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A Greenmount Boy Grows Up

Profile: David Weale

by Jane Ledwell

David Weale

Everything in UPEI history professor David Weale's office is Y2K compliant-no sign of an appliance with a microchip of any kind. Before we talk, he copies out lines from his new one-man-show, Greenmount Boy, in long-hand on lined paper. But microchips or no microchips, David Weale has caught a different kind of millennium bug, because he's writing about the end of the world. The first page he hands me reads, "There's a lot of talk these days about the end of the world, but that talk is a little late. A world already ended…in my lifetime…and yours."

"I would say there are a lot of people alive today who have experienced the end of two worlds, the world of rural PEI `before the break' and the end of the world of their own childhood vision," he says. His new production, he says, "wants to say we can't get back to old PEI, but we can get, can long for our childhood vision." The way back to childhood vision, for David Weale, is through nostalgia. "Real" nostalgia, for him, is a way to "look back to see the world whole, before we got programmed into adult practicality."

In his previous books-Them Times, An Island Christmas Reader, and, most recently, A Long Way from the Road-the way back to a more whole vision has been through other people's stories, stories from the Island's oral tradition. Greenmount Boy follows a different path back, a path through David Weale's own experience as a boy growing up in Greenmount, PEI.

It is tempting to say that Greenmount Boy marks a departure from more traditional storytelling; as he admits himself, "Most traditional storytellers only slightly inflected themselves in their stories." But David sees the new play as more an arrival than a departure. Through his own story, he will explore themes that have prevailed in all his previous storytelling. Most importantly, he will explore the origins of his fascination with the invisible world, "the drama being worked out beneath the surface in human affairs." On one level, he traces this fascination back through a long line of coal mining ancestors-a line that ended with his father. On a symbolic level, he traces the image through Christian history back to the Garden of Eden.

Greenmount Boy will use David's own story as metaphor for "the break" in PEI culture: that time of cultural, social, and economic change that resulted in the Island being transformed from an oral to an entertainment culture, from an agrarian to a corporate way of life. In previous shows, when he told others' stories, he offered a "way back" for Island society, through remembering what had been lost. In his new show, he is hoping to offer a "way back" for individuals, through recapturing "the season of grace in the life of every child," the Edenic time before the child learned to judge the world.

The themes David is aiming at might seem complex, but his telling will keep its characteristic simplicity, and the show itself will be simply staged, focussing on the voice that tells the story, the voice of the boy himself. David Weale's Greenmount Boy will play weekly at the Georgetown Theatre throughout the summer, with special performances at the Victoria Playhouse and at the Harbourfront Jubilee Theatre in Summerside.

Adventures in Progress

Profile: Elaine Hammond

by Jane Ledwell

Elaine Hammond

As a novelist who writes primarily for young audiences, Elaine Breault Hammond has a chance to inspire many budding writers. On a book tour across Canada, she had a chance to compare notes with a classroom full of six-year-olds who had just finished writing their own book and were busy illustrating it. When it came time to ask questions, one young author raised a hand and asked, very seriously, "When you write a book, do you use a pencil or crayons?"

Elaine answered truthfully that these days, she uses a computer. Since she made the big switch from writing long-hand to writing on computer, she has completed a series of three historical novels-The Secret Under the Whirlpool, Beyond the Waterfall, and Explosion at Dawson Creek-all published by Ragweed Press. She credits tight deadlines more than her computer for her productivity. After her first novel was accepted for publication, she produced the next two books in the series each in just one year-and each year was clipped on either end by a book tour and by the long process of transforming a manuscript into a published book.

Elaine and her husband grew up in Manitoba, but from there moved on to adventure, chasing teaching work, higher education, and a family of four through half Canada's provinces and even down into the States. When they finally settled on the Island, Elaine suddenly had "hours in the day and no excuses for not writing." She gathered up personal experience, historical research, and imagination to write The Secret Under the Whirlpool, a story about the expulsion of Island Acadians. "People know about the Nova Scotia expulsion because of Longfellow's poem," she said, referring to the well-known "Evangeline." "I started to think that maybe people didn't know about the PEI expulsion because there had never been a work of fiction about it." Her subsequent books in the series of historical fictions, one set in Manitoba and one in British Columbia, span the country with the single theme of "ordinary Canadians who face horrendous difficulties-and face them with a great deal of dignity." She and her fiction insist that "heroes are the ordinary people who opened up the land."

These days, Elaine's book tours travel as far across the country as her themes, bringing her into the wilds of Canada. She recalls that at snack time in the Yukon, she was offered bear sausage and moose jerky, which she found "exciting." She also stayed in a log cabin, complete with outhouse, and became convinced she saw bear tracks in the snow outside. Her son insisted the tracks were from local dogs, but for Elaine, an active imagination adds up to adventure.

