Michael Burnett, president of The Brookfield Theatre for the Arts (TBTA), knew nothing could be more fitting for his production of Once on this Island, which takes place in Haiti, than to do something to help the distraught nation.
The cast and crew were all on board to help. Burnett talked to Kira Wallace, one of the lead actors in the play, and found out that her mother Jean Hatcherson has done anthropological work with WestConn. They suggested a Haitian Relief organization based out of Norwich called the Haitian Health Foundation (HHF).
Burnett said the charity has been "doing really wonderful work for years," but it has now become even more important since the quake.
Once On This Island begins with a terrible storm in Haiti that wipes out many villages by flooding the island. Villagers come together to comfort a small girl, Ti Moune, who survived because the gods placed her in a tree. The villagers tell her a fable to console her, which becomes the story of the show.
The play is a calypso-flavored re-telling of the traditional "Little Mermaid" tale. Ti Moune, the poor peasant girl, falls in love with Daniel, an upper class boy after saving his life after a car crash. The show focuses on the effects social class divisions have on love.
Written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, and based on the book My Love, My Love by Rosa Guy, the musical follows Ti Moune's journey as she longs for a better life. There are four gods who rule the island, which they call "The Jewel of the Antilles."
Burnett felt that due to the setting of the play and the immense tragedy Haitians have suffered, they needed to do something to help. Burnett was very happy that the organization they connected with is in Connecticut, which will easily allow him to transport the goods collected.
The Brookfield Theatre for the Arts will be holding a canned food drive on opening night, July 9. They will be collecting non-perishable food items that will be transported to HHF to be packed onto a land/sea container leaving for Haiti July 10.
During the remaining performances, TBTA will collect monetary donations.
Haitian Health Foundation is a four-star charity according to Charity Navigator and has held that rating for two years running. Ninety-two cents of every dollar goes directly to help people in need in the impoverished country.
Their website has a breakdown of how funds are allocated. Three hundred dollars, or $25 per month, feeds a malnourished child for one year. For $600, a cement house can be built. A donation of $150 provides a gift to a family in need.
The mission of the charity is to "improve the health and well-being of the poor, the sick, and the infirm of Jérémie and to break the bonds of poverty, which tie so many Haitians to a life of great deprivation," according to their website. "While cynics decry the impotence of individuals to change the world, HHF continues to change lives — one person at a time."
The Brookfield Theatre for the Arts hopes that the Brookfield community will support that mission as well by giving food and/or monetary donations to help make Haitian lives better, from one community to another. Burnett said their goal is to "build a few houses and provide money for food during the run of the show."
Once On This Island will run from July 9 through July 31, with detailed times on their the TBTA website. Senior Citizens can enjoy a free preview on Thursday, July, 8 at 8 p.m.
For more information about HHF and how to help, visit their website.