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The facilitator

Profile: Steve Bellamy

by Jane Ledwell

Steve Bellamy (photo: Buzz)“Arts are ways into emotions. Arts are where we connect,” Steve Bellamy says. In his third month as CEO of Confederation Centre of the Arts, he’s still pinching himself that he has arrived in this place.

“I’ve been lucky to live in a number of places in Canada,” he says, “and towns of 250,000, or larger, would be lucky to have a place like (Confederation Centre).” In moving his family—himself, his wife, and two small children—to Charlottetown, he repeats a path his own family followed when Steve was 12 years old. He graduated from high school here and from UPEI, in music, before moving away.

“It has been 23 years since I lived here,” Steve reflects. “I like to say I left before the Bridge and before the Internet.” He returns to marvel at “the diversity… and the richness of experiences available to people.” And, he adds with enthusiasm, “The tradition of excellence in hospitality is even more elevated.

“I’m generally still giddy about being back. Confederation Centre is a creative hub in Charlottetown, and I’m excited to collaborate with the other institutions that are around us.”

Having gone away and come back, “I have a better appreciation,” Steve says, “for the complexity of the relationship Confederation Centre has to Charlottetown, to PEI, to the Atlantic region, and to Canada. One of the things that’s exciting to me is that complexity. It doesn’t have to serve only the nation—or only serve the local community.”

Steve reflects, “It’s a very important time in our conversation about Canada. In one sense, historically, Confederation Centre was meant to be a monument to the Fathers of Confederation. It is important to note that in the mandate, through the arts, we also celebrate the origin and evolution of Canada, and that evolution is particularly interesting right now… We just need to make the space to tell the story.”

Something that drives Steve’s commitment to making the space and telling the story is youth’s role in “the current story of evolving Canada.” He speaks glowingly of the Confederation Centre’s Young Company: “There is a positive message of a desire for understanding coming from youth. I’m excited about the national relevance—the national conversation of youth around identity. I think youth, out of necessity, lean into the hopeful view.”

Education streams at the Confederation Centre of the Arts also see “500 or 600 kids through here every week.” Arts education responds to our “existential need for the arts… Arts education is more about getting to know yourself and the human condition—being open to perspectives different from your own.”

He’s also interested by “how far PEI is advanced on seeing the arts and culture sector as a contributor to economic development and innovation.” He continues, “The arts cost more to do than they bring in—on a simple exchange. Those of us in the arts have a responsibility to become better at talking about all the values of the arts, including economic values”—including, he notes, the “$26 million a year Confederation Centre contributes to the GDP of the area.”

Steve has been able to maintain his place in art-making. Following his music degree, at UPEI, he didn’t continue to perform music, but he went right away into music, as a producer and recording engineer. He reflects, “I’m privileged to have worked with amazing jazz and classical artists.” His time in the past ten years has been focused on arts administration and arts education, but “I’ve been lucky,” Steve says, “that I haven’t yet had a gap where I’m not (producing records)—though I can only work on one record a year, now.”

He sees his role at Confederation Centre as continuous with past roles: “A producer or recording engineer is ultimately a facilitator. I see my role here at Confederation Centre as a facilitator, creating conditions where wonderful things can happen. I’m trying to create conditions where the amazing, national-calibre team here can do what they can do.”

Music for listeners

Profile: Sarah Hagen

by Jane Ledwell

Sarah Hagen (photo: Buzz)Not many Islanders commute to Toronto and west, but when touring classical pianist Sarah Hagen is home at Argyle Shore on Prince Edward Island, she is inevitably home from somewhere. On the day of this interview, it is from a tour, mostly of care homes, in Manitoba, with a quick detour to Sioux Lookout (“it’s only five hours from Winnipeg,” she grins) and a flight to Powell River in her original home region of British Columbia. She also performed her one-pianist comedy show on her tour.

Sarah first came to Prince Edward Island “on a whim” when she was twenty, in the days when you could buy cheap student VIA rail passes that would take you past the end of the rail lines to PEI by bus. She stayed in Charlottetown for a few grim spring days, and yet, “I knew I would come back out here.”