A plan to collect her short stories for adults has taken a back seat to writing another work of historical fiction for young readers. This time, her main characters will change, and she will allow herself a leisurely two years to "enjoy the process." Her readers will patiently look forward to her next book. As two grade seven girls said to Elaine after one of her readings, "In most books, you read and read until you get to the point. In your books, something happens in every chapter." Elaine Breault Hammond approaches life as an adventure-as a chapter waiting to happen. Her readers hope she won't be waiting long.

Growing Things

Laurie Brinklow

by Jane Ledwell

Laurie Brinklow

The best way to organize an interview with Laurie Brinklow is to schedule it to coincide with another of her tasks.

In a busy week, Laurie's schedule includes her job as publishing coordinator at the Institute of Island Studies; free-lance editing projects; swimming; rehearsals for two choirs; meetings with an eating group, a book club, and a folk music group; baking; drinking coffee at the farmer's market; house-training a new puppy; working with the boards of the PEI Literary Awards and the PEI Chamber Choir and Orchestra at Strathgartney; "ferrying children" (her two daughters, Heather and Mikhala, who are getting old enough to be almost as busy as their mother); and-oh yeah-finding time for her own writing and her publishing company.

In a slack week, Laurie combines any ten of her ordinary activities. "Whenever there's an overlap, it's always good," she laughs.

The time Laurie has found for her writing has earned her honours. In the past year, Laurie earned first prize in the Writers' Federation of Nova Scotia's Atlantic Poetry Competition and placed her poem "Eleanor's Eyes" in the top fifty poems in the Canadian League of Poets' annual poetry competition.

Recently, she has had poems accepted for publication in Australian literary journals, Island and The Famous Reporter, thanks to the encouragement of a Tasmanian poet who heard a reading she gave last summer.

Laurie was born in Peterborough, Ontario, and grew up mostly in British Columbia and Northern Ontario, with summers on the Prairies with her father, who was building pipelines. "I never dreamed I would end up on PEI," she admits. Growing up, Laurie came across PEI on only three instances.

First, in Grade Six, she had to write a report on Canada's smallest province. Later, another school project saw her costumed as L. M. Montgomery. Later still, after PEI elected Alex Campbell premier, a teacher commented, "Everyone on PEI is named Campbell."

When she first arrived on the Island after travelling East looking for work, she learned the truth: "Everyone on PEI is named MacDonald. Measure the phone book entries."

Since she unpacked her bags on the Island, she has learned more about PEI than prevailing last names. After two months here, her experience in journalism led her into work in publishing. In six-and-a-half years with Ragweed Press and in her years since with the Institute of Island Studies, she has been involved in publishing almost a hundred books.

In the early 1990s, though, she had the idea that there could be room on the Island for another press to publish "books about Prince Edward Island by Prince Edward Islanders." Acorn Press began after receiveing a logo-a stylized acorn by artist John Burden-for the press as a birthday gift.

Acorn Press has published four books so far, and the growth of the press that was inspired by a logo has mirrored the growth of the logo's emblematic acorn: slow but promising. Laurie says she could have "gone the fast track" and borrowed money to start the press on a larger scale, but that she thinks "it's important to learn to grow things."

And growing things-whether daughters or poems or publishing companies-is the one activity that ties all her activities together.

Keeping the Beat

Alan Dowling

by Jane Ledwell

Alan Dowling

Whether you realize it or not, chances are good that you have heard drummer and percussionist Alan Dowling play this week. Almost 46,000 Islanders hear Alan's drumset on any given weeknight in the new theme music for CBC's Compass. From being an eager Island kid who used to follow parade drummers down the street, Alan has developed into one of the Island's finest musicians. Over the years, he has drummed for popular events, from the Charlottetown Clash Band's annual appearance in the Gold Cup and Saucer Parade to the Easter Seals Telethon. He plays most regularly with the creative jazz trio O.S.T. with Shawn Ferris and Chas Guay and with the 20-piece Charlottetown Jazz Ensemble. In both his performances as a drummer and his career as a computer programmer, Alan has shown trademark adaptability.

Alan sees computer programming and music as an obvious match. "Music theory is based on math," he says, "and both math and music are based on an ability to see patterns and analyze structure." Alan has a natural affinity for both. After finishing a B.A. in music at UPEI (with a year studying jazz at the Berklee College of Music, playing drums eight hours a day), Alan taught music in Newfoundland. Despite the rewards of teaching, he "felt like a frustrated performer" and quickly decided to change his career and to reserve his musical energies for performing. He returned to UPEI and completed a B.Sc. in mathematics, taking as many computer-based courses as possible. He has since worked as a computer programmer and currently teaches information technology at Holland College.

