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PEI Sociable Singles

PEI Sociable Singles is a non-profit, non-denominational, social group with members age 40 and over. [ ... ]

ACT Audition Notice

ACT (a community theatre) will stage 12 Angry Women in the round at four Island venues April 26–Ma [ ... ]

Stories to Tell

Profile: Richard Lemm

by Jane Ledwell

Richard Lemm (photo: Buzz)Like a superstitious ball player getting ready for a new season, Dr. Richard Lemm may be ritually dusting and lining up his office knick-knacks in the UPEI English Department where he has been teaching since 1986, full-time since 1988. At the beginning of the school year, he smiles, “I’m always nervous – which is good.” In his dreaming life, teaching nightmares are now joined sometimes by happy teaching dreams, full of pleasant surprises.

“I get more relaxed year after year. I’m finally learning how to teach, finally learning to be myself,” he says. “I have the spontaneity I would have with friends I really relax with. In the past, I think I was more inhibited because I didn’t want to make students uncomfortable. But, of course, the more relaxed I am in myself, the more relaxed they are.”

In his years at UPEI, he has also seen his students transformed. Island students now, he says, are “more worldly. More cosmopolitan. More tolerant. More liberal.”

Remembering the 1988 plebiscite on the “Fixed Link,” and the debate about maintaining the “Island way of life,” Richard remembers Islanders who wanted a Link so they could shop in Moncton. “The Island way of life was already changing because of Champlain Place… Travel was a thing you did now as an Islander.” At the time of the plebiscite, he recalls, “baseball caps were in,” but the students were wearing the logos of American teams. The music they were listening to was overwhelmingly American. And now, he says, “with 200 channels and video games – what really is an ‘Islander’? How is an Islander different from someone who lives in The Beaches in Toronto or in Moosejaw or a white person in the Yukon?”

He notes other changes, “The Island accent has largely vanished. I have classes where no one comes from a farming or fishing family, and where most are urban or suburban.”

He continues, “On the other hand, the base of knowledge has diminished. I can only speak from the perspective of the Arts faculty, but gone is biblical knowledge or knowledge of Greek and Roman myth. Gone is knowledge of Elizabethan history.  Some people have said that the knowledge is much less deep but much wider, but even popular culture knowledge is fragmented.” This is a challenge, he adds, because, “especially in the Arts, we look for drawing on comparison for poetry and fiction.” Allusion and common references are important.

Unchanged in Island students, he says, is “the respect for generational knowledge is still strong, and that may or may not be as strong in other regions.”

An award-winning writer of four books of poetry, a collection of short stories, and a biography of poet Milton Acorn, Richard’s teaching life is integrated with his life as a writer. He says, “I am so blessed to be able to teach creative writing, especially the advanced creative writing. The level of ‘student’ is high, including people with books out and undergraduates who are so talented. It’s like being part of a great writing workshop every week.”

These days, he also teaches courses in life writing for varied groups of students, and, he adds, “I am very privileged to read very moving, very good writing about lives. There are happy stories you could tell anyone but also stories that are tragic, that other ‘Island-way-of-life’ of hard things that go on.”

With a full day of teaching and marking, Richard used to write at night; now, he writes in the mornings, practising what he preaches to his students by committing to write just ten minutes. “So often, ten minutes turns into thirty, or turns into two to three hours.” (Though, he admits laughingly, “I’m a dead duck if I turn on email.”)

“The greatest ad campaign of the past 30 years is Nike: ‘Just do it,’” he says, and his commitment means he has “well over 100 poems since the last book came out. I’ve selected about 90 pages and some writer friends are looking at them. I continue to write new poems.”

He is also working on a memoir, though he hesitates to describe it that way. “I’m still nervous about that word,” he confesses. “The form of this is a collection of personal essays. The initial purpose was to explore the lives of my male relatives, all of whom fought for America in wars. Then my own life as an American male who grew up as an all-American boy in the fifties, then was a conscientious objector in the sixties, a draft dodger, and, finally, a new Canadian.” Raised by his grandmother in Seattle, the “powerful influences” of his women relatives are also an essential part of the story.

“With a memoir you have to know what to leave out as much as what to leave in. It’s about ‘my experience,’ but the largest part is other people,” he reflects. As he writes, Richard is continuing to ask himself questions: “What was it to be an American male at this time? What was it to be lower-middle class in the most affluent society on earth?” and more questions. He is coming to terms with his identity he is increasingly comfortable labelling as “an American-Canadian.”

The pervasiveness of American stories in North American culture continues to concern him as he sees his own and his students’ writing risk being swamped. “If we don’t tell our own stories, our stories will be told for us, and there is a great chance they won’t be our own stories, or they won’t be the stories we want to be told. Many won’t be told at all,” he worries.

“Our stories now are mostly told by America,” he says. There are many Island stories being told and written, he says, and “this is so very important, but it is a very small percentage of the stories Islanders are being told compared to time on the Internet watching viral videos or news from CNN. It really is like the Dutch boy with his finger in the dam,” though, he adds, “It would be a lot worse without funding and support for arts programs.”

