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Seniors Active Living Centre

Events continue at the Seniors Active Living Centre, Bell Aliant Centre, UPEI, Charlottetown: Novem [ ... ]

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Alzheimer caregiver support groups are held in 3 locations across PEI. All are welcome to attend. T [ ... ]

Two Tales

The Two Allans

Review by Kumari Campbell

On an unseasonably cold July evening The Two Allans warmed up a packed house at the St Peter’s Courthouse Theatre in ‘The Bay’ in Eastern Kings. Veteran performers Allan Rankin and Alan Buchanan rocked the rafters in the beautifully renovated Quigly Hall, which used to be one of Kings County’s five courthouses during the late nineteenth century.

Buchanan, with his background as a university professor and provincial politician, is an accomplished public speaker and seasoned raconteur. Rankin, a former career civil servant, has long since put himself on the Island’s musical map by writing and singing his own brand of poignant, heart-warming Island music.

In this particular collaboration, the two Allans treat their audiences to a collection of anecdotes about Prince Edward Island’s colouful history, culture, and humour, related in prose format by Buchanan, and through Rankin’s songs.

They introduce themselves by way of their common Scottish ancestry that dates back two hundred years, moving forward from there to touch on various periods of Island history. The migration of Islanders to ‘The Boston States’ and western Canada during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is mentioned, as well as the ‘Harvest Excursion Trains’ that took Island men to Alberta to participate in the fall harvest during the pre-dust bowl years, for $23 per return trip. The era of prohibition and subsequent alcohol rationing are also remembered—purportedly a period in history when men went about drinking slyly, while women feigned surprise and expressed their disgust at ‘discovering’ them. In more recent Island history, the pair recounted a couple of die-hard opponents of the ‘Fixed Link’ (Confederation Bridge): one who vehemently refused to cross the bridge, while the other required tranquilizers to make the trip across.

In describing the culture of storytelling, they marvelled at the poetic bent of the language used by the common person in years gone by, relating several colourful metaphors and euphemisms that were common usage, such as referring to a drunk man as being “full as an egg”. And of course, no evening of Island storytelling would be complete without the obligatory stories of the great political divide between the Grits and Tories, and the religious schism between Catholics and Protestants.

The Rocking Judge

Off Her Rocker

Review by Kumari Campbell

A new comedy by Nancy Beck premiered at the Georgetown Theatre on July 16. Off Her Rocker is about Prince Edward Island Supreme Court judge, Roberta Elvira Boyle (Bertie for short), who spends her spare time writing jingles. Beck plays the role of the eccentric judge.

By writing her jingles for local businesses, Bertie immediately scores points (and howls of laughter) from the audience. Gillis’ Drive-in, Stewart & Beck, and Doc Johnston’s are some of the Montague businesses graced by Judge Bertie’s jingles.

The action of the play unfolds at Bertie’s summer campsite on the lower reaches of the Montague River, where she takes refuge from her courtroom while exercising her creative muscles. This is where the audience finds her in her rocker (she is known as ‘the rocking judge’, she informs the audience), surrounded by clotheslines festooned with laundry, a seagull hat on her head and a mandolin in her hands, hard at work on her latest jingle. It is also where Penelope (Pence for short) finds her. Penelope is the prim-and-proper British journalist who has journeyed all the way to PEI to write a biographical piece on the oddball judge.

In due course they are joined by Bertie’s assistant, Mystical Crystal (Misty for short), a ‘cosmically aware’ young woman whose intense knowledge and understanding of auras and all things mystical help keep Bertie organized. Together Bertie and Misty convince Pence to abandon her well-paying job in London and stay on in ‘the colonies’, where she can ghost-write Misty’s book on the effects of the cosmos on human behaviour.

Caroline Hewson does a very convincing job (complete with English-Irish accent) playing the straight-laced British journalist who gradually lets down her hair to become just as quirky as her fellow-actors. Carolyn Campbell too is perfect for the flower child role she is cast in. Her amazing repertoire of facial expressions alone is most entertaining. As for Nancy Beck, one has to wonder about her seemingly limitless capacity for producing new material. Where does she get her ideas from anyway?

Although the action in the second half tended to drag a bit with the lengthy preparations for the nose flute lessons, and a few too many fa-la-las at the end, Off Her Rocker is a light comedy offering that should fit the bill for a summer evening while at the cottage or the campground.