Alan's first love as a drummer continues to be playing jazz, a challenge which goes far beyond keeping a beat to what he calls "implying a rhythm": using all four limbs to create a mix of pitches, beats, and sounds that support what the group is doing. Alan says that despite complex structure and rules for how to put together beats and harmonies, jazz works only when the performer is inventive recombining the rules. He sees direct parallels between his day job and his night job. In both jazz and computer programming, he has to "figure out how to use the rules in creative ways to solve a problem."

It's not a big problem for Alan that drummers are sometimes underappreciated, but he acknowledges that not many people know the high level of technique required for good drumming. I asked Alan for a "crash" course: Percussion Appreciation 101. Alan says the ideal audience should listen and, if possible, look for the following things. "See if the drummer blends with the group and helps support the song overall. Then try to understand how the drummer supports the song-and especially how the drummer supports those taking solos. Often, there's a call and response, almost, between the drummer and the soloist." If you can see the drummer, follow his or her movements. "Pay attention to the drummer's coordination and limb independence." Watch how they "mix it up with all four limbs." Keeping an eye on Alan next time you see him in a band will give you your first object lesson in fine drumming. And add another item to your list of things you can learn on Compass.

And the Band Plays On

Profile: Gerry Rutten

by Jane Ledwell

Gerry Rutten

Under an enormous wooden stereo-a 1959 model as big as a sideboard-Gerry Rutten stashes an equally enormous scrapbook of newspaper clippings recalling his decades teaching music. The clippings culminate with tributes, honours, and awards from 1994, the year he retired from teaching at Englewood School. In that year, the Englewood band received not only a gold standard at Musicfest, but also a standing ovation- almost unheard of at music festivals. The band's conductor had a pile of laurels he could have rested on.

Gerry Rutten's 1959 stereo still works. And despite nominal retirement, so does Gerry.

Since 1994, he has not stopped teaching music. He has moved beyond school walls to extend his teaching in the wider community.

During his final year at Englewood, Gerry began to work on his first retirement project: a master's degree in music education from the University of Victoria. The thesis he completed before he graduated last year is a scrapbook of PEI band history, with stories and photographs of Island bands dating back as far as the 1860s. And when photos from school bands begin to appear in the book, Gerry himself appears in many of the pictures. He was, in fact, instrumental in establishing PEI's school band program, beginning in 1966 with just 25 students under his tutelage at Colonel Gray High. By the time he retired in 1994, the Island's school band program boasted 1,872 students learning the joys of instrumental music.

These days, Island music students graduate into communities with few bands. But some groups still thrive. When his master's research led him to the still-playing Miscouche Community Band and they invited him to conduct, he agreed to take it on. He began immediately to expand their repertoire beyond marches and waltzes to include more demanding classics. Now, the Miscouche band even plays an arrangement of Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" graced by Janet MacQuarrie's bagpipes.

Again expanding opportunities for Islanders to perform classical music, in September 1998, Gerry became the founding director of the PEI Chamber Orchestra and the PEI Chamber Choir. Both practice weekly at Strathgartney, and both will perform regularly to hone performance skills, "even if they have to perform for a herd of cows." He hopes both the orchestra and choir will double in size this year.

According to Gerry, the conductor's role is that of a scholar, leader, and communicator: "A conductor studies the score to know the composer's ideas and the way it should be interpreted. He then passes it on to the musicians. But-like electricity-if there's a short between the conductor and the bulb, nothing happens. The notes might come out, but not the music of it." And are the interpretations always right? Gerry laughs. "Once I thought I was always right," he admits, "then I found out I wasn't. I know now you can go to Charlottetown two or three different ways and still get there safely."

In future Gerry Rutten would most dearly love to see more opportunities for Island musicians to "be able to work here as musicians and be able to earn a basic living by their skills." He hopes that by the next time he "retires," community bands, orchestras, and choirs across the Island might even provide employment for Island musicians who share his passion for music.

Making Time

Hilda Woolnough

by Jane Ledwell

Hilda Woolnough

I'll tell you more about that in just a minute," artist Hilda Woolnough said more than once as I interviewed her at her Breadalbane home. In her recent art, she seems driven to make the best possible use of time-as a theme and as a construct.

Hilda has just returned from a stay at St. Michael's Printshop in St. John's, Newfoundland, an honour offered to just half-a-dozen of the hundreds of printmakers who apply each year for an opportunity to use the printshop's equipment (the equivalent of "playing a Stradivarius for a violinist," says Hilda), to be welcomed by Newfoundlanders (in "the second place, other than Asia, where being an artist is a viable profession and people don't ask what else you do"), and to work with a view of the St. John's harbour (with "the light changing all the time, at the time when the colours were changing into winter"). After a month spent standing up so long each day that her knees locked, a month making the most of the time she had with presses, Hilda had worked on eighteen prints in a series called "The Alchemist."

