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12 Angry Women

Upcoming play reading and auditions  Play Reading: On November 19 at 6:30 pm there will be a  [ ... ]

2019 Island Fringe Festival

Now taking applications The 2019 Island Fringe Festival takes place August 1–4. As always, t [ ... ]

Students Present Plays

Review by Erin Fagan

On November 14 through 16, UPEI's Duffy Amphitheatre was transformed from a standard lecture hall into a stage for experimental student drama. The annual UPEI Theatre Society Evening of One-Acts has traditionally been an excellent opportunity for students to produce, direct, and perform their own short pieces on a public stage. This year, three eclectic comedies were produced by the society, including one which was also written by two student playwrights.

(Incidentally, this reviewer directed one of those one-acts-"Interiors"-, and won't be commenting on her own work.)

The first play of the evening was directed by director Danny Maloney and written by Stephen Gregg. "Postponing the Heat Death of the Universe" is a work of intelligent humour with quirky, human characters. Nick Olmsted (Adam Gauthier) is a slightly proud, eccentric freshman who has just lost a $5,000 scholarship to the equally proud and eccentric junior, Jackie Walker (Melanie Stavert). When she drops off a less-than-gracious condolence letter at his dorm room, she finds him moping on the bed with the lights off. Stubbornly, he asserts that he is valiantly "postponing entropy" by not expending energy. Jackie refuses to leave until she has made her rival budge. In the process of profoundly annoying each other they inadvertently reveal their common loneliness, individual illusions, and underlying warmth.

A richness of detail marked this performance, in direction, setting and character creation. Maloney crafted a complex and finely executed lighting design which played with the multiple sources of light existing within one typical room. The set consisted of two parallel bedrooms, each one completely furnished and decorated into separate worlds which reflected the idiosyncrasies of the characters inhabiting these spaces. Most importantly, the characters were equally rich and nuanced as portrayed by the actors. Gauthier's characterization conveyed subtle gradations of moodiness, apathy and defensiveness by his voice and facial expression alone. This contrasted suitably with the high animation that Stavert put into her portrayal of the relentless Jackie. Newcomer Mary Clements also did well as the Nick's smiley crush, Stacey, particularly during challenging monologues which revealed what the characters themselves would have preferred to have left concealed.

The second play, "Poets," merits submission into the New Voices playwright competition. An original, creative and funny work, it was written, directed, and performed by UPEI students Lennie MacPherson and Matt Stewart. Their characters, Murphy and Julian are extremely earnest, amateur bards attempting to find their voices as poets. Part of this commitment to the craft seems to involve a steady consumption of beer at all times, as well as an adherence to Percy Shelley's dictum that "Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world." Murphy is attempting to recreate, in one hyperbolic draft, the magic of his one date with a girl named Janet. Julian, the philosophical scribe, is trying to define the aesthetics of his craft with more than a little self-importance, particularly in the face of skepticism from his roommate, Lucinda. By the end of the play, Julian gains the respect of Lucinda and Murphy gets the girl back all through their poetry.

This play was hilarious and full of great little bits of absurd dialogue surrounding the nature of poetry. Stewart and MacPherson's characters were rendered naturally and with excellent comedic timing. Newcomer Norah Pendergast also did well portraying the more cynically minded Lucinda. However, the scenestealer was Joey Weale as a blazered, turtle-necked poetry workshop instructor with a penchant for dramatic/awkward pauses. Weale's best bit was played out just upstage of the main action, involving a mimed, confused attempt at sorting all of the components of his styrofoam coffee cup and lid in PEI's new Waste Watch program. This completely distracted the audience from the very important ideals being elucidated by Murphy and Julian, but the reviewer was told that this was part of the point.

In summation, this may have been the best series of one-acts in several years. Attendance was just below 70 people on the Friday and Saturday evening performances. Sadly, this is the last production in which retiring co-chairs Andrew MacPhee and Adam Gauthier will be producing, although by the excellent reception of the audience I believe that their hard work had been greatly appreciated.

The Happy (Prince) Gang

by Erin Fagan

Lisa Lennox plays a swallow in The Happy PrinceThe seven members of the 2002 Charlottetown Festival Young Company (Craig Fair, Sean Hauk, Leah Johnston, Lisa Lennox, Cliff Sardinha, Shawna Van Omme, and Dina Young), have acquired a devoted following this past summer. Case in point: just before my interview, a small legion of giggling kids tracked down their idols into the green room of the Confederation Centre, a solid fifteen minutes after the noon-hour performance of The Happy Prince ended. Their mission: autographs The autograph-clamouring "groupies" might be a novelty, but the stage is certainly not foreign to these professional and dynamically talented young performers. In addition to a thrice-weekly outdoor show (a delightful musical adapted by Leslie Arden from an Oscar Wilde fairytale), each of them is featured in one or more other productions. Twenty-three year old Sean Hauk, for example, is playing Gilbert Blythe in this year's Anne of Green Gables-The Musical, as well as another featured character in The Legend of the Dumbells musical. His cast mates have had equally demanding schedules throughout their four months in Charlottetown.

