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Camp Dynamo

Camp Dynamo, presented by the PEI Business Women’s Association, takes place September 28–30 at D [ ... ]

Speak–Easy Toastmasters

Speak–Easy Toastmasters meet the first and third Wednesday of the month from 6:00–8:15 pm a [ ... ]

It's Only Us Up Here


50 Years of Farquharson Around

Review by Sarah Crane

Catherine McKinnon and Don Harron invite audiences into the Carmody Comedy Barn in Stanley Bridge three nights a week this summer, for a nostalgic look back at their prolific careers in 50 years of Farquharson Around.

From the beginning, a casual atmosphere is established when latecomers are told to, "Come on in! It's only me up here." A casual give-and-take with the audience ensues, it's sort of like a visit with a friend, albeit an incredibly entertaining set of friends: the lady weaves music and stories with a velvet voice and the husband has a twinkling wit.

The evening is like a look through a shared photo album. Harron's characters are familiar, and even if you haven't before met the famous Charlie Farquharson or his wife Valeda Drain Farquharson, or perhaps his city cousin Valerie Rosedale, it will still feel comfortable because they are brilliant caricatures of the people who surround us. While Charlie Farquharson may be a creation of Parry Sound, he and his wife fit very nicely into the folks and landscapes here on Prince Edward Island.

Farquharson and the not-so-lovely Valeda are characters that nail those odd Island neighbours some of us have. They are funny to visit, but you're always left shaking your head at the way they see the world.

The appearances of the characters from the past are layered with musical memories sung by Valeda Drain's alter ego, Catherine McKinnon. She tells them, "Sit back and relax, because for God's sake! You're in a barn," and they quickly respond to her request. When they're invited to sing with her, almost everyone chimes in enthusiastically.

McKinnon performs favourites from the last 50 years. She says she looked at the top five songs from each year and picked her favourites. With every familiar tune, there is a gasp of excitement before the audience joins in with McKinnon's stunning voice. Her voice easily fills the barn.

Songs like "How much is that doggy in the window," and "When you're young at heart," have the audience singing and swaying along. Each time McKinnon appears on the stage she is an image of flowing silk and colour, and the audience is obviously delighted with her.

An evening of memories in song and story sets the audience up for the grand finale: an appearance from the man himself, Charlie Farquharson. He arrives on stage, resplendent in Charlie's original cap and sweater.

Speaking to audience members following the show, all remarked at how they loved McKinnon and Harron during their careers in television. All said, Farquharson Around called to mind delightful memories.

Now You See It…

F.I.G.H.T. Troupe improv group will perform at The Arts Guild

by Sarah Crane

F.I.G.H.T. Club

The F.I.G.H.T. Troupe is preparing to practice for the first time on a new stage at the Arts Guild in Charlottetown. This will be the improv troupe's home for the summer, they will perform a brand new show upon this stage every Friday night.

Laurie Murphy, the founder and leader of the troupe likes the the wider stage. "These are wings," says Murphy, gesturing to extensions on each side. "So we can stand at the side of the stage instead of hanging in the back."

This fits nicely with the general philosophy of the women in the F.I.G.H.T. Troupe. There are no superstars they tell me, or if there are, everyone is a superstar. When a group are performing a scene, it would not be right if they dominated the stage completely. The women are very close to each other; they say being part of F.I.G.H.T. club, ( Female Iimprov Group Having Tea) is like being in a group of best friends.

At the beginning they say they didn't even know each other's last names, or even if they had last names. After a while they found out who was married and who had kids. They learned the last names when they saw them listed in the paper.

The women are friends, a group of sisters, says Patti Larsen. It's a very nurturing atmosphere, with a healthy competitive aspect that can push the women a little bit further than what they could do on their own.

They came to the troupe over the last few years, brought in through friends and friends of friends. They came from many professions and stages of life. Some wanted to gain confidence for other aspects of their performing or professional lives, and now they stay for the improv.

Larsen, a singer said she wanted to learn how to speak on stage when her guitarist was fixing her guitar. And now she comes to learn more and improve. What had been a tool to add to their lives has now become the end result. The F.I.G.H.T. Troupe performs for the sake of the art form of improv.

