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From the Noticeboard

Birding classic

Bennett Fall Birding Classic returns on September 29 Each autumn for the last 23 years, Island Natu [ ... ]

Festive Wreath Contest

Friends of Confederation Centre Festive Wreath Exhibition and Competition is calling for entries. Br [ ... ]

Whirlwind

Bittergirl: The Musical

Review by Jane Ledwell

Performed by
Nicola Dawn Brook, Jay Davis, Sarite Harris, Marisa McIntyre with the band, Robin Anne Ettles, Charlotte Friesen, Astrid Foster, Devon Roulston

Directed by
Adam Brazier

Musical Director
Lisa MacDougall

Written by
Annabel Fitzsimmons, Alison Lawrence, and Mary Francis Moore

Supported by
Choreographer Christine Bandelow, Set and Costume Designer Cory Sincennes, Lighting Designer Gareth Crew, Music Supervisor Bob Foster

The show
Three women work through the stages of humiliation, grief, hope, revenge, and triumph after being dumped and discarded by a callow boyfriend/partner/husband. The over-the-top, fast-paced drama plays out in well-loved songs from the 1960s and 1970s, performed in throwback dresses and heels (or, in the case of the boyfriend/partner/husband, in plain black style — or rather less).

The Performance
This is a whirwind-fast ensemble show with little downtime between solid performances of songs audiences will know and love. One woman bitter, one angry, one soppy — and one man representing all three’s ex with delicious cheesiness. Displays of excellent comic timing too numerous to mention. The actors sing lustily while cross-training, while changing costumes, while performing pratfalls, while ugly crying, while drunk on tequila, or while gyrating in their tighty whities.

Best thing
The casting is perfect, playing on individual comic and singing strengths and excellent chemistry in the ensemble, and also filling the band with strong women performers.

Shortcoming
If there is a table at the Mack where my distance from the speakers are not-too-far, not-too-close, but just right to balance the band and voices, I haven’t sat there yet.

Final thoughts

A fantastically fun night out for genuine laughs on a grimly relatable topic for many women who have dated men — but with no wallowing in the earnest feels.

—Select dates at Confederation Centre of the Arts. Tickets/info: www.confederationcentre.com.

Grit and grace

Profile: Tara MacLean

by Jane Ledwell

Tara MacLean (photo: Buzz)Tara MacLean-Grand’s grandmother always told her: one day, she’d feel the pull back to PEI, where she spent her childhood. While Tara says, “I always represented PEI, anywhere I’ve been in the world,” she certainly went far, as an internationally-known singer whose work as a solo artist rode the Lilith Fair wave and who also found pop success with the band Shaye. Today, she’s a Saltspring Island family gal with a publishing deal, mentoring gigs, and three growing daughters.

But dedication to family runs two directions, into the past as well as the future, and two years ago, when her grandmother was ill, the predicted pull to PEI became a tug. “If I could create something and come home with it, my dream would come true,” she recalls.

Inspired by Rita MacNeil, “a mom who just wanted to sing,” Tara “started to draw on songwriters from Atlantic Canada”—their songs and their stories—and developed Atlantic Blue, a stage show of songs from Atlantic Canada and short films of the songwriters that created the songs. “This is the first show I’ve written, produced, directed, and performed in,” she says. And the accompanying album, she says, “may be the truest album I have made.”

Tara says, “I feel like in Atlantic Canada, being musical is almost like it’s not special—it’s normal. It’s part of how we survived.”

Last summer, Tara launched Atlantic Blue in a sold-out two-night run at Harmony House. She announced she was looking for a gig for this summer—and by morning had a plan in the works with The Guild for summer 2017.

During that first run of the show, Tara says, “People were shocked some of the songs were from here—we have so much homegrown talent, so many treasured songs—and stories of tragedy, triumph, and huge success.” She was buoyed by the response and encouraged by standing ovations—“That’s something I don’t get at home when I make breakfast,” she says ruefully.

