Baylor Theatre’s ‘Once’ pulls back curtain to display romance, music in Dublin

Izzy Poehlman's vision of the set design for Baylor's production of "Once." Olivia Havre | Photographer

By Olivia Turner | Staff Writer

The doors of the Mabee Theatre will soon swing wide for Baylor Theatre’s fourth production this season. “Once,” based on the 2007 film of the same name, is a musical with a cast who sing, dance and play musical instruments.

The story follows an unlikely pair — a rather melancholy young man ready to give up on his love for music and a rather stubborn and determined young woman who loves music just as much as him but isn’t ready for his songs to cease.

“It’s about just these average, everyday people who music means everything to them, and them doing everything they can to share that music with each other,” Katy senior Jared Wells said, who plays Švec and understudies Guy.

The scene is set in a rustic pub on a rainy street in Dublin, Ireland; the set created by students was made entirely out of set pieces used in previous productions, according to director Lisa Denman. The golden, glowing houses in the background were previously used in “Amelie” and the mismatched lamps dangling from the ceiling have been used in various past productions. Even the cobblestones which appear wet with rain are hand-painted by scenic artist Izzy Poehlmann.

Everything from the music to the dancing, and even the accents, is riddled with Irish character. Wells said the characters use the little pub as a means to rediscover their undeniable musical passions, all while a love story between Guy and Girl begins to unfold. Wells, along with Dallas senior Emily Arden-Seggerman who plays Reza and understudies Girl, both described the main characters’ process of self-discovery as “raw” and “real.”

Olivia Havre | Photographer
“Once” will be showing in the Mabee Theatre from Feb. 22 to Feb. 26. Olivia Havre | Photographer

“There’s no fluff, there’s no secrets, no hiding; everyone is just giving everything they can because this is all they have, and I think that is just one of the most beautiful things they can show,” Wells said.

Scattered upon the stage are pianos, guitars, violins, cajónes, mandolins, drums, banjos, castanets, harmonicas and more instruments the cast pick up and play spontaneously throughout the show. Some members even switch between playing two or three instruments.

Arden-Seggerman said she was thrilled by “both the sacrifice and excitement.”

Arden-Seggerman said she is also thrilled to be playing Reza, a character who is now played on Broadway by one of Baylor Theatre’s own alumni, Elizabeth A. Davis. According to Denman, Davis was pleased to hear of Baylor’s version of the production.

Senior Emily Arden-Seggerman plays Reza as well as is an understudy for Girl.
Olivia Havre | Photographer
Dallas senior Emily Arden-Seggerman who plays Reza in the production, practices violin in preparation for the performance. Olivia Havre | Photographer

Denman said she herself is pleased by the variation of skills and talents the cast possesses, as well as their sense of professionalism. The cast, filled with graduating seniors, often arrive early to rehearsals to prepare and practice on breaks, Denman said.

“I find myself kind of tearing up, even though I’ve heard it over and over again,” Denman said. “To have people who are excited about it, who are about to take off and do this professionally, and to get this one last opportunity to work with them before they go and do that has been a real gift.”

Denman said the story emulates a theme of community, one which is special because the characters come together for a cause that is even bigger than them. This sense of community unties the characters in the play and connected the cast throughout the time spent rehearsing, Denman said.

Arden-Seggerman said she can already see evidence of this strong sense of community throughout campus. She said she finds enjoyment in seeing people relate to and connect with each other over common interests such as hometowns and majors and how that translates onto the stage.

“There’s an openness and a compassion and an understanding to other people in their situations and where they’re coming from, as well as both living in the moment and not being afraid to look to the future,” Arden-Seggerman said.

Live music is one of the aspects of “Once” which Arden said she is most excited for the audience to see. Along with the Irish tunes in the production, there will also be a pre-show performance about 15 minutes prior to the beginning, with original compositions by the cast.

Tickets for “Once” are now on sale, and the production will be performed in the Mabee Theatre from Feb. 22 to Feb. 26. Visit the ticket box office for times and ticket prices.

Olivia Turner
Olivia Turner is a sophomore from rural Minnesota, with a major in journalism and a secondary major in sociology. This is her second semester at the Lariat and her first semester as Opinion Editor. She is thrilled to take on this role and glad to be working with all the wonderful writers and editors at the Lariat again this year! Once she graduates, she hopes to be a writer for a big-city paper.