Lisa Lennox, a current Sheridan College Musical Theatre Performance student, portrays a happy-go-lucky swallow who befriends a seemingly perfect, yet aggrieved, gold-leafed statue in a town's square. Her vibrant soprano voice, reminiscent of birdsong in this role, accompanies a playful treatment of the bird's spritely character.

Craig Fair, in turn, plays the statue of a once decadent prince who, now able to witness the suffering and poverty throughout the town, is unable to physically help those he sees. The swallow becomes diverted from its migration to Egypt through various generous acts at the statue's behest (influenced through Fair's rich, commanding voice). Each episode of selfless kindness has its own story within the larger frame of the tale, and the other cast members are able to shift through a range of characters, dances, and songs.

Fair himself is not a stranger to the Charlottetown Festival: He was also one of the "Children of Avonlea" in Anne of Green Gables, having graduated into becoming one of the "big kids" this season. A highlight of The Happy Prince is the step-dancing that he, Cliff and Sean showcase during a fast-paced dockside song.

All of the performers have found the Charlottetown Festival Company to have been one of the best, and certainly the tightest, which they have ever worked with. Between the shows and other Festival-related activities, there has been opportunity to enjoy the people, the landscape, and other little perks of the Island.

The Happy Gang

The Happy Prince

by Erin Fagan

Lisa Lennox plays a swallow in The Happy PrinceThe seven members of the 2002 Charlottetown Festival Young Company (Craig Fair, Sean Hauk, Leah Johnston, Lisa Lennox, Cliff Sardinha, Shawna Van Omme, and Dina Young), have acquired a devoted following this past summer. Case in point: just before my interview, a small legion of giggling kids tracked down their idols into the green room of the Confederation Centre, a solid fifteen minutes after the noon-hour performance of The Happy Prince ended. Their mission: autographs

The autograph-clamouring "groupies" might be a novelty, but the stage is certainly not foreign to these professional and dynamically talented young performers. In addition to a thrice-weekly outdoor show (a delightful musical adapted by Leslie Arden from an Oscar Wilde fairytale), each of them is featured in one or more other productions. Twenty-three year old Sean Hauk, for example, is playing Gilbert Blythe in this year's Anne of Green Gables-The Musical, as well as another featured character in The Legend of the Dumbells musical. His cast mates have had equally demanding schedules throughout their four months in Charlottetown.

Lisa Lennox, a current Sheridan College Musical Theatre Performance student, portrays a happy-go-lucky swallow who befriends a seemingly perfect, yet aggrieved, gold-leafed statue in a town's square. Her vibrant soprano voice, reminiscent of birdsong in this role, accompanies a playful treatment of the bird's spritely character.

Craig Fair, in turn, plays the statue of a once decadent prince who, now able to witness the suffering and poverty throughout the town, is unable to physically help those he sees. The swallow becomes diverted from its migration to Egypt through various generous acts at the statue's behest (influenced through Fair's rich, commanding voice). Each episode of selfless kindness has its own story within the larger frame of the tale, and the other cast members are able to shift through a range of characters, dances, and songs.

Fair himself is not a stranger to the Charlottetown Festival: He was also one of the "Children of Avonlea" in Anne of Green Gables, having graduated into becoming one of the "big kids" this season. A highlight of The Happy Prince is the step-dancing that he, Cliff and Sean showcase during a fast-paced dockside song.

All of the performers have found the Charlottetown Festival Company to have been one of the best, and certainly the tightest, which they have ever worked with. Between the shows and other Festival-related activities, there has been opportunity to enjoy the people, the landscape, and other little perks of the Island.

Murder by Design

Dressed To Kill

Review by Erin Fagan

I missed the '70s by seven days. You do the math. By definition, then, I am a child of the eighties. My memories of this era are blurry at best, dominated by the kinds of things that children tend to dwell on: the cartoons, the toys, the video games, the big hair, the clothes and, of course, the music. This summer, The Feast's dinner the
atre production, Dressed to Kill, revives the trends, hits and fads of the Material Decade in high style.

In this dinner theatre experience, Feasters are ushered back to the year 1987. The Prince Edward lounge of the Charlottetown Hotel is transformed into the interior of the latest and poshest fashion boutique, "The Velvet Slipper." As part of the grand opening events, there is an inaugural fashion show highlighting the Fall collection of two rival designers, the cosmopolitan FiFi LaMorte and the flamboyant Neville Broadbottom. Each fashion mogul has also brought their pet supermodel to the show as part of the publicity: the equally air-headed Jade Capulet and Trey Montague, whose very names hint at their entwined fates. Kendra Dalton, the shoulder-padded manager of the new shop, is ecstatic.