Hilda's recent prints are multi-layered, highly embossed, with metallic elements. Hilda describes them as collagraphs, printed collages. For "The Alchemist" series, she has worked with "large, shifting jigsaw puzzles" to create the images. Repeated images from the moveable puzzle elements are alchemical experiments.

Hilda's prints are not reproductions. She creates individual prints in a series, not copies in an edition, and each print bears her mark. Says Hilda, "Your mark shows that an artist made them. I put holes in them if I want to. Fingerprints, on the back. Or on the front."

Hilda Woolnough has never had a fear of controversy, and she is not afraid to address the crisis she sees facing printmakers. "If you want to continue practicing antique forms of reproduction, you are facing enormous challenges from technology," she says-technology that makes it possible to mass-reproduce art. Hilda calls for printmakers to use old techniques for a "neo-printmaking" that "looks at the medium and thinks about how to adapt it to the twentieth century." Contemporary reproductions, Hilda reminds, cannot emboss or recreate the metallic inks that appear in her works.

Just as the printmaker's press, as Hilda insists, is "not just a reproduction tool, but an art tool," likewise, laser copies become art tools in her large conceptual work, "Long Days Journey," an exploration of time in three components. The first component, now complete, represents the hours of the day in twenty-four prints in carved wooden frames. The second component, in progress, represents a woman's life from birth to old age. When the third component is complete, the work will have taken between three and five years to create.

With all this talk of time, what of Hilda Woolnough's past? Her commitment to the Students' Art Expo and its exchange with Japan? Her studies at the Central School of Art and Design in London? Her long productive partnership with the late Reshard Gool to promote the arts on PEI? Her pioneering work with initiatives like the Gallery on Demand? Her world travels? If you can catch up with her, she might "tell you more about that in just a minute." You'll need to reserve several hours.

The Secret Life of Pottery

Profile: Hedwig Koleszar

by Jane Ledwell

Hedwig Koleszar

From her workshop on the Gairloch Road, near Belfast, potter Hedwig Koleszar tells the story of a Torontonian friend who visited an aunt in New Zealand and was surprised to stumble across a lamp Hedwig had sold to her aunt without ever knowing the connection with her friend. Often, Hedwig hears stories about her pottery. "People are very appreciative," she says. "They tell you where they are going to put your pottery. Then they come back the next year to tell you where it is."

Hedwig Koleszar's pottery graces houses around the world. Her customers are attracted to her distinctive pottery's clean, simple shapes and spare, beautiful decoration: pale reds and greens and dark blues evoke birds and reeds, sprays of flowers, and the occasional dragon in smooth-gestured, near-transparent brush strokes inspired by Japanese art.

Hedwig herself lived in houses in several parts of the world before finding her home on PEI. Born in Hungary, she moved to Toronto as a child, and then to Quebec as a young adult. A Quebec neighbour was a potter, and watching him work, she knew immediately that she wanted to learn the craft. Twenty years ago, she visited friends on PEI, fell in love with the province, and moved here soon after and began to make pottery. Her career has developed here, as she learned her techniques from books, from hard experience, and from friends and fellow Island potters.

While learning pottery independently helped Hedwig avoid "falling into a rigid mould," she admits, "There wasn't as much experimentation as if you went to school and had more time and freedom." When she experiments now, Hedwig works on sculptures: one a flower-bordered clock with the clock face imposed on the face in the sun, with a woman holding the sun in her bare palm. She says, "Action interests me," and is being inspired by primitive art. She has made personalized pottery; in these pieces, instead of people telling her stories about her pottery, her pottery tells the story. In one bowl, she painted the story of a friend's house and family. For a wedding gift, she painted a bowl with an image from a dream: "Two tiny people in a boat with a tiny sail. On a windy day. In a small cove, with waves furling around them."

In the future, we can expect more of the simple, beautiful pieces she is known for, traditional pots, bowls, and vases and less traditional ikebana (small wide-lipped bowls for spare flower arrangements with "about two flowers and a leaf"). We may see experiments with brighter colours than are typically found in PEI pottery's subdued palette. As Hedwig notes, the only season the island's natural palette really explodes is in the autumn, when potters are busy preparing for Christmas craft shows and when Hedwig herself, who is a "huge gardener," is "torn between shop and garden."

These days, Hedwig prepares for the PEI Crafts Council Christmas Craft Fair and looks forward to winter, when she will, "Sit in the house with feet up, by the stove, reading books." What books? "Anything from the library, from philosophy to murder mysteries." She admits she "chooses books by their covers," and especially likes "adventure." After twenty years, she is still learning, still collecting stories. In her pottery, it shows.

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