Several years ago, she says, “I lived in Toronto, and I loved Toronto, but I thought I might as well move to PEI and commute.” She laughs broadly, “You know, I’m not very spatial.”

A career as a pianist “chose me,” Sarah says. “I’m the youngest of five kids. I felt like it was my own space… I love doing things with others, but the solitude of piano works well for me, the physicality of piano, the ways you could use it.”

Island audiences know Sarah best from her Night Music recital series at St. Paul’s Church in Charlottetown, where audiences are invited to arrive in silence, pay what they can, reflect on a reading on the program, listen intently for an hour of performance, and leave in silence. The concerts are moving meditations in the evening dark.

Night Music was inspired by an idea Sarah hear from a Danish jazz pianist colleague, Søren Bebe, who first told her about a concept that translates as “night church.” “The idea intrigued me—I often think about the concert format and why it does not resonate with some. I thought, what if the music stood on its own, but there were parameters?” People attending Night Music, Sarah says, “know it will be one hour. They will not have to worry about when to applaud. All they have to do is be present. It appeals to people’s need for calm, and their need to be together… It’s an anti-social social event.”

As a performer, does she miss the feedback of applause? No, Sarah says, “I can hear people breathing—the louder it is, the more I know they are present.”

She continues seriously, “I have a fear of classical music being watered down. I politely request people don’t use ‘accessible’ in reference to my concerts. I fear ‘easy listening’ means you won’t feel a thing. The role of the artist is to provide a safe emotional experience,” she insists—and by that, she means an emotional experience in safety, not safety from emotional experience.

“When you listen in silence—that is intense. You listen to those around you. You listen to yourself,” she says. It saddens Sarah when classical music is seen as elitist, and yet, she says, “I don’t think playing it in blue jeans is the ticket in.”

Rather than accessible, then, she asserts, “I like the word ‘relevant’… That’s the power of this music I’m doing—it changes people, of all ages.”

I ask about the tour of care homes, and Sarah is thoughtful. “Classical music is very calming. People in care homes are often very anxious,” she reflects. “I started playing for a church service in a care home as a teenager, and I remember the first time, and I won’t lie: I found it really hard,” she says. “But playing at a care home in my hometown (of Courtenay, BC), I developed relationships. People in care homes are the forgotten audience—but they deserve the highest quality playing.”

“I am just now starting to become a pianist,” Sarah says. Through ups and downs as a touring musician, even through a period when, she says, “I couldn’t face the concert stage,” Sarah says, “I was finding myself—to help other people find themselves. That’s what the artist does.”

Life in the cove

Profile: JoDee Samuelson

by Jane Ledwell

Jodee Samuelson (photo: Mari Basiletti)“Would you like a column about living in the country?” JoDee Samuelson asked The Buzz in 2010. Since her first “Cove Journal” column in October 2010, the award-winning maker of animated films has captured the movement of rural PEI in monthly stills. This month, the collected articles and accompanying illustrations will be published as a book by Island Studies Press, The Cove Journal: Life on the Island’s South Shore.

We meet at the cozy, art-filled home she shares with her partner, fellow-artist Mari Basiletti, as JoDee works on her November submission. “If I don’t have anything in mind, all it really takes is a walk down to the shore,” she says. 

“There’s always something.”

“The Cove Journal,” she says, “is really about nature, and about neighbours, and events happening.” She says, “We put a lot of emphasis on bringing people together. We’re involved in almost everything in the community.

“Part of what makes quality of life in rural PEI is knowing a lot about everybody’s business. You need to be a little bit snoopy to get along in the country,” she says. JoDee leafs through a slip-cover filled with clippings of “Cove Journal” articles about bean suppers, picnics at the shore, Christmas concerts, gardening, and farming. “I try to always mention the Cove,” she notes. “I never say which cove because I want it to be representative of any cove, any shore, of PEI in general.”