To create Atlantic Blue, Tara says, “Basically what I did, I thought of all my favourite writers from this area and my favourite songs of theirs. In ten minutes,  I had written it all down. It was such a joy—you know you are doing the right work when you are filling your heart every time you work on it.”

With her hands to her chest, Tara says, “I’m a balladeer—and (the album and the show) have some epic ballads.”

Tara laughs, “My relationship with sad songs is long. Sadness is the gateway to a lot of things. Sad songs make me feel powerful when I sing them. If you can add grit to the grace, that’s a really great balance.

“One thing I realized was that in the lives of these writers, there was so much tragedy, their lives were so intense. We’re talking shipwrecks. Child abuse. Severe depression. Thinking about their lives, I really wanted to bring it home.”

She adds, “To take a sad song deeper, you have to touch on a lot of things, and you have to dig deep. It’s so easy to dig deeper in red clay!”

To that point, Tara insists, “This project is all about local,” from merch to musicians to vinyl pressing. “I couldn’t have recorded it anywhere else.” She worked through a cold January at PEI’s Dunk River Sound.

Tara MacLean’s grandmother will be there for Atlantic Blue’s opening night; her daughters will also take in the show she describes as “the history, present, and future of Atlantic Canadian music.”

Tara says, “I had to ask my family for a lot to be able to do this… It takes a lot of surrendering to be a mama,” she admits. “I want for (my daughters) to see their mom in her full power,” and to know their powerful musical and family heritage. 

“I hope it’s the first of many summers on PEI,” Tara MacLean says. “I’m so excited to be part of the pulsing scene of live performance on PEI this summer. I want to make PEI proud I belong to them.”

Best medicine

Profile: Raymond Arsenault

by Jane Ledwell

Raymond Arsenault (photo: submitted)"I really believe that saying, ‘Laughter is the best medicine,’” says Raymond Arsenault earnestly, writer and director of plays and dinner theatre productions in the Island’s francophone Evangeline region.

“I like to consider myself a doctor of laughter,” he says. The doctor is keeping office hours this summer in Abram-Village, where he has written a new show for the Acadian Musical Village’s “Venez Veillez” dinner theatre. The show, “Retour au fou-foyer,” is his prescription for a strong dose of misunderstanding, mayhem, farce, and physical humour.

“My favourite thing in the world is the sound of laughter,” Raymond says. “I’ve been blessed in my life to be able to create laughter.” While he has written drama and tragedy and plays with morals, he find that what people want is an escape.

Over the past years, Raymond has written about 70 plays, about 20 of them for dinner theatres. While he won’t admit to being a singer, he also writes music and has written written 75 to 100 songs, several of which have been performed in his plays or recorded by other artists. He won a competition to write a French adaptation of “The Island Hymn,” and his words in French now stand alongside L.M. Montgomery’s words in English. “When the muses sing, I have to listen,” he smiles.

“Whatever is needed, comes out. I don’t know where it comes from,” he says. “I feel like I’m a vehicle to get the songs out, the stories out. Of 70 plays, only for two did I face a blank page—and it kept staring back at me.” Usually, the words flow freely and joyfully through the keyboard.

“I love the discovery process of writing,” Raymond says. “I surprise myself. I don’t know what’s coming. Something will happen (on the page), and I wonder why the heck is that?” Several scenes later, something else occurs to explain the mystery. It’s a very different process from the writing Raymond does in his daytime work: “In my job, I am a communications officer, and I have to plan what I write. When I write, it has to have a beginning, a middle, and an end.” Writing plays is more of an adventure, and anything can happen.

For this summer’s return to the dinner theatre stage, Raymond says, “I checked my muses, and they said, ‘Let’s revisit a show we had done.’ I am in sequel mode the last few years. People react well to certain characters and stories, and I want to bring them back.” Hence Raymond’s “Retour” to the “fou-foyer,” the crazy manor, a setting of an earlier production. In this sequel, favourite characters return – but it’s a freshly invented character who is central to the plot, when an overheard snippet of conversation leads to the misguided conclusion that the new resident is a dangerous murderer.

