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One in a Hundred


Was Anne of Green Gables’ anniversary good for PEI?

Anne 2008

by Nina Linton

Anne Dolls (photo: Nina Linton)Turning 100 is an exceptional milestone. And it is for that reason that you have to make the party a memorable one. As early as 2006 the Anne 2008 committee was drumming up ways to get people involved in the 100th anniversary celebration of the publication of Anne of Green Gables. They were looking at not only attracting tourists but also rekindling Islanders’ love for the renowned redhead.

Says Jeannette Arsenault, co-chair of the Anne 2008 committee, “We wanted to re-energize PEI to embrace Anne again. Anne has been around 100 years and the rest of the world is still all excited about Anne so we wanted them to come here and find an island that was all excited about Anne also.” The committee umbrella-ed communities around the Island who put on Anne inspired activities. Events spanned everything from ice cream socials, to theatre, look-a-like contests and a Cuthbert family reunion.

“It is too early in terms of our hard measurements,” says Robert Ferguson, Acting Director of Marketing for Tourism PEI. However, he reveals that their data shows that up until the end of August, the number of Japanese visitors staying in local hotels was up 60 per cent over last year.

Jamie Coles of Picture Perfect Tours based in Charlottetown PEI noticed his numbers were up over last year but he can’t definitely link it to Anne 2008. However, his clients who came to PEI specifically to take in the Anne 2008 festivities were extremely excited to be participating in the celebrations. “They had been dreaming of coming here for a long time.”

Coles also noted that tourists who did not have a prior knowledge of Anne or of her centennial were intrigued by the commemorative merchandise displayed in stores. On several occasions he witnessed these tourists purchasing things like the Anne of Green Gables first-edition reprint, released especially for this centenary celebration.

This memorial edition of the novel was a best-seller at the Anne of Green Gables Store, along with Lucy Maud Montgomery’s other books. The store dedicated to Lucy Maud Montgomery’s famous orphan saw a boost in their business during her historic birthday year. “I’d have to give most of the credit towards that [Anne 2008],” says Carol Peters, manager of the Anne of Green Gables Store in Charlottetown. “We have had a very good year, we‘d have to give Anne a lot of credit. All summer we have been asking if people knew it was the 100th anniversary and a lot of people did. They were more aware of it than we expected.”

As the year draws to a close, Jeannette Arsenault views it as a triumphant one. “It has been a great success as far as we are concerned to put Anne in people’s mind again because tourists still come to PEI year, after year, after year. I think it’s something like 10 per cent of new people come to PEI every year because of Anne and that is pretty exciting and that has been going on for 100 years! That is the exciting part that Anne will never die as long as Islanders continue to promote it.”

Island as Character

Anne 2008
by Nina Linton

For lands have personalities just as human beings have, and the spirit of one land is not the spirit of another nor can ever be,” once penned Lucy Maud Montgomery of her precious Prince Edward Island. “There are beautiful landscapes elsewhere, all over Canada, but they lack the indescribable charm that haunts Abegweit (original Mi’kmaq name for PEI.) It is too elusive…too subtle…for definition.”

Through her writing Montgomery has captured the personality of the Island so vividly that for a century fans have flocked to the ruby and emerald isle, dotted with tiny farming communities so perfectly portrayed in her books through fictional towns like Anne’s Avonlea. In Montgomery’s novels the Island is more than a muted backdrop on which the personae tread, the Island leaps from the pages and emerges as character of its own.

Born on the Island and raised in Cavendish by her Victorian grandparents, Montgomery, the imaginative only child was left to explore the world around her. Many locations in her later novels were taken from those places here on PEI that she had experienced growing up. Some can easily be pinpointed, like the Green Gables farmhouse that belonged to her Grandfather’s cousins, while others are more sweeping descriptions of the Island leaving you with the overall impression of a charming land rocked on a sapphire sea.