Gracie Amazes


Amazing Gracie

Review by Kumari Campbell

Homefree Productions’ 2004 summer season opened July 10 to an almost full house and the Island’s trademark standing ovation. On the boards was Amazing Gracie, their musical revue about 20th century British singer and comedienne Gracie Fields.

Island audiences accustomed to the zany antics of Nancy Beck and Pamela Campbell were not disappointed by the over-the-top hilarity of the pair in their latest collaboration. Their partner in crime was Andrew Zinck. A clearly talented pianist, Zinck’s expert fingers filled the theatre with an endless medley of delightful music that ranged from classical to opera to Broadway tunes. His clever arrangements melded such diverse pieces of music so seamlessly that the audience was barely aware of the transitions. But the audience was also treated to the comedic side of Andrew Zinck when he (literally) put on his comic hat on a few occasions and slipped off his piano bench to join Beck and Campbell onstage. These interludes however only lasted seconds, being curtly interrupted by a stern frown from Beck, which sent the downcast Zinck scurrying back to his piano.

Campbell and Beck have been entertaining Island residents and visitors for several years. But perhaps the most interesting nuance of the pair’s newest offering is the role reversal they go through when Campbell takes on the rubber face of the comic, and Beck lets the audience glimpse a facet of herself she usually keeps well hidden behind her comic mask: a rich and melodic voice with a stunning range.

Gracie Fields who was born in Rochdale, Lancashire, England in 1898, was ‘discovered’ at the age of seven (while singing as she cleaned outhouses, as Beck charmingly informs the audience), and went on to entertain scores of enthusiastic fans for seven decades. While Fields’ serious songs such as “Bless This House,” “Danny Boy,” “The Lord’s Prayer,” and “I’ll Be Seeing You,” are perfect vehicles for Campbell’s magnificent voice, the outrageous numbers such as “Turn Herbert’s Face To The Wall, Mother, He’s Dead But He Won’t Lie Down,” “Fonso (My Hot Spanish Knight),” and “What Can You Give A Nudist On His Birthday?” give the duo (particularly Beck) the latitude to have a great deal of fun with the audience.

Kudos to Homefree Productions for taking on the operation of the Kings Playhouse for the 2004 summer season, and bringing to eastern PEI a much needed entertainment venue.

Back in The Bay

Storytelling workshop by Frank Ledwell

by Kumari Campbell

Since the St. Peter’s Courthouse Theatre opened its doors in the summer of 2003, Frank Ledwell, the hometown boy, has been a frequent visitor to its stage. Last summer he gave a series of performances, where he was accompanied by his son Danny who provided musical accompaniment to Frank’s storytelling. Once again this year Frank will be entertaining theatregoers with his humorous stories, although Danny (who is touring outside the province) will be replaced by various other musicians.

Most of Ledwell’s stories, many of them contained in his four books, are about places and characters in eastern Prince Edward Island, and particularly St. Peter’s Bay where he grew up.

This summer, in addition to the evenings of storytelling, Ledwell also conducted two storytelling workshops in July. Since his retirement as an English professor at UPEI in 1996, Ledwell has conducted numerous writing workshops across the Island. At the Courthouse Theatre he tells his small group of students that the fine art of storytelling is at the root of every good piece of writing, be it prose, poetry or song.

He begins by giving them a collective writing exercise. He gives them the opening sentence of a story, “Mary MacDonald was an only child.”, and bids them continue adding to it while bearing in mind the ‘who, what, when, and where’ of the story they are building. As each member of the group adds to the story, Ledwell insightfully discovers the plot and carefully draws it out of the group.

Ledwell talks to the group about the importance of spontaneity, honesty, and humanity in storytelling, telling them that those are the qualities that every audience (be they readers or listeners) seeks. He also gives them helpful pointers such as reading their work aloud in order to test their writing and ‘feel’ the sound of it, and even more importantly, cultivating memory by tasks such as solving crossword puzzles.

During the second half of the three-hour workshop Ledwell invites each participant to read his/her own writing, which include poetry, short fiction, and even a script for a play. His comments on the pieces that are read are not so much critiques as observations on the types of writing that appear to interest the writers. Finally Ledwell reads some of his own stories, using them as examples to illustrate several of the points he had made previously. It is interesting observing the master storyteller teaching others his craft.