“I was a very big fan of Three’s Company, and I’m not ashamed to say I’ve been heavily influenced by that kind of TV show,” Raymond says. “It’s comedy in a cartoony sort of sense.”

If there’s a purpose beyond laughter in Raymond’s recent plays, it’s cultural: to expose people to the Island’s vibrant Francophone and Acadian culture and language. Raymond says, “Sometimes people suggest I should write in a very standard French, but I always use our Acadian slang and accent. You can only get that here. I tell the actors, ‘Talk the way you normally talk.’ If it’s a little effort to understand, that’s a good thing. That’s our cachet, that’s what makes us unique.”

Raymond dreams of seeing one of his plays on one of the Island’s bigger, professional stages. “The only thing is I’m not very well known in the Anglophone community,” he says. There are occasionally Anglophones at his plays, “but it’s hard when it’s a play.” Music, you can tap your foot to. But Raymond does not want audience members to be frustrated or left behind if they don’t understand the language. He wants them in on the jokes—all the jokes. For now, the doctor’s prescription for laughter requires a healing trip to Abram-Village.

The experience

Profile: Don Quarles

by Jane Ledwell

Don Quarles (photo: Buzz)Two years ago, Don Quarles was working with the Summerside Lobster Festival when invited to an Atlantic Presenters’ Association showcase at St. Mary’s Church in Indian River. He recalls driving from Summerside on a sunny Island day and across the field, seeing a beautiful church steeple rising into the blue sky. He remembers reaching his destination and experiencing “incredible music and great food, great wine and beer.” He smiles, “The only thing I missed that day was cows in the field. And I wondered, where did this come from? Who put this here?”

Today, Don Quarles is in his first season as Executive Director of the Indian River Festival at that magical, scenic church. He says fervently of his first Indian River experience, “Everyone should see it that way.” His intent, he says, “is to invite people who have never felt invited into the space… to see, hear, taste, and smell everything we have to offer.”

Looking at this season’s program, “I’m proud that we’ve created something wonderful,” Don says, “for those who are here (on PEI) for a few days and those who are here all summer to have a really positive experience.” The Festival’s artistic director, Robert Kortgaard, he says, “has selected artists we know are going to show off the space… artists who are extremely well-known in the music community and, frankly, around the world.”

The program, the performances: those are the “first experience” audiences come for. What Don wants to add to is what he calls the “second experience,” which includes everything from the parking lot to the interactions among the artist, the audience and the space, from pre-show chat to food and hospitality. “For every show, I want people to come five minutes earlier or stay five minutes longer—or maybe stay an extra day,” enjoying other venues on the Island.

Don’s background was in composing music and working on festivals and events—including managing the “second experience” for audiences at the Hummingbird Centre (now Sony Centre) in Toronto (which he likens to “the Confederation Centre mainstage on steroids”). He moved here a few years ago after falling in love with Crystal Stevens, of Redrocks Pottery. “I literally took what would fit in a U-Haul trailer, and my Honda Civic at the time, and moved from Ontario where I raised my kids.”

He admits, “To be blunt, I didn’t know what I was going to do when I got here.” He very quickly found ways to continue his passion for connecting people and music. Don remains on a number of local and national boards, including the board of the Coalition for Music Education, which puts on Music Monday events nationwide on first Monday of May, including here in PEI.

Participation in music is a basic lifeskill for young people, Don says: “I used to create a lot of songwriting clubs in schools, helping young people learn about music creation—and not just in band. I learned the importance of this early on, especially through my own kids. There’s so much kids learn in the process of songwriting…” not only self-expression, but also, Don insists, “It helps students be better citizens in the long run.”

Don perhaps speaks most proudly of his three children’s engagement with music. “One piece of advice I was given long ago—make sure whatever instruments you have at home, make sure they’re never in the case. If you have a piano, make sure it’s always open.”