“There is no question that her love for the Island of her birth and upbringing, and her ability to render it so skillfully in word-painting, is one of the great appeals of her writing. And it isn't just the landscape of trees, lanes, fields, and brooks—it is the people that settled in those little rural settlements like Cavendish and Park Corner who were her relatives and neighbors, and the settled life-style they had.” says Dr. Mary Rubio, Montgomery scholar.

“She didn’t just have a keen eye for the landscape but she had a keen eye for human dynamics,” says Deirdre Kessler, author and UPEI English Department Lecturer. Kessler believes that this is one of the main reasons her writing has stayed popular and relevant after all these years, being able to write about the Island yet, have it remain universal at the same. “This was her home. It was her freedom,” says Kessler. “They [the readers] recognize that.”

Even after leaving the Island in her late 30s, although she never moved back to PEI, Montgomery continued to use her idolized Island as the main location in her novels. Thousands of people come to PEI in search of that countryside, community and characters brought to life in Montgomery’s writing—longing for a taste of the world she describes. And perhaps, most amazingly, you can still catch a glimpse of it, in a gust of wind over a hay field or the friendly smile of a stranger.

Montgomery wrote of the oneness she felt on PEI, “You never know what peace is until you walk on the shores or in the fields or along the winding red roads of Abegweit on a summer twilight when the dew is falling and the old, old stars are peeping out and the sea keeps its nightly tryst with the little land it loves. You find your soul then…you look around on the dimming landscape of haunted hill and long white sand-beach and murmuring ocean, on homestead lights and old fields tilled by dead and gone generations who loved them—and even if you are not Abegweit born you will say, ‘Why... I have come home.’”

Entertaining Insights


The Nine Lives of L. M. Montgomery

by Nina Linton

The Nine Lives of L. M. Montgomery is a theatrical interpretation of the writer’s life, a life that was constantly punctuated by tragedy, unlike the novels she created which had, for the most part, happy endings.

The production follows Maud through out life in three versions of herself—Young Maud, Ingénue Maude and Adult Maude. The characters appear in vignettes woven together with song, highlighting key moments in her life, as pieced together and expanded on by James, through his thorough research.

It opens with a very effective scene of young Maud sitting at an old Victorian desk writing. Celia Koughan is captivating as the spirited Young Maud even though her life as that character is short lived. She only appears in two scenes in that role.

Haley Batchilder, as Ingénue Maud, gives a refreshing performance that feels authentically Maud. She carries off the witty, hopeful, and vivaciously independent character well, with musical numbers that showcase her vocal range. Some of the most entertaining and heartfelt moments in the production are when Batchilder is on stage.

Adult Maud dominates the second half of the play, which is a much darker, and dramatic theatrical piece. Reflecting the true to life events of the writer, Lori Linkletter’s Maud is haunted by death, depression, regret, lawsuits and the slavery she saw herself in as a minister’s wife. She all but succumbs to the unhappiness her life offers, leaving her novels characters such as Anne and Emily, who had been appearing to her on stage through out the play, to try to revive her. Linkletter’s performance was acceptable but lacked the profound lustre of Batchilder’s presentation.

Other noteworthy performances were given by Mary Fay Coady, Michael Farrell, Sharon Eyster, Paul Whelan who juggled several roles through out the production.

The group of young ladies who played Montgomery’s fictional novels’ characters did so with great success including Alicia Altass (Anne) who was well suited for the part and carried it off convincingly. These fictional characters were used wisely with them appearing behind a lit scrim, as if in Montgomery’s mind. Eventually Maud starts a rapport with them, adding more interest and deepening her character. Another well-used technique was employed, with actors freezing mid scene while Maud continued to speak revealing her internal dialogue directly to the audience.

The many musical numbers advance the story and showcase the different character’s personalities, proving more effective than using lines in some cases. The songs range from charming and lively numbers to creeping ballads, which parallel the moods of the Montgomery character.