JoDee has been connected to rural PEI since she and her partner of the time arrived and opened The Root Cellar, PEI’s first health-food store, in the early 1970s. They were living in North Rustico when he decided to try a hand at painting—but it was JoDee who used the art supplies.

“I always drew and painted but didn’t think of myself as an artist,” she says. She was also playing a lot of music at that time—“At one point,” she remembers, “I thought I would make my career in music.” She played violin along with mandolin and guitar and at one point had made a living busking in the Paris Metro.

Perhaps her dual loves of visual and aural art were always tending towards film-making. Later in the 1970s, she got together with Mari, and they continued living in the country. She got a Bachelor of Education and thought to be a teacher—but only found work as a substitute. Finally, in 1989, she took part in a workshop on film animation then applied for an exploration grant and received $9,600 from the Film Board.

Three-and-a-half years later, she had made the animated short The Bath, which won awards and led first to a full-time job as an animator, and then to contracts, with the National Film Board.

“My mother was a commercial artist—and a fine artist, and a potter,” JoDee recalls. “She always encouraged me… and when I started in animation, she said it was a natural fit: ‘You always drew things that were running or jumping or leaping.’ She was always so pleased when I was able to make a living from art.”

In her career as an animator, JoDee single-handedly created over an hour of animation. At 24 images per second, “That’s too much,” she laughs.

She remembers the analog process well. “A roll of 100 feet (of film) is about 2½ minutes—I would generally do 50 feet, about a minute—and send it off.” Fifty feet meant hundreds of frames of under-camera animation, painted on glass with underlighting. The processed film would come back. “I’d take it down to the Film Board and sit down—and it was such a high when things worked out.”

Semi-retired, JoDee says “I am not doing animation now. Too much time at the computer, and you don’t blink often enough.”

JoDee still finds herself in front of screens doing graphic work or writing. She is also the artist behind wall maps of shipwrecks and pioneer cemeteries, lighthouses and shipwrecks, old houses of Charlottetown, and old mills that adorn cottage walls Island-wide.

A long-time obsession with historical water mills led to a Master of Arts in Island Studies on the topic, and JoDee’s connection to Island Studies contributed to her new publication.

The Cove Journal is JoDee’s first book, although she has self-published a book about bread for friends and family and has an unpublished novel about rural PEI.

“I feel very lucky for writing (“The Cove Journal”) for The Buzz. I get more feedback than for anything else I’ve done,” JoDee says. Living, writing, and drawing rural life has a quiet, moment-by-moment quality she loves. “I love being home and having the phone never ring. It suits me just fine,” she laughs.

Acadian showman

Profile: Christian Gallant

by Jane Ledwell

Christian Gallant (photo: Buzz)Forty-six musicians and step dancers took the stage at this year’s closing show of the Acadian Festival, creating a lot of work for the show’s artistic director, Christian Gallant, charged with keeping tabs on them all. As a contract event organizer, stage manager, proposal writer, communications and marketing expert, and social media voice, you could say Christian performs his juggling act—behind the curtain.

“I am Acadian, originally from the Évangéline region, and the community prides itself on culture,” Christian says. His parents were musical, he says, and “I’ve always been involved in culture because I did things in the community.” As a musician and song-writer, he recorded a demo in about 2006—but found his calling as a multi-skilled cultural promoter after studying Music Industry and Performance at the College of the North Atlantic, in Stephenville, Newfoundland and Labrador—a two-year program focused on everything from sound recording, to doing sound for live events, to music industry contracts and royalties.

What followed was a dozen “years of variety,” Christian says, working (mostly on the cultural side) with employers including the Société Saint-Thomas d’Aquin, the East Coast Music Association, La Belle Alliance, RDÉE (regional economic development), Canadian Heritage, the Canadian Cancer Society, and Confederation Centre of the Arts—landing as self-employed in the PEI cultural sector.

“The people in the Francophone world in PEI who do the types of things I do are few and far between,” he notes—though he adds gratefully that the few do collaborate well across the far-between.