This summer of weekly performances will help the troupe expand on their skills. They are excited for the weekly contact with an audience. Kathleen Hamilton says sometimes watching the practices she is so blown away by what she sees that she feels sorry for all the people who won't get to see what has just happened on the stage. Everything happens only once, so after it has appeared on stage with the F.I.G.H.T. Club, it's gone, never to be seen again.

Love, Sweet Love

The Truth about Love and/or Marriage

Review by Sarah Crane

The other day I saw a newspaper ad that said in large, bold letters, "People are living a lot longer," and underneath in smaller letters: "Let's discuss pre-nuptial agreements." It was an ad for a law firm-those cynics. And so with that attitude in mind, it's a relief that we have Nils Ling to give us The Truth about Love/and or Marriage. Mr. Ling's one-man show, playing every Wednesday throughout July is aptly named. It looks at love and marriage and deals with it on a truly earthly level.

Ling plays a political columnist who begrudgingly accepts a new job writing a column on love and relationships. The character has never had an easy time with relationships. The teen-aged version says he always had more girls who just wanted to be friends than he ever had friends. So, slightly jaded for a humorous view, we get the truth about love. And pre-nuptials to the wind, the show makes it look as though love only gets better the longer it lasts and the older we get, though it's not an easy ride. Interspersed between scenes of real love experiences are touching stories of actual lovers-especially older couples. The whole show, Ling performs to the audience on a personal level. But when he tells his stories about his grandparents it feels like we are in conversation and he is speaking directly to me-an amazing ability.

The Harbourfront Jubilee Theatre provides a wonderful summer theatre experience. On a warm and hazy evening; during the intermission the crowd milled around outside, watching the rocking boats in the Summerside Harbour. The experience would be a romantic one for a couple of any age, but keep in mind it's a realistic romance we're talking about here. Ling performs scenes from teenage moments of fascination with an object of awkward affection, to cranky middle-aged marriage beds. The play is truthful because it doesn't sugar coat or sweeten romance.

The lasting message of the show is the true sweetness of life-long love. Behind the realistic edge and the occasional grumpiness of the main character, there is a tender acknowledgement of the wonderfulness that accompanies a long lasting, tried but true relationship. But it is tender and funny, not sappy. Ling's character admits that his own marriage is "held together with duct tape and bailing wire," but there are great moments of love and companionship in the story. The show is a slice of real life, it's funny, but so is love and it is also touching and sweet.

Late Laughs

Late Night at the Mack

Review by Sarah Crane

Wednesday nights at the MacKenzie Theatre are comedy nights and the slogan for the Late Night at the Mack series tells me "You never know who you might see." One mainstay is host and well-known Island comic Laurie Murphy. The slogan holds true enough for the rest of the show. Murphy leads the audience through an evening of traditional stand-up comedy, energetic improvisation, musical comedy and many other effusions from talented people. While you may not be sure who will show up on stage, at least you can be certain that you're going to have a good time. There were familiar faces and names, talent from the Charlottetown Festival, local and visiting performers on the stage and all of it was fun and creative.

The show starts at 11 pm. And it just might be the perfect alternative to smoky, crowded bars where you have to shout over loud music. The Mackenzie Theatre provided a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere while the performers provided creativity and energy. The improv group was musical, physical, and fast. The energy from the stage was contagious. Audience participation made it feel like everyone could be involved in what was happening on the stage. There was a physical theatre artist, traditional stand-up comedy, and then Margie Carmichael took the audience home with an Island touch to her hilarious stories and songs.

Wednesday night is comedy, Thursday is a cabaret night with Festival musicians and guests, Friday is "Close enough for Jazz" hosted by the Jive King's Bob Nicholson and on Saturday nights the Festival cast, crew and staff appear in a talk variety show hosted by Laurie Murphy.

During the summer there is so much talent collected here on the Island. Late Night at the Mack is a chance to appreciate that talent. It brings performers together, showcasing them in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. During the show, there was a buzz of energy in the theatre, and when it was over, the doors opened to quiet, still streets with no cars and few lights. Late on that Wednesday night all the energy of a hot summer evening must have been gathered inside the Mack.

Love, Sweet Love


The Truth about Love and/or Marriage

Review by Sarah Crane

The other day I saw a newspaper ad that said in large, bold letters, "People are living a lot longer," and underneath in smaller letters: "Let's discuss pre-nuptial agreements." It was an ad for a law firm-those cynics. And so with that attitude in mind, it's a relief that we have Nils Ling to give us The Truth about Love/and or Marriage. Mr. Ling's one-man show, playing every Wednesday throughout July is aptly named. It looks at love and marriage and deals with it on a truly earthly level.

