New telling of “Once” at TheatreSquared hopes to create a one-time offering of community and stagecraft

There’s a bit of a distinction between “Once Upon a Time” and “Once.” The latter, a beloved movie that turned into a beloved stage musical, is no fairy tale. It’s a real tale of real people doing things we understand.

“The realities of our life are not as neat as a fairy tale,” says Amy Herzberg, who will direct the show “Once” for TheatreSquared. “It’s so much more complicated and generous. It really is about how in our every day lives, we can impact other people.”

“Once” is the story of a guy and a girl who have a tremendous impact on each other. One might think the story is simple – the main characters are only referred to as “Guy” and “Girl,” after all. But their chance meeting and fast friendship (and maybe more) unveil much about both of them. One of the essential questions T2 will explore in this production is “how this little film that not much money was spent on managed to get into people’s souls,” Herzberg says.

Indeed, the story was a resounding success as a film and later on Broadway, where it won eight Tony Awards upon its 2012 debut. It had earlier won an Academy Award for the song “Falling Slowly.” That song was written and performed the movie’s Guy and Girl, Irish multi-instrumentalist Glen Hansard and Czech vocalist and pianist Marketa Irglova. The touring version of the Broadway show has also crisscrossed the country, including a run of dates at the Walton Arts Center in April 2015.

Herzberg and TheatreSquared artistic director Bob Ford fell in love with the show when they saw it on Broadway. They immediately knew it was the type of show T2 loves to present. But there was still the question of what TheatreSquared might be able to do with the show to add to what already existed. Inspired by her own trips to Dublin, Herzberg has chosen to pull this version of “Once” outside of the traditional Irish pub of many productions. Instead, the focus is on the Dublin streets where artists such as Hansard got their start as a busker.

“Dublin itself, and Ireland, are characters,” Herzberg says.

What: “Once”
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays and 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday from Aug. 22 to Sept. 23
Where: Nadine Baum Studios, Fayetteville
Tickets: $17-$48; call 443-5600 or visit

The dialogue hasn’t changed from previous versions you might have already watched. But the staging that ties the scenes and songs together has changed in some key areas.

“I wanted to find out what happens in between the scenes,” Herzberg says.

The T2 scenic design team worked to build an authentic Dublin for the production. Part of the inspiration came from a photo Herzberg had taken on one of her trips to the Irish city.

Then there was the matter of finding the right Guy and Girl. As it turns out, there’s a relatively small pool of actors who can play multiple instruments, act, sing, dance and do dialogue work at the same time. Both Barry DeBois and Elisabeth Evans have worked on previous productions of “Once.” DeBois and Evans actually worked on the same production one time, but not in the same roles they currently occupy. DeBois creates songs and films in his spare time; Evans also tours with a folk group that includes Peter Yarrow. The two leads are joined by ensemble members who also play instruments. The actors never leave the stage; they just contribute to the overall sound and aesthetic of the musical.

“The amount of talent in that room is shocking,” Herzberg says of her cast.

Despite many members of the cast having previously worked on a different production of “Once,” Herzberg says all of the crew members have been excited to explore the changes in direction. After all, that’s a driving message of “Once.” Sometimes, people collide in important and interesting ways that change them forever.

“It’s about the making of community and how people are brought together,” Herzberg says.

Just like this cast and crew will be brought together for a few weeks, and how Fayetteville audiences will be brought to participate in that experience.