As he plans a June 9 open house to launch the Indian River Festival, openness is on his mind. Don says, “There are three things I’d love to see happen (at the Indian River Festival this summer), three groups of people I really hope are happy,” Don says. “First, I’d like us to expose the audience members who already know the space really well to new artists. Second, I’d like us to introduce the space to new audiences—I’d like to challenge people to come and experience the space. Third, the artists who perform here, I know will tell their peers about the space.” He wants every memorable first experience to lead to a second experience that is second to none.

At the microphone

Profile: Kinley Dowling

by Jane Ledwell

Kinley Dowling (photo: Buzz)Interviewing Kinley Dowling, you meet many musical personae in one. “’Kinley Dowling’ is more folk, and she is who plays with Hey Rosetta! or with Dennis Ellsworth,” she says. Kinley Dowling is the in-demand strings player. Then she cocks her head and frames her face with a sparkly grin. “’KINLEY’ is someone different.”

Kinley, who loves nothing more than being behind the scenes with bands, has had to learn to adapt to the spotlight, since KINLEY’s powerful, personal song “Microphone,” released on the album Letters Never Sent, has led to radio play and intense media attention across Canada.

“I definitely didn’t see it coming, but it has been amazing,” she says, of the song about surviving sexual violence. The song’s message of transforming trauma into art (“And if you come to my show, I think you should know / I’m gonna call you out. I’ve got a microphone”) has made her metaphors of empowerment real.

“I love the song,” Kinley says. “The rest of the album, I can’t be in the same room when it’s playing,” she says self-consciously. “But so many people thanked me—and when I wrote it, I didn’t even think about other people,” she admits.

“It’s the fastest song I’ve ever written. But it’s something I’ve been thinking about, thinking about every day, for fifteen years.”

In “Microphone,” KINLEY sings at the song’s emotional and melodic climax, “And if it happened now… I’d go get all my friends.” And that’s exactly what Kinley is doing right now: going to get all her friends, for all the art-making.

Film producer Jenna MacMillan is producing videos for KINLEY’s songs—a recent shoot for the song “Blackbirds” took them, with Maria Campbell as choreographer, to the roof of the Dominion Building. “Mille Clarkes shot it, and every scene was perfect.”

In late March, she’ll go to Toronto to work with Jenna on the video for “Microphone.” She will collaborate with PEI friends with Toronto connections to tell the song’s story with the powerful visual metaphors she and her friends picture. Her new website features a donation page for the project they imagine for “sharing the microphone.” She wants the song to help other sexual assault survivors find their voice and to help prevent sexual violence.

Personally, she has figured out what she wants from the man who raped her: “I think what I want is an apology,” she says frankly, and to hear from him that he didn’t hurt anyone else.

The videos for “Microphone” and the other songs will be a virtual tour, of sorts, for an accomplished performer who is comfortable playing violin and singing backup but whose nerves don’t let her comfortably perform her own songs live yet.

“I plan on never touring the album,” she says. “I want to do it on my own terms.” Also, she says, “I always wanted to make music videos, even when I was little. People say, ‘I want to go to your show,’ and I want to say, ‘Go online! Where I have made this musical telecast for you!’”

She also says, with a little irony, “I also love being at home, staying at home, and writing songs and not showing them to anyone.” Her album might never have been made except her cousin (and co-performer in a project called The Express) Liam Corcoran and producer Colin Buchanan booked the time and space and told her to show up.

Kinley isn’t apologizing for taking time before next steps. “Come on,” she says, “I used to be mute!” (She’s serious. She was a selective mute in childhood.) “I’ve come pretty far. I’m new to songwriting, and there are a lot of people listening. I don’t want to mess up.”

So Kinley and KINLEY are making art with friends, making videos, doing lights for her boyfriend Dylan Menzie’s shows, playing strings on many recordings, co-writing with people like Dennis Ellsworth.