Ling plays a political columnist who begrudgingly accepts a new job writing a column on love and relationships. The character has never had an easy time with relationships. The teen-aged version says he always had more girls who just wanted to be friends than he ever had friends. So, slightly jaded for a humorous view, we get the truth about love. And pre-nuptials to the wind, the show makes it look as though love only gets better the longer it lasts and the older we get, though it's not an easy ride. Interspersed between scenes of real love experiences are touching stories of actual lovers-especially older couples. The whole show, Ling performs to the audience on a personal level. But when he tells his stories about his grandparents it feels like we are in conversation and he is speaking directly to me-an amazing ability.

The Harbourfront Jubilee Theatre provides a wonderful summer theatre experience. On a warm and hazy evening; during the intermission the crowd milled around outside, watching the rocking boats in the Summerside Harbour. The experience would be a romantic one for a couple of any age, but keep in mind it's a realistic romance we're talking about here. Ling performs scenes from teenage moments of fascination with an object of awkward affection, to cranky middle-aged marriage beds. The play is truthful because it doesn't sugar coat or sweeten romance.

The lasting message of the show is the true sweetness of life-long love. Behind the realistic edge and the occasional grumpiness of the main character, there is a tender acknowledgement of the wonderfulness that accompanies a long lasting, tried but true relationship. But it is tender and funny, not sappy. Ling's character admits that his own marriage is "held together with duct tape and bailing wire," but there are great moments of love and companionship in the story. The show is a slice of real life, it's funny, but so is love and it is also touching and sweet.

House Rules

A Rowboat in the Attic

Review by Sarah Crane

Inkerman, a grand house that used to be just off the North River Road in Charlottetown, has an enthralling story. Colonel John Hamilton Gray built it before the birth of Confederation in Charlottetown. When Nancy Beck spent her childhood summers there, Colonel Gray's ghost used to roam the halls. The Colonel haunted several generations of Beck's family. One of her great-great-grandfather's bought Inkerman after the Colonel's death. The grand house burned down in the seventies. But Beck remembers it today by sharing its story with audiences, through her one-man show, A Rowboat in the Attic.

It seems the few houses on the Island that have their own name are very grand or famous: Beaconsfield, Fanningbank, and even, (dare I mention?) Green Gables. When a house is given a name, it can develop a character unto itself, with its own history and story, almost capable of possessing a personality. This is true of Inkerman. Beck tells the story of "the big house" with care and fondness. Her own history revolves around the house. All of the people who lived in it lent some of their character to the building, to create a place swollen with stories and laughter.

Beck's show is casual and informal; at times it seems she is sitting across a kitchen table, talking about Inkerman, drinking from a coffee mug. But when she tells a story, she stands and becomes the many characters that inhabited Inkerman over the years. Her characters range from young children who are scared of the ghosts in the house, complete with big eyes and little voices, to her elderly grandmother. But it's the character of the house that is most eloquently made apparent. It is a place where parties draw people together and friends are always welcomed back.

Although Nancy Beck shows a great range of characters, it is her singing that really brings the house down. Her renditions of the `party pieces,' sung at Inkerman `shindigs' leave the audience roaring with laughter, and the sweet, simple song, "Will ye no come back again," is delightfully touching.

Meaning of Island Life

Horse High, Bull Strong, Pig Tight

Review 
by Sarah Crane

Rob MacLean as Peter Stuart. Photo: Alanna

Horse high, bull strong, pig tight is a saying that embodies the meaning of life for Peter Stuart. It can make sense of any situation. Although he is not quite sure what it means he knows it is important.

Stuart, played by Rob MacLean, is the main character in Kent Stetson's one-man play, Horse High, Bull Strong, Pig Tight. He is an Islander in every sense of the word. He was born on Prince Edward Island, lived on it all his life, and for him, there is nothing quite so beautiful as a well-run Island farm, borne of hard-work. Peter Stuart, like so many people, is caught between the modest, Island way of life he used to know, and the threatening encroachment of technology, big business and all that it brings.

