Department of Theatre & Performance Studies

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The Story

once on this island
This Tony Award-winning musical is the sweeping, universal tale of Ti Moune, a fearless peasant girl in search of her place in the world, and ready to risk it all for love. Guided by the mighty island gods, Ti Moune sets out on a remarkable journey to reunite with the man who has captured her heart. With a score that bursts with life through its Caribbean rhythms and instruments, Once on This Island is a timeless testament to theatre’s unlimited possibilities and that a beautiful story simply told has the power to inspire and heal all.

The thrilling story unpacks important themes such as the impacts of early colonization in Haiti as well as the role of colorism to Haiti’s society. The story exposes how colonial practices adversely impact individuals but entire communities as well. The musical also highlights how natural disasters shape a country’s culture and politics.  

The Storytellers

Kayce Denise

  • Kayce Denise


    Kayce Denise is a distinguished alumna of Kennesaw State University, where she blazed a trail as one of the inaugural graduates of the Theatre Performance Studies Musical Theatre concentration program. Her remarkable journey in the world of entertainment has been a tapestry of diverse talents and accolades. With a career that commenced at an astonishing age, Kayce emerged as a Columbia Recording artist when she was just nine years old, laying the foundation for a life filled with musical innovation and excellence. Her early accomplishments are a testament to her prodigious talents and her relentless commitment to her craft. In addition to her musical prowess, Kayce’s commitment to education has been equally remarkable. She garnered the esteemed title of Teacher of the Year, a recognition of her dedication to nurturing the next generation of performers and artists. Kayce's multifaceted talents extend to the stage, where she has earned her place as an award-winning actor, director, and writer. Her stage credits are nothing short of impressive and include memorable performances in productions such as: Hairspray (Atlanta Lyric Theatre & City Springs Theatre Company): In the role of Motormouth Maybelle, Kayce's portrayal garnered her a Suzi Bass Award Nomination for Best Actress, Dreamgirls (Atlanta Lyric): Her portrayal of Effie White showcased her extraordinary vocal prowess and commanding stage presence, The Color Purple (Actor’s Express): As Sofia, Kayce earned the prestigious Suzi Bass Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical. Her performance was also celebrated at City Springs Theatre, Once On This Island (Jennie T. Anderson Theatre): Her portrayal of Mama Eurilie as well as her performance as Caroline in the production of Caroline or Change earned her a Broadway World Regional Theatre Award two years in a row, 42nd Street (Shenandoah University Summer Musical Theatre Series): In the role of Maggie Jones, Kayce's performance left an indelible mark. Kayce's talents extend beyond the spotlight, as she has directed captivating productions for esteemed companies such as City Springs Theatre Company, Jubilation Theatre, and Atlanta Lyric Theatre. Her exceptional work as the Associate Director for "A Christmas Carol" at the Alliance Theatre further solidified her reputation as a visionary director. In the realm of music production and songwriting, Kayce Denise has made a significant impact. Her work for the OWN Television show "Greenleaf" earned her accolades, including an NAACP Image Award, Stellar Gospel Music Award, and a Grammy Award, attesting to her creative brilliance. As she returns to her alma mater, Kennesaw State University, Kayce is grateful for the opportunity to work with the talented young individuals who represent the future of the arts. Her heartwarming experience reconnecting with the university reminds her of the profound beauty that emerges when the torch of inspiration is passed to the next generation. In all her endeavors, Kayce draws inspiration from her three children, using her own journey as a testament to the belief that all things are possible through consistency, kindness, and hard work.

  • Amanda Wansa Morgan

    Musical Director

    Amanda Wansa Morgan is an Atlanta-based music director, composer, director, and actor who serves as Artistic Director, Coordinator of Musical Theatre, & Associate Professor at Kennesaw State University. At KSU, she teaches classes in musical theatre performance, voice, acting, and musical theatre history and literature. In recent years at KSU, she has directed productions of Rent, The Spongebob Musical, Ragtime, Heathers, and A Man of No Importance; and music directed productions of Bring It On, The Spitfire Grill, and Thumbelina (world premiere). Amanda previously served on faculty at The University of Mississippi and also as Director of Music Education at Charleston Stage. Additionally, she has professionally music directed at The Alliance Theatre, Six Flags Over Georgia, Atlanta Lyric Theatre, Jennie T. Anderson Theatre, Actor’s Express, Synchronicity Theater, Wallace Buice Theatre Company & Buicentennial Productions, Playhouse on the Square, Post Playhouse, and Osceola Center for the Arts. She occasionally serves as a Teaching Artist for The Alliance Theatre, The Atlanta Lyric Theatre, and the Jennie T. Anderson Theatre. She has composed original music for productions of A Christmas Carol, Thumbelina, The Velveteen Rabbit, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Mary Had a Little Ham, Polaroid Stories, We Made History: A TYA Musical, Twelfth Night and additional projects.

