Actor and critic in residence Hayley Malouin writes,

I’ve always been fascinated by the process of adapting books into plays. Narratives and dramatic text have such different manners of discourse. Different methodologies; different modes of presentation; different stories. The type of story-alchemy that changes one into the other is no small undertaking.

But I am in my heart a McLuhan-ist; if the medium is the message, what happens to the message when the medium is changed?

Sometimes it backfires on you and the delicate process of reordering story results in something with neither form nor purpose, like a heavy-handed Frankenstein’s monster (Broadway’s hammy Wicked and The Last Airbender by M. Night Shyamalan leap to mind…). It’s enough to make anyone skeptical of the words “adapted from the story by…”

But not with Once. Maybe it’s the source material, maybe it’s the way it has been adapted, or maybe it’s the sheer potency of these stories, but Once has something that allows it to rise above the cheapening that transposing media can cause. It’s different than the original collection of stories by Canadian author, Rebecca Rosenblum. Oh, is it ever different. But, while the way in which the stories are told has changed – and maybe even the stories themselves have changed – what these stories do remains the same.

Simply put, Once is a collection of fairy tales for a new generation of ‘wandering twenty-somethings.’ These almost-adults are facing a rapidly changing socio-political-economic landscape, and as such, are in need of stories and fables that speak to their rapidly changing circumstances. So, Once is their answer: a collection of stories for and about young people traversing this undiscovered country.

About a year ago, I and three other actors were contacted by Colin Anthes – artistic director of Twitches and Itches Theatre, and playwright-director of Once – to meet for a ‘jam session.’ Since then, we’ve worked towards creating a 50 minute show adapted from the written stories, and informed by the creative work of the ensemble.

I’ve lived with these stories for a while now, and I can attest to their power. Honestly, I love them, and so will you. Let me explain.

What I find so interesting about adapting prose into action is the transformation in the modes of storytelling and expression. Prose, regardless of tense, is written by a singular exporter; a puppet master; a commander in chief. Characters speak, but what they say is filtered through layers of text, syntax, and rhetoric. A play, however, suddenly allows these characters to stand up and speak directly to their receivers. Imagine the Mona Lisa leaning forward and telling you about her smile. Changes things, doesn’t it?

And what I find even more remarkable is the way we have explored (and continue to explore) these stories: not textually, but with attention paid to their symbolic – even archetypal – qualities. The characters are undeniably contemporary, and their situations are those of urban Canadians. However, their needs extend beyond a contemporary situation into a greater exploration of existence.

Another thing about it: it’s damn funny. The power of characters battling their demons and navigating emotional cross-roads does not negate the fact that they are bright, intelligent, funny people with a lot to say. The characters are captivating, and their stories are enchanting. Like true fairytales, the moral predicaments in Once are presented alongside a spoonful of sugar. Full of life and fully-realized, the inhabiting characters are rich enough to convey both tragedy and comedy, oftentimes simultaneously.

If you’re in town over the next weekend, I urge you to come see Once as part of the In The Soil Arts Festival. Its stories are funny, thoughtful, and simply delightful. These fairy tales are meant for you, and the changing landscape we inhabit – I’m sure you’ll end up loving them as much as I do.

Once will be playing April 25-26 at the Sullivan Mahoney Courthouse Theatre.
Friday April 25 at 9pm
Saturday April 26 at 7pm
Admission is $10 or a Festival Pass

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