The King’s Playhouse makes a quaint home for this production, with the intimately theatre setting, where there is really not a bad seat in the house; however, a few technical difficulties marred the production. The sound was uneven at times, with music overpowering actors and actors being difficult to hear towards the rear of the theatre. Lighting was an issue throughout the scenes, with actors fading in and out of obscurity.

Perhaps a true measure of success for a piece of theatre is gauged by audience response. In the case of The Nine Lives of L.M. Montgomery, a roaring standing ovation swept the audience as the copper curtain danced closed.

The Nine Lives of L.M. Montgomery provides the audience with a great insight into the life of Lucy Maud Montgomery, which otherwise takes a back seat to her larger than life characters so prevalent on the Island. For fans of her work this is a concise yet colourful way to learn of her life, and for people who are just interested in it as theatre it makes for an entertaining and educational night out.

 

Family Business

L.M. Montgomery’s grandaughter manages the Anne brand

Anne 2008

by Nina Linton

Kate MacDonald ButlerAnne is big business. And for Kate MacDonald Butler it is her only business. Granddaughter of the famed Island writer Lucy Maud Montgomery, Kate MacDonald Butler manages her grandmother’s Anne legacy from her office in Toronto, year-round.

“Anne of Green Gables for me has evolved,” says MacDonald Butler. “When I personally took this on it was 1992, it was the result of the Sullivan films. It sort of spurred the commercial interest in Anne of Green Gables and the merchandizing aspect.“

It was at that time, after the film’s popularity, that inception of the Anne of Green Gables Licensing Authority (AGGLA) occurred with the intention of regulating the Anne brand. Both the province of Prince Edward Island and the Montgomery heirs jointly own the trademarks to Anne and share their use.

The AGGLA has an eight member Board of Directors, of which MacDonald Butler is one. She spends her days negotiating film rights, granting permission for uses of her grandmother’s words, approving theatre productions and then, of course, there are the popular books and the mass of merchandise, everything from mouse pads to maple syrup containers, pencils to potato chips, cross-stitch kits to Christmas ornaments.

“It has ebbed and flowed over the years. I think some years like this year you can’t open a paper without seeing some reference to her or her work but that is because of the 100th anniversary. There is a lot going on. Since 1908 there have been peaks and valleys in the sales of the books and I think that is probably a generational thing where mothers buy the book after they read it as a child and of course they buy it for their daughters and so on and so on.”

Growing up in Ontario, MacDonald Butler is the daughter of the youngest of Montgomery’s children, Stuart MacDonald. She was raised alongside two brothers not really knowing how important her Grandmother was to the country and the literary world.

“My dad didn’t talk about her much as we grew up. He was silent on the topic. It sort of evolved over time. It wasn’t always on the tip of everyone’s tongue. It has become kind of a household name but it wasn’t always.”

She started to get a sense of it when she wrote her grade 6 speech on her grandmother with added details from her father. But it didn’t really set in until one trip to PEI. She was accompanying her father to christen the ferry MV Lucy Maud Montgomery. “I think I was nine years old in a VIP jet from Toronto and that was when I knew, boy she’s pretty famous!”

Over the last 15-20 years MacDonald Butler has seen the popularity of her grandmother really peak, which keeps her busy. She has gradually adopted the custodial role of the Lucy Maud Montgomery legacy. “It’s hard and it is also gratifying. We are all so very proud of her, but it is also a big responsibility!”

 

Life in Ontario

Lucy Maud wrote famous books in her Leaskdale home

Anne 2008

by Nina Linton

In the sleepy little hamlet of Leaskdale Ontario a white picket fence surrounds an unassuming brick house standing almost entirely shrouded by leafy maple trees. As cars whiz by en route to northern destinations, the drivers take little notice of this century-old structure and its importance to Canadian literary history.

A lonely, blue plaque awkwardly stands alone in the front lawn, desperately seeking attention. For those who get close enough to read it, the sign reveals the relatively unknown history of this small property. Under the Ontario Coat of Arms, the monument’s gold letters glitter in the brilliant sun stating “LUCY MAUD MONTGOMERY In this house the author of “Anne of Green Gables” lived for fifteen years, and here wrote eleven of her twenty-two novels.”