    Favorite professional Music Direction credits include The Color Purple (2018 Suzi Bass Award for Music Direction, 2018 BroadwayWorld Award in Music Direction), Jesus Christ Superstar, Songs for a New World, Hairspray, Avenue Q, Always Patsy Cline, and The 25th Annual Putnum County Spelling Bee. As composer, her original musicals have been fully produced at Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, Charleston Stage, Young Harris College, and Kennesaw State University. Amanda has an MFA in Acting from The University of Central Florida and undergraduate degrees in Music and Theatre from The Florida State University. She has also worked as a professional actor throughout the Southeast since 2001 in shows such as Urinetown (Pennywise), The 25th Annual…Bee (Rona Lisa Peretti), Love’s Labours Lost (Princess of France), and Tony & Tina’s Wedding (Tina).  Amanda has a Certificate of Figure Proficiency from Estill Voice Systems and she is an active member of Musical Theatre Educators Alliance (MTEA), currently serving as Secretary to the Executive Committee until 2022. She is also a member of the Southeastern Theatre Conference (SETC), National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), Dramatist’s Guild, and ASCAP. Amanda is the author of book chapter “Women in CCM (Contemporary Commercial Music)” in the Rowan & Littlefield book So You Want to Sing Music by Women.

Amanda Morgan
Angela Harris

  • Angela Harris


    Angela Harris is the Executive Artistic Director of Dance Canvas, a career development organization for choreographers and youth. Angela is a graduate of The Baltimore School for the Arts and City College of New York (B.A. in Journalism). She trained at Dance Theatre of Harlem and Steps on Broadway. Professional dance credits: The Georgia Ballet, Columbia City Ballet, and Urban Ballet Theater. Choreographic credits: Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'Song & Dance' (Aurora Theater); 'Ragtime' (KSU); 'The First Noel' (True Colors Theatre Company). Awards and recognitions: 2022 Suzi Bass award for 'Outstanding Choreography'; SDCF Observership (Lynn Ahrens & Stephen Flahrety's musical 'Little Dancer', under the direction and mentorship of Susan Stroman); National Visiting Fellow (School of American Ballet). She has created dance programs for recording artist, Usher's New Look Foundation, and Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation. She currently serves on the Atlanta Mayor’s Arts Advisory Council and is on faculty at Emory University, Spelman College and Dekalb School for the Arts.


  • Once on this Island’s book and lyrics are by Lynn Ahrens with music composed by Stephen Flaherty.

    For more about the duo in their own words:

    View Video

    Their musical premiered on Broadway in 1990 and was revived in 2017, winning the Tony Award for the Best Revival of a Musical.

    once on this island

  • fdsafdas

    Rosa Guy was a prominent Afro-Caribbean-American writer born in Trinidad and Tobago on September 1, 1922. She immigrated to the United States in her youth. Known for her compelling works that explore themes of race, class, and identity, Guy was a trailblazer in young adult literature. Some of her notable works include The Friends, Ruby, and My Love, My Love: Or, The Peasant Girl. 

    The story of Once On This Island is a tropical adaptation  of the “Little Mermaid” written by Hans Christian Andersen. Andersen's fairy tales hold traces of his personal experiences. This tale is rooted in Andersen's fascination with Louise Collin and her brother Edvard, children of Jonas Collin, a pivotal figure in Andersen's life. 
    live version of mermaid

    The legend of The Little Mermaid found renewed spirit with Disney’s 2023 live-action film adaptation, grossing over 500 million box office dollars. Starring Hailey Bailey as Ariel, the film achieved popular and critical acclaim for casting a Black actress in the traditionally white portrayed role. Anderson’s original never made reference to race, skin color, or even character names. 
  • TiMoune - Kamryn Jones

    Papa Ge - Arianna Palmer

    Asaka - Reyanna Edwards

    TonTon - Julian Anthony McDonald

    Daniel - Jordan Rivers

    Agwe - Deshawn Williams

    Erzulie - Isabella Jones-Padilla

    Mama Euralie - Jessica Hillard

    William Allen (Armand), Macy Cardwell (Armand's Wife), Maurice Clermont, Kourage Cooper, Jada Crowell, Tai Cossier (Dance Captain), Brooke Fleurimond (Pray Solo), Jude Hilton (Armand’s Henchman), Peter Ho, Vivica Little, Kristian Martinez, Briana Nevers (Little TiMoune), Gabriel Ocasio (Daniel’s Father), Taylor Pasqualetti-Campbell (Andrea), India Smith, Cameron Ragin