Next, she says, “I want to write songs with women.” She has a few friends in mind, but they’re nervous. She will tell them, “I was nervous, too. It turns out, it’s easy. You just write things down.”

Resistance fighter

Profile: Kathleen Hamilton

by Jane Ledwell

Kathleen Hamilton (photo: Buzz)Contrivances and secrets—lies—they cause a lot of problems,” intimates Kathleen Hamilton. The playwright, actor, writing workshop leader, and author of Sex After Baby—Why There Is None says, “Right now, I’m deeply immersed in memoir—officially for the past five years. Unofficially for ten.

“Writing my own memoir, reading memoirs, and helping other women write their memoirs: I’m captivated by them,” she says. “I’ve always been very affected by one-woman shows that were memoir, books that were memoir, and novels that read as though they were memoir. The intimacy, the strong feeling of connection somehow illuminates my own life for me,” she reflects.

Memoir, to her, is a generous gesture: “I’m giving something very important to me—and I’m giving it to you, letting you see all the different angles, all the different facets. And people are moved by that. If I tell the truth about my life, it makes it easier to tell the truth about your life. The more honest we are as human beings, the more elevated we are as a species.”

“At the same time,” she admits, “I have a huge resistance to writing my memoir. We all have a voice inside that says, ‘Your story doesn’t really matter. No one cares.’ But the stories that have really mattered to me, that have shaped my life, have been memoir.”

She adds, “There are different voices and forms of resistance: One is, it’s in the past, and the past doesn’t matter. But it’s through understanding the past that we create possibility. It opens up a whole, bright world.”

The first two drafts of Kathleen’s memoir were written as a play. Unsurprising for a theatre professional. “It’s funny,” Kathleen muses, “because a lot of things I learned in acting apply so directly to writing. Everything connects. In acting, my approach is to go deep inside myself and find that character inside myself. In writing memoir, I go deep inside and find that aspect of myself or that persona that needs to tell the story.”

In acting and writing, “I always just think the more honest you are, the more opportunity for the audience to connect. In writing, the more you can bring them into the concrete details—the real stuff of life—the more they can connect…

“So, I grew up in a logging town in northern BC, but if I write my childhood well enough, you’ll say, ‘Yes. That’s just how it was.’”

Kathleen is exploring memoir not only through writing but also teaching, leading a ten-week memoir-writing workshop with “fourteen amazing women—amazing writers with amazing stories to tell,” she says. “It’s a privilege for me to make a safe place and give permission for people to do this work, and for their work to be received.”

Kathleen says, “At first I was very afraid to embark on teaching,” fearful it would drain her energy for her own writing. However, she recalls, “A voice was asking me to teach a class, and I kept saying ‘no, no, no.’ But when I finally decided to do it…, I have found my commitment to these writers has actually fuelled my own writing.”

Kathleen says, “I just know some excellent memoirs are going to come out of this workshop. Some of them will definitely come out in print —hopefully not before mine!” she adds with a laugh.

Her eyes crinkle with humour as she says, “Teaching is how I know I’m getting into heaven. Despite all the things I’ve done in my life, I’ve encouraged people to write. I feel like I’m covered off.”

For herself and workshop participants, she says, “Writing memoir, you get to be in the present and the distant past and the recent past. It’s magical – immersing yourself in the deep creative work and the emotion of re-experiencing the past, which in many cases is difficult… but underneath the heartache or pain, there’s this—joy.

“The work of shaping it into art is satisfying—I haven’t found anything that feels as satisfying as that.” Worth perseveres past the resistance, getting to the deep truths of the past and the heart.

Servant of Song

Profile: Jon Rehder

by Jane Ledwell

Jon Rehder (photo: Buzz)Jon Rehder describes himself as a “jack-of-all-trades” musician, known on the scene for playing bass, guitar, piano, or singing as a sideman with all kinds of PEI musicians, and doing sound for live events – but a change is coming. After 45 years as a freelance player, “never knowing two months ahead how I will pay my bills,” Jon will soon be eligible for his pension that will cover a portion of his income. “I can retire. I can do the gigs that I really like,” he smiles.