Canada’s most widely-read author called the Leaskdale Manse home beginning in 1911, after her Island marriage to Rev. Ewan MacDonald, who had previously accepted a position with the Leaskdale Presbyterian Church. The already famous Montgomery relocated from small town Prince Edward Island to small town Ontario, adjusting to life nestled in a community which was a cluster of a dozen houses at the time, where she continued to write her thriving books.

Montgomery ritualistically sat for two hours each morning in her parlour churning out pages that subsequently formed such successful novels as Anne of the Island, Emily of New Moon and Rainbow Valley.

“It is the scene of more of her writing than any other place. So Leaskdale, we would argue, is the place where her largest contribution to Canadian literature was made,” says Earle Lockerby, Lucy Maud Montgomery Society of Ontario (LMMS) board member.

For over a decade now, this hard working group of Ontarians have been working to preserve the legacy of the Manse, which was recognized in 1965 as an historic site by the Ontario government and received federal acclamation in 1997.

“The Manse is the only remaining home of L.M. Montgomery which is designated as National Historic Site,” says Lockerby, accentuating its importance.

The Manse continued to serve the church until 1992, when it was purchased by Uxbridge Township. Coupled with the LMMS’s recent purchase of the adjoining church, both it and the Manse are now under the restorative care of the society who intends to authentically refurbish both.

Plans for the site include a Lucy Maud Montgomery interpretive centre to be housed in the renovated basement of the church and in the Manse, the LMMS aim to return it Montgomery’s era by outfitting the house in generously donated period furniture.

The society’s aim is to safeguard the historical assets in the combined properties and use the museum to draw visitors to experience Montgomery in a way not seen elsewhere.

Although here on Prince Edward Island, we often boast sole ownership of Montgomery’s most famed work, many do not realize that she spent most of her writing career living off Island, maturing as a world-renowned author in Ontario.

“While Cavendish has changed immensely since Lucy Maud Montgomery lived there, Leaskdale is largely unspoiled. The views from the house are essentially as they were when she was there, so people can go there and experience, still, what she saw and what she treasured,” says Lockerby.

Perhaps the LMMS’s website (www.lucymaudmontgomery.ca) sums their objective up best with an adaptation from Montgomery’s own work, Rainbow Valley. “We’re bringing the Manse back to life. Come with us to restore Lucy Maud Montgomery’s home. Come uncover stories of a gifted storyteller her dreams, her angst, her sensitivity. Saved within these walls. Waiting to be discovered. Wanting to be told.”

 

Anne in Iran

International panelists attend Lucy Maud Montgomery conference

Anne 2008

by Nina Linton

A cast of young women stand, about to make their Anne of Green Gables debut. The lead actress dons a bright red wig, two neat braids rest solemnly on the shoulders of her stark grey smock. “Matthew,” to her left wears a floppy brimmed hat that snugly fits over the actress’s traditional head covering known as a hijab. Under the guidance of their professor Sami Gorgan Roodi, these Iranian women act out the life of their beloved Anne, becoming just a fraction of the many people across the world that discover and renew Anne each year.

This June, Roodi joins dozens of other inspired Anne fans from all over the map that are flocking to Prince Edward Island to take in the 8th annual Lucy Maud Montgomery Institute’s conference, “Lucy Maud Montgomery and the Idea of Classic.” Some, like Roodi, will be presenters, while others will simply be participants during this year’s commemorative conference that will look back over the 100 years since Anne of Green Gables’ first publication. Roodi, an English Professor at the University of Kashan will be sharing her experience teaching Anne to students in Iran.

“The fact is I never decided to teach Anne of Green Gables in my classes in Iran. It is the students who always pick it,” says Roodi. “I realized that a lot of my girl students were brought up as orphans after the long Iran-Iraq war and they can actually identify themselves with Anne Shirley and read the novel as a story that symbolizes themselves.”