Gracie Amazes

Amazing Gracie

Review by Kumari Campbell

Homefree Productions’ 2004 summer season opened to an almost full house and the Island’s trademark standing ovation. On the boards was Amazing Gracie, their musical revue about 20th century British singer and comedienne Gracie Fields.

Island audiences accustomed to the zany antics of Nancy Beck and Pamela Campbell were not disappointed by the over-the-top hilarity of the pair in their latest collaboration. Their partner in crime was Andrew Zinck. A clearly talented pianist, Zinck’s expert fingers filled the theatre with an endless medley of delightful music that ranged from classical to opera to Broadway tunes. His clever arrangements melded such diverse pieces of music so seamlessly that the audience was barely aware of the transitions. But the audience was also treated to the comedic side of Andrew Zinck when he (literally) put on his comic hat on a few occasions and slipped off his piano bench to join Beck and Campbell onstage. These interludes however only lasted seconds, being curtly interrupted by a stern frown from Beck, which sent the downcast Zinck scurrying back to his piano.

Campbell and Beck have been entertaining Island residents and visitors for several years. But perhaps the most interesting nuance of the pair’s newest offering is the role reversal they go through when Campbell takes on the rubber face of the comic, and Beck lets the audience glimpse a facet of herself she usually keeps well hidden behind her comic mask: a rich and melodic voice with a stunning range.

Gracie Fields who was born in Rochdale, Lancashire, England in 1898, was ‘discovered’ at the age of seven (while singing as she cleaned outhouses, as Beck charmingly informs the audience), and went on to entertain scores of enthusiastic fans for seven decades. While Fields’ serious songs such as “Bless This House,” “Danny Boy,” “The Lord’s Prayer,” and “I’ll Be Seeing You,” are perfect vehicles for Campbell’s magnificent voice, the outrageous numbers such as “Turn Herbert’s Face To The Wall, Mother, He’s Dead But He Won’t Lie Down,” “Fonso (My Hot Spanish Knight),” and “What Can You Give A Nudist On His Birthday?” give the duo (particularly Beck) the latitude to have a great deal of fun with the audience.

Kudos to Homefree Productions for taking on the operation of the Kings Playhouse for the 2004 summer season, and bringing to eastern PEI a much needed entertainment venue.

The Rocking Judge

Off Her Rocker

Review by Kumari Campbell

A new comedy by Nancy Beck premiered at the Georgetown Theatre. Off Her Rocker is about Prince Edward Island Supreme Court judge, Roberta Elvira Boyle (Bertie for short), who spends her spare time writing jingles. Beck plays the role of the eccentric judge.

By writing her jingles for local businesses, Bertie immediately scores points (and howls of laughter) from the audience. Gillis’ Drive-in, Stewart & Beck, and Doc Johnston’s are some of the Montague businesses graced by Judge Bertie’s jingles.

The action of the play unfolds at Bertie’s summer campsite on the lower reaches of the Montague River, where she takes refuge from her courtroom while exercising her creative muscles. This is where the audience finds her in her rocker (she is known as ‘the rocking judge’, she informs the audience), surrounded by clotheslines festooned with laundry, a seagull hat on her head and a mandolin in her hands, hard at work on her latest jingle. It is also where Penelope (Pence for short) finds her. Penelope is the prim-and-proper British journalist who has journeyed all the way to PEI to write a biographical piece on the oddball judge.

In due course they are joined by Bertie’s assistant, Mystical Crystal (Misty for short), a ‘cosmically aware’ young woman whose intense knowledge and understanding of auras and all things mystical help keep Bertie organized. Together Bertie and Misty convince Pence to abandon her well-paying job in London and stay on in ‘the colonies’, where she can ghost-write Misty’s book on the effects of the cosmos on human behaviour.

Caroline Hewson does a very convincing job (complete with English-Irish accent) playing the straight-laced British journalist who gradually lets down her hair to become just as quirky as her fellow-actors. Carolyn Campbell too is perfect for the flower child role she is cast in. Her amazing repertoire of facial expressions alone is most entertaining. As for Nancy Beck, one has to wonder about her seemingly limitless capacity for producing new material. Where does she get her ideas from anyway?

Although the action in the second half tended to drag a bit with the lengthy preparations for the nose flute lessons, and a few too many fa-la-las at the end, Off Her Rocker is a light comedy offering that should fit the bill for a summer evening while at the cottage or the campground.

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