Fortunately for musicians he supports, Jon says, “What I love about music, is it takes us away from everything else. And what I love is doing that with other musicians.” However, he adds, “One of the transitions I’m trying to make is to be recognized as a singer-songwriter of my own music.

“I’m used to being a sideman, reacting to the situation,” he says. The new challenge for Jon is that, “A solo artist has to create the situation.”

Jon says, “The fundamental challenge in PEI is the ratio of musicians to population base is very high.” Singer-songwriters, he says, face the problem that “only a small percentage of the population wants to sit still and not talk and listen to music.

“I see the same fifty people all the time,” he laughs, for events such as the series he hosts, Wednesday nights at the Haviland Club with Jon Rehder and Friends. The “friends” are any of a number of well-established and emerging musicians in PEI, “most of whom I know but have never played music with,” Jon enthuses. “It’s a chance (for the guest musicians) to play things they might not always play. It’s a fun, good atmosphere.” Making music with them, he says, “is like a vacation.”

The Haviland Club, he says, offers a “pleasant-sounding room.” A pet peeve in Charlottetown is that “the vast majority of rooms that have live music and that depend upon music for revenue are sonically terrible. Many rooms don’t spend the time and money that would be appropriate to have good sound design.” The loud echoing of voices in conversation that drives musicians to turn up the volume to compete can easily be fixed with attention to sound design, Jon insists.

Jon reflects, “All my great experiences as an audience member involved feeling I was in good hands – (thinking) here’s a performer who really knows what they’re doing and will take me somewhere.”

Honoured last year as the Doug Riley Musician at the PEI Jazz and Blues Festival, Jon says, “It was very nice to get the nomination, because I’m not mainly a jazz player.” “Before coming to PEI, in Montreal, bass was what I played most. Since coming to PEI, I’ve played more guitar and piano and been pushed to do solo stuff. I really know music well, I have a reasonable level of competence on instruments, but on none would I call myself a jazz player.”

While he loves many forms of music, his philosophy is always that the music and the musician must “serve the song.” He recalls, “When I was playing jazz in Montreal, there came a point I realized I like songs better than instrumental,” Jon says.

As an art form, jazz requires intensive technical mastery. Jon reflects, “The technique has to serve the heart. It’s hard to make it through the learning curve (of mastering technique) and still have heart to give.”

Jon says, “There a time and place in the natural flow of things, a moment when the drive of the music overwhelms the integrity of the song – and I lose interest. I can’t play for the sake of expressing myself if I don’t think the context is telling a story.”

In 2009 with his band, Rhythm Rules, Jon released a CD called “To Serve the Song” to capture a bit of their philosophy. “My band is really everybody’s band, but I’m proud to take credit for putting them together for the first time,” he smiles, with a nod to bandmates Reg Ballagh, Remi Arsenault, Chris Gauthier. “We spent four days recording songs and came up with this record, We never followed up on it or did anything with it. I had never been involved with a recording before.”

As he considers recording his own songs, Jon notes the pro side of recording: “If you have something beautiful, it’s archived.” But, to him, “Recording is a minefield. It’s subject to pitfalls, traps, and fatal seductions. Recording, you get to that place that’s so relentlessly technical, you have the illusion that you can get everything right...”

Jon says, “The quality of performance, in my belief system, is connected to joy. It’s not trite or surface happiness. You can have joy playing a sad song.

He continues, “My explanation of the experience of music is there’s a sense of timelessness, of taking you out of time.” When everything works, “There is a moment in the music that the tempo hasn’t changed – but you have all the time in the world. You realize you’re all connected, and you know you can do anything you want. As a musician, it’s about staying in there, in the moment, and not getting attached.”

If you’re listening: “You don’t have to know music to experience it.” All you have to do is to serve the song with your presence and be served a helping of joy.