Conference panelist Carole Gerson, who still has her “first, well-worn copy” of the novel relates to the character in an entirely different way. “I identified instantly with Anne because I had the misfortune to possess long red hair and I was teased mercilessly by neighbourhood children who called me spaghetti hair.”

During Gerson’s keynote panel discussion, she and three fellow scholars will look at Anne of Green Gables as Classic.

Panelist Idette Noomé is making the long trek to the conference to discuss the role housework plays in shaping the individual identities of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s characters. Her love of Anne was passed down from her mother in 1940s Commonwealth South Africa. Instantly hooked on Montgomery’s work, she devoured the Anne series as well as the Emily books. Says Noomé, “Coming to Prince Edward Island, and finally seeing a place whose beauties are so eloquently sung by Montgomery is really a bit of a dream which will only feel real when the plane actually lands!”

For ex-pat Islander turned Indiana professor Katherine Ings the conference provides the chance for a long overdue trip home. “Anne of Green Gables is in my DNA. I was born and raised on the Island…my mother read me the story—all of Montgomery’s novels, in fact—before I entered grade one, and I first saw the musical when I was three, perched on my mum’s lap in the balcony. Indeed, Anne was always the example my mother and grandmother set forth for me,” says Ings. “This trip to the Island will be my first time home in eight years, and will be particularly special, because I am not only returning as a scholar, but as a mother who will introduce her three children to their Island heritage.”

Visitors Welcome

8th International L. M. Montgomery Conference

Anne 2008

by Nina Linton

Elilzabeth Waterston, Elizabeth Epperly and Mary Rubio, co-chairs of the 8th International L. M. Montgomery Conference scheduled for June in CharlottetownThe Lucy Maud Montgomery Institute of UPEI welcomes all Islanders to participate in their 8th annual conference, aptly entitled this centennial Anne year “Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables and the Idea of Classic.” The conference runs June 25­29 at the Delta Prince Edward in Charlottetown, with events as diverse as the attendees themselves.

“I think that many Islanders would be surprised by the variety of topics presented at the conference and the types of events that take place. There really is something for everyone,” says conference organizer Elizabeth DeBlois.

“Our speakers are fascinating people who come from more than 10 different countries and they have some intriguing points to make about the value and impact of this story all over the world.”

These guest speakers will be presenting on all things Anne, providing us opportunities to learn more about our iconic redhead and her creator. Some panel presentations of note include Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Power of the Imagination; A Ministry of Plum Puffs: Cooking as a Path to Spiritual Maturity in L. M. Montgomery’s Anne Books; Smart Girl Heroines and Smart Girl Sidekicks: The Shifting Role of Intelligent Females in Classic Literature; Reading a Classic, Writing Like a Canadian; “Waking Up After Being Asleep for Over 60 Years”: Male Redemption in the Writings of LMM; and Classic Stories and their Screen Adaptations.

For presentations with international Anne appeal try South African Idette Noomé’s “Polishing the Moon”: Housewifely Skills—Key to Womanly Power?; Montgomery on the other side of the World: Reading Experiences in Sweden, and the Influence of Montgomery on the Swedish writer by Astrid Lindgren—Asa Warnqvist; Teaching Anne of Green Gables in Islamic Iran by Sami Gorgan Roodi or Anne of Green Gables, a Classic in Italy by Francesca Montuschi.

Along with the presentations, there will be workshops, special events and evening entertainment to take in.

In grand Anne fashion, with plenty of raspberry cordial on hand, the conference plays host to a Bookfair and Official Penguin Launch Party. The June 25 book launch honours this year’s celebratory release of Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson, Imagining Anne by Dr. Elizabeth Epperly, and the Anniversary Edition of Anne of Green Gables. The authors will be signing copies of their books beginning at 6 pm.

Special to the conference, Elizabeth Waterston will have advanced copies of her soon to be released book Magic Island available for sale.