As a “dog dad” of three, he keeps a regular job with one employer, Global Pet Foods, for the “satisfaction of helping people.” He says, “I work a couple of shifts a week to balance my life and be with people, be social—otherwise, I’m working from home or coffee shops or on the road.”

He loves the work. “I get to work on my own schedule and with clients.” Even though his kind of work is in the background, hard-working clients “recognize other people working, and they are always grateful. Even on the artist side, artists understand all of the love people have working on these events.” He loves facing new challenges, too, giving the example of the Mont Carmel Summer Concert Series he organizes: “Even though I’ve been doing it 11 years, there are always new challenges.”

Christian’s skills could take him anywhere in Canada. “What brought me back here was obviously family,” he says. “I won’t lie—I don’t think Charlottetown is my home forever—but I have a house. It has a fenced-in backyard for my dogs. Two of them play flyball, and my flyball team is here, and my friends…”

Asked what he loves about the culture, he says, “I think it’s just—and it’s something I noticed in Newfoundland—it’s Islanders, it’s Acadians—we’re open and willing to help anyone. We’d give you the shirt off our back. We’re always looking at making someone feel welcome…

“In Acadian culture—and I’m sure it’s the same in the Anglophone world—traditions are passed from one generation to the other… It’s like a kitchen party—a song begins with one singer and is passed on to the next.”

Back to that Acadian Festival stage, Christian says, “I blocked a show to take six musical families and get different generations on stage at the same time. It showed the diversity in the families,” he says. He cites a child who performed a song with his grandfather that was written about a family dog of generations past—but others performed original contemporary songs or told of new traditions blending cultural backgrounds. What inspired Christian most was “seeing the reception of everyone at the show—the acceptance, the growth, the youth supported to do their thing.”

Running his own business, Christian says, “I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow—I’m always searching, always on the hunt—and I’m planning for the long-term as well. It can be stressful, but it’s interesting.” Fortunately, he says, “I don’t see things slowing down at all in the PEI cultural sector.” 

Triple threat

Profile: Emma Fugate

by Jane Ledwell

Emma Fugate (photo: Buzz)Emma Fugate has three different business cards: “One for my accounting business, one for my role as president of Film PEI, and one as a partner in Onset Communications, a (film industry equipment) start-up.” 

Side roles as an organizer of Playing with Choir or treasurer of West Kent Home and school, the Charlottetown Film Society, and Women in Film and Television—Atlantic don’t require business cards, just a bit of the creative energy that also fuels Emma for a busy home and family life.

It’s not the life Emma expected “growing up in England in a commuter town, with people going off to office jobs.” While she loved and re-loved movies as a child, especially musical movies, “I didn’t know film was a career option.” Out of university, she worked in human resources, eventually working with Nissan and setting up a new department as a “vehicle evaluation engineer.” “That’s how I met my husband, a ‘real’ engineer,” she laughs. They dated across borders, he living in the US and she in England and both travelling to Japan and internationally. Eventually they married in England, but “having done the long-distance thing,” she says, they were ready to live together. Emma’s parents-in-law moved to PEI where they owned a house, and Emma and her husband followed them here.

Emma applied to the Holland College business program. It was full—but the College had space in accounting, with a January intake. She started in accounting, loved it, and eventually completed both the accounting and business programs. Her on-the-job training was doing accounting for her friend Melody Dover’s new business, Fresh Media, and, in a few years, Emma graduated to running her own business, E Accounting.

It was an indirect path into the film industry: filmmaker Brian Sharp (now one of her partners in Onset Communications) became a client, and, Emma says, “Eventually we spent more time talking about film stuff than accounting stuff. He said that what we needed in the industry was production accounting, so I took a course in Toronto and loved it.” Production accounting, it turned out, is to Emma “the most interesting accounting.”

As Emma says, “It’s called show business for a reason. There’s so much business—billions and billions of dollars.” While Emma loves the creative process of making a film and is thrilled to have made two music video projects as a film-maker, she also thinks beyond the creative process. “I think, wouldn’t it be nice to make a film—and get it distributed and make money and have people get paid.”

