that in a big Broadway theater. It’s not just about sharing a space with the public, but also about telling a story.

Ida: Can you share any behind-the-scenes information or anecdotes about the production process for Once?

Josh: Some actors have a very strong musical background with formal training. Some are musicians with some acting experience. The cast is then made up of actors who play musicians and musicians who play actors. Honestly, I wondered how it would all come together to create something real and cohesive. It’s exciting to see how the line between musician and actor has not only blurred, but virtually disappeared. This is a musical where it’s not just about learning lines and notes. We’ve created something here that integrates the music with the action so that there is a direct relationship with the storyline, the actor and the audience. Together, the music and the storyline tell a very intimate story that we can all relate to.