Less enthused is Kendra's brother, Keith, who still owns half of the business. He and a codgerly old fellow called Cooder ran the ancestral tack shop at this spot, and neither of them are crazy about abandoning the past for the sake of the new-fangled. Furthermore, tensions and personal entanglements among the fashionistas threaten to shut the place down entirely. When someone gets murdered, everyone is subjected to the mad interrogations of a campy detective, Magnum P.E.I. It is Fashion Television gone horribly wrong

In true dinner theatre fashion, the characters serve food to their guests and launch into medleys of familiar '80s hits in spite of the earth-shattering turmoil. Among other songs, the cast performs fine renditions of "True Colours," "Material Girl," "I Wear My Sunglasses at Night," and "Footloose." Between segments, the characters proceed to wait on and make small talk with the guests as the plot thickens. This spectator enjoyed using her status as "the press" in her interactions with the image-crazed personas. In fact, I even received a "death threat" or two for hinting that I would reveal certain secrets in my headlines.

The kooky, individualized characters are the greatest strength in a show dominated by suitably cheesy dialogue and predictably predictable plotlines. Each performer has fleshed out a unique and well-rounded persona, and the quirks of the characters shine out as they sing the songs and banter with each other and the guests. All of the actors were sharp, dynamic and excellent improvisors, and exhibit their multiple talents as actors, musicians and singers with ease. That said, the stand-out performer was Feast veteran Trenton MacKinnon, whose mildly unhinged Magnum P.E.I. dominated the second half of the show.

A Little Maud Music


Songs of the Island

Review by Erin Fagan

In the thick of another PEI summer season, it is deeply refreshing to get a little more acquainted with the woman behind the celebrity of Anne of Green Gables. New insight into the singular imagination of L.M. Montgomery can be found on a summer Sunday evening at the Confederation Centre's Studio Theatre, enabled by the talents of Marlane O'Brien, Hank Stinson and Heidi Jury-Giles in the musical revue, Songs of the Island.

Hank Stinson, of course, has been exploring Montgomery's creations for quite some time now, and has written three acclaimed musicals of his own based upon the novels Emily of New Moon, The Blue Castle, and Rainbow Valley. In this production, vignettes and songs from these three works have been pulled out and interwoven into a unique character study of the original author. Stinson, who in the playbill credits director and co-conceiver Duncan McIntosh for having "taught me how to tell three stories in one," tells the audience early on that Montgomery can best be approached through her characters.

Each story is introduced and narrated with selected readings pulled directly from the novels themselves. For each narrative, Marlane O'Brien seamlessly shifts between four of Maud's heroines with the simple application of a characteristic hat, scarf, or spirit. Valency Stirling, Emily Starr, Mary Vance and Rosemary West are characters which are each tinged with their own sense of loneliness, and yet are also personified as spirited women with visionary ways of approaching their worlds. O'Brien's rich voice, combined with subtle yet complex emotional treatments, enlivens these characters.

Stinson, for his part, inhabits quirky characters ranging from the childlike Cousin Jimmy, to the misfit Barney, to a chorus of chickens with larger than life personalities. In addition, Jury-Giles emerges subtly from her seat at the grand piano to add a song or a few lines to the ongoing narrative.

The key component of the show lies with a simple, warm, and intimate tone. The space is arranged as a tight theatre-in-the-round, and the setting resembles a cosy rural parlour with the household piano at the centre and antique lanterns hung in the background. At the onset, light is introduced in the form of a small candle carried in by Jury-Giles, and remains luminous and softened throughout the one hour performance. Every prop required by the actors is found either on the top of the piano or hidden in unseen cavities under the surface. Simplicity is the secret.

The Charlottetown Festival is well complemented by including Songs of the Island as a Sunday evening feature, and offers what is both a whimsical and a down-to-earth tribute to PEI's most famous writer.

Events Calendar

November 2018
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Some Upcoming Events

Rainbow Valley—An Island Musical

ACT presents Hank Stinson’s adaptation at The Guild November 16 & 17
The Guild As PEI’s pro [ ... ]

Jimmy Rankin shows

November 22 at Trailside Café
November 23 at Harbourfront Theatre Jimmy Rankin's new Moving East (o [ ... ]

Discover Charlottetown Presents:

Classic Christmas movies at Victorian Christmas Weekend November 24 & 25
City Cinema Visit City [ ... ]

Recent News & Articles

Acadian showman

Profile: Christian Gallant by Jane Ledwell Forty-six musicians and step dancers took the stage at  [ ... ]

October is Learning Disabilities Awarene...

This October, the Learning Disabilities Association of PEI (LDAPEI) will be marking Learning Disabil [ ... ]

Young Company headed to National Child W...

The TD Confederation Centre Young Company is hitting the road again. After a busy 2017 season that s [ ... ]