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Once Upon Once on This Island With Tamyra Gray

There are probably a few ways to read the wondrous musical Once on This Island, which originally debuted in 1990 and was revived on Broadway in New York City in December 2017.

Perhaps it’s a lesson about following your heart against incredible odds.

Maybe it’s a tale about the occasional perils of falling in love across class and color lines.

But then again, it could be a warning—much like the Hans Christian Andersen story on which the original book was based, The Little Mermaid—that you shouldn’t give up all you have just for a guy you saw for five seconds as he flew past you in a car.

Being that I’m over the age of 15 and no longer doodle my name with a boy’s name over and over in a spiral notebook no matter how dynamic or cute he is, I’m inclined to believe the latter. Because I’m a cynic. Because I’ve loved and lost much. As much as the heroine in this fairy tale from the Diaspora? Probably not, but enough to where I have a wary eye for those who idealize the perfect, unrealistic love that is unobtainable.

But when I talked to Tamyra Gray, who stars in the play, about her take, it was much more affirming: “It’s all about self-belief. The dreams that you have for yourself,” Gray explains, later adding, “[Once on This Island] tells the story of how the gods come and how one little girl ... came to overcome her fears.”

Welcome to Antisocial, the society column for people coping with society, namely those of us with social anxiety disorders. In this column, I’ve tackled almost dying, almost dying some more, really almost dying for real (no jokes) and actually having some amazing experiences while battling my own issues around anxiety. I’m happy to say that with each column I’ve gotten better, thanks to the fact that the more I go out, the easier it gets.

Oh, and Wellbutrin. That helps too.

I was invited to attend Once on This Island, followed by dinner at Cove Lounge in Harlem, by the folks behind both this amazing show and the deliciousness that is the black-owned and -operated Cove, “the official culinary community partner for the musical.” Naturally, Cove got this gig thanks to its “Caribbean-inspired cuisine,” which I nibbled on with Harlem resident and one of my amazing editors at The Root, Angela Bronner Helm.

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