She says, “If filmmakers here can make content with nothing, imagine what they can do with something. I feel like now the stars have aligned, with Film PEI able to access funding to expand, with the province on board with a media incentive, and with other simple things helping… It’s pushing the industry to start to grow.”

Emma’s filmmaking pitch is a business pitch. “Film is very accessible—almost everyone has watched a television show or watched a movie—why not see our own stories?” she says. “The importance of a strong arts sector is: PEI is a beautiful, wonderful place, with good food and friendly people—but,” she reality-checks with some regret, “there are lots of places like that in the world… Only our culture doesn’t exist anywhere else. It can’t be replicated.”

Film, Emma reminds, “is a supremely exportable product: you can put it in front of anyone with Internet, and you don’t have to pay the bridge to ship it.”

This fall, she’s excited about the Charlottetown Film Festival, has a short music-inspired film hoping to produce, a singing fundraiser with Playing with Choir, and Onset Communications’ film assistant equipment ready for market.

Living in PEI, surrounded by writers, artists, and musicians, being “bitten by the film bug,” Emma says has been “really cool… If I had stayed in England, I can’t imagine I would do any of this. I would be working for Nissan, travelling for work, spending too much time away from my family.” Instead, she has a bag full of business cards— and a note on her phone titled “Things to Produce,” a list of 200 ideas.

Drawing the line

Profile: Sandy Carruthers

by Jane Ledwell

Sandy Carruthers (photo: Buzz)Retired for a year now after twenty-five years teaching graphic design at Holland College, Sandy Carruthers keeps nine-to-five hours in his studio, drawing comics and illustrations, “to keep up the habit,” he says. At the end of a full school year away from school, he laughs, “I’m still processing, but I’m excited—as long as I can keep self-motivated.”

Looking back, he says, “What strikes me is that 25 years ago, we had very few aggressively pursuing the field (of comic book creation).” And yet this summer, his work is on display alongside seven other comic creators in the “Behind the Panels” exhibition at Eptek Centre in Summerside. The artists work in web and print comics, with “different layers of talents and styles.” Three are former students of Sandy’s—and he is quick to remind that he is also an alumnus of the Holland College program.

“There are so many applications for graphic art now,” Sandy says, “illustration, animation, computer games, or, you can be foolish enough to do comic books.”

Comic books were Sandy’s “first passion.” Even as an experienced artist, who drew the original Men in Black comic, Sandy says, “Styles have changed, and it’s sometime daunting. When I worked on comics before I taught,” he notes, “you were kind of more isolated, in your own little bubble. You only saw what you looked at yourself, what you sought out or found for yourself. Now, seeing everybody’s stuff all the time is really daunting.”

The piece Sandy has in the Eptek show is a “personal piece,” he says. “I did it in 2000, breaking away from scifi and superheroes—what genre had I not tried?” He settled on Westerns. “I read a lot of Louis L’Amour—I think if I had read that as a kid, I would have been bullied less,” he jokes. Westerns led to The Magnificent Seven, which led to Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, from which he decided to do a Samurai tale, The Ronin and the Lily. It’s a rare example of a comic he both wrote and did artwork for.

More often, he has worked with writers. He is working again with writer Mark Shainblum on reviving their creation Canadiana, a spirit-of-Canada superhero they created (with pencils by Charlottetown’s Jeff Alward) as a web comic that they created and that then “lay dormant for years,” Sandy says. He shares a mini-comic bursting with characters, Canadian comic iconography, and action. “It’s small because the only artwork that existed of the web comic was jpgs on a floppy disk, so we could only go to this (mini-comic) scale,” he explains, but issue three will be a full-size comic, a true “floppy.”

“Mark and I are equal partners in the art,” Sandy says. “It has to harmonize—the balance is really hard to work out. That’s why I love the medium so much.”

“Superheroes take the toehold,” Sandy says, “but it goes much beyond that. We’re very lucky —Canada has so much wonderful talent, stories told beyond superheroes battling.”