  • Daniel & Swing - Anthony Carruthers

    Asaka & Papa Ge -  Estrella Dearborn

    Little TiMoune & Swing - Loren Cameron

    Mama Euralie - Christie Miller

    Asaka & Papa Ge -  Estrella Dearborn

    Erzulie & Swing - Ebony Golden

    Tonton Julian, Agwe -  Vornen Borbor III

  • Director - Kayce Denise Grogan-Wallace

    Choreographer - Angela Harris

    Costume Designer - Ricky Greenwell

    Sound Designer - Mikaela Fraser

    Intimacy Coordinator - Amanda Washington

    Music Director - Amanda Wansa Morgan

    Scenic Designer - Seamus Bourne

    Lighting Designer - Toni Sterling

    Properties Manager - Ashley Foreman

    Stage Manager - Megan Nye

    Dramaturgy Team:
    Dr. Tom Fish, Ebony Golden (Lead), Issa Solis (Lead), Ana Sofia Pedroza Rodriguez, Reyanna Edwards, Lela Calixte

Behind the Scenes


  • ricky greenwell

    Costume Design

    Ricky Greenwell

    Ricky Greenwell is the Assistant Professor of Costume Design at Kennesaw State University for the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies. Ricky is a costume, hair, and makeup designer for the entertainment industry. For the last 18 years he served as the Head of Design and Technology and Resident Costume Designer for Minnesota State University Moorhead (MSUM). His designs have brought over 150 productions to life.  Ricky acted as the advisor to the theater student organization Blackfriars.  During the summer months, Ricky served as the resident costume designer for the Straw Hat Players at MSUM.   

    He holds an MFA from Wayne State University in Costume Design and Technology, where he received the 2003 Detroit Free Press Designer of the Year Award. He received a BS from Eastern Michigan University in Communication & Theatre Arts and English with a Secondary Education Teaching Certification.  

    He is a licensed cosmetologist and holds a make-up certification from Joe Blasco School of Make-up.  Ricky worked as a National Cosmetic Educator for TIGI Bed Head, providing cosmetic training to cosmetologist across the United States. 

    He has designer for Theatre, TV and Film, Dance, Opera, Runway and Corporate clients. I have had the honor for designer for. The Athens Center, Fargo/Moorhead Opera, Plowshares Theatre Company, The Jewish Ensemble Theatre, Ann Arbors Young Peoples Theatre, Wheelhouse Theatrical Production, South Dakota State University, and Act Up Theatre, Minnesota state university, Straw hat players and Tigi Bed Head.  

    once on this island design
    once on this island design
    once on this island design
    once on this island design

    Scenic Design

    Seamus M. Bourne

    Seamus M. Bourne (Scenic Designer) Part Time Asst. Professor of Stagecraft. KSU: Wondrous Strange. Seamus has designed scenery at many Atlanta theatres including Actor’s Express, Theatrical Outfit, The Alliance Theatre and Georgia Ensemble Theatre. Selected credits: Urinetown, Red Speedo, Wolf at the End of the Block, Miss Bennett: Christmas at Pemberly. Regionally Seamus has worked in: Kearney, NE, Sullivan, IL, Tulsa, OK and Richmond, VA. Other: Dad to Maddie & Holden, Member of United Scenic Artists Local 829, IATSE, and three-time Suzi Bass Award Nominee.

    set design

    set design

    set design

    seamus bourne
  • Colorism


    The story revolves deeply around the cultural and social norms of the island of Haiti, an island with a long history with colonization. Due to the principals implemented through the slave trade and colonization a “caste system” was created and followed through generations. This “caste system” is present in the culture of Haiti and is connected to the social and economic standing of a person in the story.

    This separation, rooted in colorism, the favoring of lighter skinned people within a single race or ethnic group, is central to why Ti Moune, a “peasant”, and Daniel, a Beaux Homme, struggle to end up together.

    This is an issue that continues to impact minority communities and continues to shape global beauty standards.


    Black Theatre Commons | Once On This Island

    Confessions of a D Girl: Colorism and Global Standards of Beauty | Chika Okoro | TEDxStanford

    Environment/Climate Crisis 

    Watch this insightful presentation about Climate Change and how we can support the relief process:



    Haiti, the saying goes, is 70% Catholic, 30% Protestant, and 100% Vodou.

    Vodou is a religion that was created in the 16th century as a result of the combination of West and East African Traditions and Roman Catholicism. It is believed that the Loa (spirits) are used to assist the Christian god to help govern the world and act as a messenger to humans. In our story, four Loa (Agwe, Asaka, Erzulie and Papa Ge) guide us through the story of Ti Moune. 

    Agwe is the God of the Sea and is often described to be the god of sailors. He is often compared to Poseidon.


    Asaka is the Goddess of the Earth. She is the female interpretation of the Loa: Azacca. This Loa is often described as kind and gentle and shares similarities to Saint Isadore.


    Erzulie is the Goddess of Love and Fertility. Erzulie is a symbol of love, prosperity and empathy. She is comparable to the Greek goddess Aphrodite. 


    Papa Ge (Ghede) is the Loa of Death. He stands at the crossroads of the living and spiritual worlds. He serves as a guide and a bringer of death, but will never take a soul too early. Each Loa with their own governing realm interacts with  Ti Moune and the other inhabitants of the island through the islanders' journey in their own way. 

    papa ge
    papa ge