Real stories

Profile: Jenna MacMillan

by Jane Ledwell

Jenna MacMillan (photo: Buzz)"I want my work to be a love letter to the East Coast, the people who live here,” says filmmaker Jenna MacMillan. She’s hoping that she won’t have to write that letter from Toronto, where she works six months a year.

Increasingly accomplished and recognized as a documentary filmmaker, Jenna’s heart is also divided between telling true stories and fictional ones. She’s currently working on a documentary for Health PEI about methadone use for pregnant women, telling a kind of mental health story she cares about deeply: “It’s a documentary that tells the stories of the underdog, people we need to hear, people who don’t have a voice.”

Jenna says both her parents are social workers: “I knew I’d either be a social worker or psychologist—or a filmmaker.

“Stories help,” she says. “You can touch people, and change lives.”

Fictional stories take longer to tell in film, Jenna explains, because of the challenges of financing, not to mention production and distribution. Several short fiction films Jenna has worked on are “living lives of their own”—including Desperately Seeking Signal, “an experiment, shot for a day with zero dollars,” recently selected for the 21 Islands Film Festival in New York, and Not My Brother, “the story of a family torn apart because of undiagnosed mental illness” with screenings and awards regionally and in Montreal and Australia.

A project in development would blend drama and documentary, based on songs from musician Kinley Dowling’s album Letters Never Sent. “There’s been so much feedback from women from Kinley’s song ‘Microphone,’” Jenna says, of a song about sexual assault. “We’re hoping to make a series of documentaries—that would coincide with music videos—about women talking about something they are battling, not necessarily sexual assault or sexual abuse but something in their career, or misogyny…using direct-to-camera telling.”

Before dividing her heart between fiction and documentary, Jenna’s heart was first divided between acting and filmmaking. “I applied to the National Theatre School and was wait-listed, but I went to Montreal anyway and started to study psychology. But I signed up for a film studies class, and that was the only class I ended up going to. My whole (early) life, I was going to be an actor. This split me apart!”

Jenna was encouraged by the emerging PEI film sector of the early 2000s. “I was an actor, but because of filmmakers on PEI, I went off full of piss and vinegar to learn to tell our own stories, to come back and be part of it. And I came back, and it had ended,” she says, due to the cancellation of a provincial media incentive in 2009.

She still looked for a way home. “I was in the Toronto film industry… I was working on a show that wasn’t challenging me,” Jenna recalls. “The content wasn’t something I wanted to put out into the universe. I was approached about Coastal Stories—did I want to be involved in 10 documentaries for a low budget?” Her answer was an enthusiastic yes.

“I left to come back to PEI and started a company, and my colleagues thought that was a crazy thing to do,” she recalls. “In Toronto, the cost of living is so high and filming is so expensive… On that trajectory, it was going to be so long before I could tell my own stories.”

With urgency, Jenna says, “My stories need to be told now.”

The challenge on PEI, she says, is “to get beyond telling stories for free. You hit the ceiling. I split my time, six months in Charlottetown and six months in Toronto, keeping my community active in both places.”

It sounds exhausting, but of those who stay on the Island year-round, Jenna says, “You have to do it all yourself and for free, and that’s hard.” Jenna is part of the media community urgently lobbying for a sustainable provincial media incentive fund.

Dividing her heart and art between Toronto and PEI, between documentary and fiction, between her stories and others’ stories, is a fine balance for Jenna MacMillan. “I want to tell real stories,” Jenna says. “I’m really curious how I can forge my own path.”

Events Calendar

September 2018
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Some Upcoming Events

On the Bright Side

Barra MacNeils come to Harbourfront with new album October 5
Harbourfront Theatre  The Barra M [ ... ]

The Children Act

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

DMayne Event returns

With guests Jerry–Faye, Jamie Comeau and the Crooked Teeth, and Math Class October 12 at Spo [ ... ]

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 [ ... ]