Horse High is an important story. It tells the tale, not just of an Islander, but of a man and the many stages of his life. And it's a wonderful look at Island life, and life in general. Though the play is touching and sad-a serious look at important Island issues-at the same time, it's a lot of fun. Peter Stuart, despite the cantankerous, old man that he tries to be, has a fantastic sense of humor.

The writing in this play has uncovered some great Island sayings. Phrases that left the audience roaring. And Rob MacLean delivers them perfectly. The accent that he gives Peter Stuart sounds just like some of the older men who hang out at the coffee shop down the street.

MacLean plays several characters in the play. Not only does he play Peter Stuart at more than four different ages, but he also becomes some of the main characters in Peter Stuart's life: his wife, father, step-father, brothers, and friends.

The depth of the Peter Stuart character in itself is impressive. He is a grumpy, old man, but he is passionately in love with his wife and his farm. He is kind and gentle to all the little animals that live around him. Seeing him at so many different ages of his life is fascinating. His character becomes so developed the audience feels like they have known him all his life.

Several times MacLean is two or three people at once, and the different characters he plays have conversation with each other. MacLean carries this off amazingly. He slips easily from one character to another with incredible skill. The physical exertion that it would take to do this entire play is remarkable in itself.

Horse high, Bull Strong, Pig Tight is a journey, through one man's life. When he discovers the meaning of that saying, everything comes into perspective, and Peter Stuart's life seems to make a bit more sense, even if it wasn't quite what he expected it to be. Horse High plays at the Arts Guild on Monday nights at 8 pm.

Music and Hilarity

Carmody Comedy Follies

Review by Sarah Crane

Catherine McKinnnon and Don Harron host the Comedy Follies this summer at the Carmody Comedy Barn in Stanley Bridge at Catherine McKinnon's Spot O' Tea. The theme of the show is travel, and it fulfills this by taking the audience on a journey, leading them around the world and back through music hilarity.

And who could think of better traveling companions than music and hilarity? Except perhaps the hosts of the evening, McKinnon and Harron. Gracious hosts that they are, they occasionally leave the audience in the hands of some eccentric characters. There are four of these oddballs who join the show over the course of the evening, including the farcical Charlie Farquharson. The comical cleverness of Harron's different incarnations leaves the audience roaring, and that is when they only catch half of the jokes being dealt. Each character graces the audience with unusual tales of travel.

McKinnon sweeps onto the stage in an air of elegance, her renowned voice and gracious manner enthralls the audience. Through song, she takes everyone in her barn on a journey, to Mexico, Ireland, Scotland, France and beyond. Yet however exotic the location may be, the songs are always somehow familiar, and they echo in your heart.

But just like real travels we eventually return home and nobody is closer to home than Charlie Farquharsan and his lovely wife Valeda. They may have gotten off the farm long enough to collect some traveling tales to share with us but they still have that down home Island charm.

McKinnon also gives us a taste of Maritime charm in a slightly more refined manner-music that is. For these songs, the barn is rocking, with every audience member participating in pounding out a lively beat. The songs are familiar enough to bring most everyone to sing along.

From the moment McKinnon and Harron, and their special guests, step onto the stage, they hold the audience in the palm of their hand, leading them through the evening and travels. The couple's professional, comfortable stage manner puts everyone at ease. They both have a presence on the stage that comes from their extensive entertainment backgrounds, much of which is recounted in the stories. They have the ability to make you feel as at home in their barn as they are on the stage.

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Events Calendar

September 2018
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Some Upcoming Events

North Shore Community Centre event serie...

September 25
North Shore Community Centre The Rural Municipality of North Shore will present the Lat [ ... ]

The Children Act

September 27–October 4
City Cinema PG, language warning
Dir: Richard Eyre, UK, 105 min. Emma Thomps [ ... ]

9th Grand Ruisseau Song Festival

September 28–30
Mont-Carmel Parish Hall The Coopérative de développement culturel et patrimonial [ ... ]

Recent News & Articles

Drawing the line

Profile: Sandy Carruthers by Jane Ledwell Retired for a year now after twenty-five years teaching  [ ... ]

Filmworks Summerside

Film series is back for 7th season Filmworks Summerside opens for their 7th season on September 12  [ ... ]

An Island wish

On August 23, 4 year old Cooper Coughlin will arrive on Prince Edward Island soil for a once in a li [ ... ]