For those interested in a behind the scenes glimpse at UPEI, the Lucy Maud Montgomery Institute will be opening its doors on June 26 for visitors to tour the Montgomery collection at the University’s Robertson Library.

Another highlight in a string of great events will be taking place on June 26 with Silent Movie Night. Attendees are encouraged to dress in period vintage costume, and will be fascinated by a magic lantern presentation that will shed some light onto the mystery of the lost 1919 Anne film.

The conference gives Islanders the opportunity to expand our Lucy Maud horizons and learn something new about her character, whose legacy stretches along the Island as far as the rugged red shores.

“Since we have grown up surrounded by “all-things-Anne” on Prince Edward Island, it can be hard to understand just how important it is to some people,” echos DeBlois. “I hope that many Islanders will come out to take in a session or two or for one of our events. It's a great chance to meet fabulous people and to learn something new.”

Session, workshop, day and weekend passes are currently on sale. Student rates available. For further information please visit www.lmmontgomery.ca.

The Anne Stamp

Ben Stahl’s painting used on Canadian commerative stamp

by Nina Linton

Ben Stahl reflected in his painting of Anne Shirley used for the Anne stamp. Sorry Ben, you don’t get your face on a stamp…yet (Photo: Nina Linton)I didn’t expect this ever!” revealed Island resident and artist Ben Stahl after his painting of Anne was selected to appear on a Canadian stamp. The stamp is being released to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the publication of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic novel, Anne of Green Gables. Two years in the making, the Anne of Green Gables stamp set includes two different stamps. One featuring Miss Shirley herself, the other exhibits famed Island property Green Gables.

Stahl, moved to Prince Edward Island almost twenty years ago after being commissioned to illustrate the covers of 36 of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s books. The acrylic painting featured on the stamp was created in the early 1990s. The original work was 15 x 20 inches in size and appeared on a box set of books, and was later reproduced on posters sold across the Island. “At one point people would come to me and say that this is the quintessential Anne,” says Stahl.

The artist himself, who had long since sold the rights to his paintings to the heirs of Montgomery, didn’t know about the Anne stamp until last fall. “I was sitting on a bench outside my studio when she (heir Kate Macdonald) came down the street and surprised me and told me it was going to be used on a stamp.” says Stahl. “It’s an honour of course, but my first thought was what a kick this is! Afterwards, you realize that not many people have their images used on stamps and its importance.”

This sentiment is echoed by Canada Post, whom each year receive hundreds of suggestions for potential stamps ideas. All of which go before a stamp advisory committee who wade through the proposed themes. This committee will select a final 25 themes for each year’s stamp release.

“The mandate of the stamp program is to celebrate the people, the history, the culture, our heritage, to commemorate people or an event which contributed to Canada as it is today,” says Nicole Lemire, Media Relations Manager at Canada Post.

With 2008’s centennial Anne theme selected, graphic designers went to work on 2 or 3 conceptual stamps. The Canada Post Board of Directors complete the final step in a two year process by deciding which of the concept stamps will be released to consumers.

“Interest has already been shown with respect to the stamps and we expect that since Anne is loved by all Canadians, being a great Canadian icon, being part of our history, seeing that she is known worldwide, that her books have been translated in over 30 languages…We expect the stamps to be very well received,” says Lemire.

The new Anne stamp marks the second time that our famous orphan has appeared on a stamp. In 1975 she surfaced on an eight-cent stamp as part of a Canadian author stamp series that paid tribute to her writer.

This 2008 stamp also proves to be a first for Canada Post with this being their premier joint release stamp with Japan.

The official release of the stamp in Canada will be taking place on June 20th at the Cavendish Post Office. With a planned six million to be printed, the 52-cent Anne stamp will be making its appearance on letters in mailboxes across the country. It will be available at participating post offices, and online at the Canada Post website.

Stahl’s image will also be appearing on a coloured, commemorative coin being released April 16 by the Royal Canadian Mint. With only 50,000 minted, the Anne coin will be available for sale to the general public at www.mint.ca.

Events Calendar

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