In addition to comics, Sandy also loves illustrations for magazines, “going beyond the sequential format and telling stories with one panel.” While he was known for editorial cartoons for The Guardian for many years and published a book of his cartoons, “I’m not doing editorial cartoons anymore because I don’t do caricatures—and I don't miss it at all,” he says.

“I just finished three illustrations for RED magazine and I’m really fascinated by historical illustration—especially PEI history. I’m interested in doing more of that,” Sandy says. The local intrigues him—the recent Canadiana even includes images of local artwork on bare walls—and he is working on an “Island-inspired opus”—an ambitious intergalactic story.

With two new comic creators, he is hatching plans that bring together numerous passions, for local and Canadian content with high-quality storytelling, words and pictures. “Remember kids going camping with a pile of comics?” he says. “I’d love to bring that back—with comics in multiple genres, from spooky to romance—and I would like to have the Island connected to every story.”

—Jane Ledwell has been writing for The Buzz for 20 years. She is a poet, author and editor. A recent book is Bird Calls: The Englishwoman on an Island (Nimbus).

Dial “M” for Murder

Intriguing

Review by Jane Ledwell

Regular readers of my reviews over the years here will know that my partner is, uh, a reluctant theatre-goer, so it is a testament to the consistent quality of the Watermark Theatre’s productions that he suggests we go there at least once a summer. This year his pick was Dial “M” for Murder. Reader, he was not disappointed.

Frederick Knott’s 1952 play (the basis for Hitchock’s 1954 film) opens on a conversation about murder and motive between Margot Wendice (Madeleine Donohue) and her former lover, American crime writer Max Halliday (Geoffrey Pounsett). Despite the obvious spark and ease between Margot and Max, she insists her marriage to retired tennis star Tony Wendice (Robert Tsonos) has returned to a happy state and that Tony has matured, taken a responsible job, and been an attentive husband for the year since they parted.

The brash and arrogant Tony has not changed without motive: he has been plotting all year to bribe a shifty college mate, currently going by the name of Captain Lesgate (Richard Beaune) to murder Margot, in a plot as intricate as any of Max’s television or radio plays or thriller novels. The plot relies on the technologies of the day: radios and, especially, the telephone but unravels with the tools at hand—stockings, scissors, and latchkeys—with the prospect of a solid old-fashioned noose for whatever murder suspect the detective, Inspector Hubbard (Paul Cowling) ties the evidence to.

As thousands of detective stories and police procedurals have taught audiences, there is no such thing as a perfect crime. The thrill of figuring out the errors in the perfect plot doesn’t diminish. The Watermark’s thrust stage makes the audience feel very much part of the investigation, so close are we to the action and so expertly and intriguingly is the action blocked by director Megan Watson: I loved seeing the ways Watson used the stage and the whole theatre to tell this story.

But the primary suspense for Watermark audiences in the opening acts of Dial “M” will no doubt be alarm that murder might eliminate the charming Margot from the scene, and with her the excellent Madeleine Donohue. Thankfully, the play conspires to keep her present after the murder plot unfolds. The chemistry between Margot and her paramour Max is palpable (and genuine—Donohue is married to Max’s Pounsett in real life)—setting in contrast the lack of sympathy between Margot and the unreformed Tony, whom Tsonos plays with a clipped, articulate, and devious intelligence.

At Watermark Theatre, the acting is always the highlight, with strong supporting performances (Beaune as the simpering, hapless Lesgate and Cowling a sharp-eyed, incisive inspector), but the acting comes to life as a result of a fully-realized production. William Layton’s set is a stand-out, with Frank Lloyd Wright details and rivetingly framing a blood-stain at centre-stage; lighting by Renee Brode was subtle and precise, despite a script that is bossy about what lights go where. Costumes by Julia Hodgson-Surich were classic and functional, with smooth lines and fabrics audience members will want to touch. The most obvious homage to Hitchcock’s take on Dial “M”, original music by Leo Marchildon adds significantly to the brooding atmosphere, sometimes trying to fit more passionate love of Hitchcock’s use of music into scenes than a small theatre can hold.

