Based on the Irish drama film of the same name, the musical stage production Once comes to the Thrasher-Horne Center on May 1. The story centers around Guy and Girl, two Dublin musicians who fall in love but are in different places in their lives—he’s moving to New York to pursue his musical dreams, and she’s hoping to reconcile with her husband for the good of their daughter. We had a chance to talk to Bristol Pomeroy, who plays Guy’s father Da, about the play and its parallels to his own life.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’ve been acting since I was in my early 20s and right now I’m in my late 40s. I started acting in Seattle at a community college there. I decided to go to college so I applied to SUNY Purchase in New York and got a BFA in acting. I’ve lived in New York ever since.
You've been in some movies. Do you prefer stage acting or film?
My heart is on the stage, though I like working in film as well. But my whole background is stage-related, character building theater work. I welcome the opportunity to do film anytime I can, it’s just a completely different type of acting. You may do that take ten times, but on stage you get a chance to develop it, and the next time you perform it you can make changes. It’s never ending work. You’re always developing that character.
Were you a fan of the movie before you got involved in this production?
I saw the movie when it came out, and I really loved the music. When the play came around, I wanted to see it but plays in New York are pretty expensive so I never made it. I don’t normally audition for musicals, but I’m a singer-songwriter, and when auditions came out I thought, “This is the kind of musical I could do.”
So you’re a musician?
I used to play in bands in Seattle, back in the very early grunge days. Back then, Soundgarden and Nirvana weren’t big stars, they were bands that were playing around town. I played bass, guitar and sang. For this show, I had to learn mandolin, which I’d never touched in my life. It was very difficult because you have to re-train your fingers—the chord shapes on the guitar are just programmed into my body. A lot of people learned new instruments.
What’s Da like?
Da lost his wife a year before the story, so he’s a broken man and he can’t ever fill the shoes of his wife for his son. He tries as hard as he can to be a great father and fill in that gap in his son’s life and to find happiness for himself, too.
Is he anything like you?
He’s a loving father, I’m a loving father. I have a son. I can relate to Da. He’s a really cool guy, he’s got a motorcycle, he dresses pretty spiffy, and he’s a loving, hardworking guy trying to teach his son about the important things in life. My final scene is this wonderful one between me and Guy played by Sam Cieri, who’s exceptional. Even talking about it now I get emotional. But I don’t want to give too much away.
Did you have to learn how to do an Irish accent?
We had a coach come in. He’s Irish and a wonderful dialect coach. When you think of an Irish accent you think, “He’s after me Lucky Charms!” But it’s not like that at all! It was much harder than I thought it would be but it’s a lot of fun.
We heard the bar on the stage is a real bar. Is that true?
Before the show starts, people are invited to come up on the stage, which is set up as an Irish pub, and order a beer and hang out on stage and relax. It’s a lot of fun. The cast comes out while everybody’s on stage and we start playing all these wonderful Irish and Czech folk songs that are a lot of fun. So anybody who’s going to see the show, don’t be late. Come a little early.
What's your dream role?
I’d like to play the lead in death of a salesman, Willy Loman. It’s kind of a classic American play. I’m the right age now to do it. If I ever see that playing regional I'm definitely going to try out. I welcome all kinds of acting, any opportunity I get I try to take advantage of. This particular show has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. Our director is amazing. He’s very intelligent, very intuitive. He’s a very warm, wonderful person, as is Martin Lowe, our musical director who won a Tony. The whole team of creators, they’re an exceptional group of people.
Anything else you'd like us to know?
The whole cast is marvelous. It's really strong work. I believe that Sam Cieri and Mackenzie Lesser-Roy are going to be big stars one day. They're just so good. And a lot of the people who play some of the smaller roles are wonderful as well. Patricia Bartlett who plays Baruška just steals my heart every time I see her act. Please come and see the show. It's a lot of fun and we want you to come and immerse yourself in our world.