There is much mystery for contemporary audiences watching Dial “M”, a thriller from an age when forensic tools consisted of fingerprints, photographs, and time-keeping devices: we have to stretch our imaginations beyond DNA and cellphone records. The Watermark’s production carries us wholesale into the intrigues of that age a lifetime ago.

Jane Ledwell has been writing feature profiles for The Buzz for 20 years. And in the summer the editor enjoys assigning her a review.

Going pro

Profile: Brielle Ansems

by Jane Ledwell

Brielle Ansems (photo: Courtesy Watermark Theatre)When Brielle Ansems plays the role of Josie Hogan in A Moon for the Misbegotten at the Watermark Theatre in North Rustico this summer, she wants audiences to see into “the performances we put on for each other every day.” She reflects, “Others don’t always see our selves in ways we see ourselves... Unfortunately, our opinions of ourselves are often lower.”

As “a shy kid” growing up in Montague, Brielle says that singing was her “lead-in to all her performing.” Singing songs she wrote became Brielle’s “access point to relating with peers and dealing with anxiety.” This summer, after being selected during Canada-wide auditions for a lead role in A Moon, and preparing to record songs in studio, Brielle says, “I’m stepping across a threshold into where I wanted to be for so long,” pursuing a professional career in acting and in music.

Writing and singing songs since she was twelve, Brielle discovered acting later. She tried a year at St. Thomas University after high school, but says, “It was not the right fit when I knew I wanted to be home doing music.” She wound up finding work in dinner theatre and loved it. “It was a little taste of acting—getting just to invest myself so much in becoming someone else,” and it led to her entering the theatre program at Holland College School of Performing Arts.

This spring, towards the end of her first year, Brielle got the Watermark’s call for auditions from instructor Jody Racicot. “It’s something I wouldn’t have gone for, even a few years ago,” Brielle admits. “But I’ve had self-growth and experience the last few years.”

Still, “I wasn’t expecting much to come from (the audition),” Brielle says. On the night she got good news from the Watermark, “I was in bed, super tired after a long day of class.” When she saw that she got the part, she says, “I had to jump out of bed and have a dance party, I was so excited.”

Brielle says, “Especially since I am still in school, I am in a perfect place to learn and take in so much, surrounded by professionals at the Watermark.” She gives huge credit to Holland College: “The instructors are so ready to help guide students to finding themselves as artists—students are still trying to find what route they want to take, how they want to open themselves up to being human,” she says appreciatively.

Throughout the summer, Brielle will perform her music on nights she isn’t acting, and will being work at The Hill Sound Studios to record her first EP. Her songs reflect her growth and her past relationships, but “in particular my relationship with myself, and how I interact with my own thoughts, and how that affects how I interact with others,” she says.

Songwriting “is often revelatory—even for me… Music is one of the most personal things an artist creates,” Brielle says.

While singing, she shares “something I already discovered about myself; while acting, she exposes “something I’m the process of discovering.”

Brielle could talk about the character Josie Hogan all day: “There’s so much vulnerability to her,” she says emphatically. “Josie is a firecracker Irish-immigrant farm woman in the early 1920s, raised to be tough by her father, growing up with three brothers… She has been put in the role of mother for all the men in her life and struggles to find out who she is as a woman outside that dynamic.”

Asked what artistic director Robert Tsonos saw in her that led to her casting, she reflects. “There’s definitely not a shyness to Josie, but there’s a part of herself she doesn’t show to anyone until she’s forced to,” she suggests.

Then she decides: “Islanders are proud to see someone local, who loves and associates herself with the Island, in a role that is powerful.”

And for her, the most powerful thing will be “to have a breakout professional performance in a place that is so beautiful, in a theatre that is so warm and so welcoming and professional in all ways—to be welcomed into a family they’ve so well established already.”

—Jane Ledwell has been writing for The Buzz for 20 years. She is a poet, author and editor. A recent book is Bird Calls: The Englishwoman on an Island (Nimbus).

Events Calendar

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