“In my sixty-some years, I have seen cultures get overwhelmed,” he says. It is something he hopes not to see here in Maritime Canada. “The stories have to be told, and a lot of different stories. Some will be tragic. Some will be embarrassing. Some will be hard to swallow. That’s what makes a great culture,” Richard says.

“You can’t just take the happy endings of Shakespeare’s comedies. You need the calamities of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And you need the tragedies, too. “We need PEI’s Hamlet, our Macbeth.” He raises his eyebrows, “Our King Lear! Who will write these stories? It will be a surprise.” It’s a surprise he hopes to receive as a professor with the privilege of many stories.

On the Way Up

Profile: Colin Buchanan

by Jane Ledwell

Colin Buchanan (photo: Buzz)Sometimes people want stories like a warm cup of tea—and that is powerful in the right dosage,” says musician Colin Buchanan, who is now a newly minted theatre co-writer and director with the production of Story at The Guild. He adds a “however…”: “Storytelling is often a lament for the past, or we’ve looked at the past with rose-coloured glasses… We wanted something with more mystery, more mystique.

“When I started creating the concept of what would become Story, combining storytelling and songs is not a new concept, especially around here—marrying that charming emcee-like character with a musician.” He smiles warmly. “But we delved deeper into the idea of why people like that. Why people are drawn to that storyteller character. Who is defined as a storyteller? What is a storyteller? And it’s not just stories or music. Storytellers are all around us,” Colin says.

“When (co-creator) David Weale first approached me with the idea of a new storytelling show, I immediately had a much larger vision of what the show could be,” Colin says. David got some funding, and they decided, “Let’s make something special, that can last.” They settled on a show that would tell stories, but also “define why it’s important for Islanders to tell stories about ourselves.”

Colin says, “Technology has changed, and it empowers us to be storytellers—whether it’s the beautiful camera you carry on your phone, or whether you produce an album in your bedroom with songs from your own point of view. It is inherent, that want for storytelling.

“How I go about presenting it is exemplary of elements of oral storytelling, musical storytelling, animation, photography, film,” Colin says, adding that Story is stories “with an Island lens,” exploring also “what that means for new generations.”

He enthuses, “One thing that’s fun for me about the production is exemplifying the different media. They are literally all the things I love to do. Photography, film, video, animation—all the things I’m into.”

Colin certainly is into a lot of things. Best-known as a members of Paper Lions, his band is writing music and preparing for a fall tour, and Colin still has lots of music going on. “I’ve been a professional musician ten years, since I was 17 years old. It’s a true love, a passion. It still surprises and excites me… One of the greatest joys of my life is to make music and travel the world with childhood friends—and to grow together and still be friends.”

Colin has also branched out into producing albums for other bands. With evident joy in the odd juxtapositions, he says this summer he’s been “working on a heavy metal album, electronic mixes, and Story… I’d be at David Weale’s place and he would be asking deep questions—‘What is a story,’—and I would have to go cut guitars for Death Valley Driver. And they would bizarrely feed into each other.”

His philosophy as a producer is, “Whether it’s on stage or in studio, you have to coax a performance out of someone. No amount of gear or tricks can replace human performance.” He muses, “A producer takes someone else’s idea and runs with it, so there’s a lot of trust involved,” but, he says, “There’s always something great that comes out of it.”

He says, “I see band dynamics all the time as a producer,” and he is grateful for the positive and supportive dynamic of Paper Lions. “The band members are the first to believe in me and encourage me. They don’t care it’s ‘spreading myself thin.’ There’s no fear of the well running dry.”

Colin Buchanan says, “I feel like Charlottetown is really killing it these days. You follow your passions, and the community will support you. The film industry has swelled, even in the past two years. We’re outputting beautiful sounding albums, and the songs are better, better stage performances. Charlottetown is on the up, culturally speaking.” It’s a success story Colin Buchanan is proud to be part of.

History Plays

The Lion in Winter

Review by Jane Ledwell

John Dartt and Gracie Finley, as King Henry and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine  (photo: Mike Needham)What shall we hang? The holly or each other?” asks Eleanor of Aquitaine coldly in The Lion in Winter.

The summer of 2014 brings to life the winter of 1183 and a fictional Christmas court of the leonine King Henry II (John Dartt); his mistress Alais, who is beginning to assert her place (Leah Pritchard); his three sons, the youthful and weak John (Alex Furber), the lionhearted warrior Richard (Robert Tsonos), and the shrewd Geoffrey (Jonathan Widdifield); along with the diffident Phillip, the King of France (Brian Bisson); and, most pot-stirringly of all, the formidable, scheming wife Henry has imprisoned for a decade for fomenting his overthrow, the intelligent and manipulative Eleanor of Aquitaine (Gracie Finley). Here, “power is the only fact.”

Mordantly, wickedly funny without being a comedy, The Lion in Winter purrs and roars. The Watermark Theatre is foremost an actor’s theatre, a theatre for artisans and audiences who love what theatre can do with a few planks, some lights, a script, and a cast and crew who are willing to eat, breathe, and sleep theatre. Unsurprisingly, the Watermark continues to select actors’ plays, inviting casts to provide the performance of a lifetime.

James Goldman’s The Lion in Winter is just such an invitation: an actors’ play. Known best through the 1968 film adaptation with indelible performances by Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn, it was first produced on the stage in 1966. A script that loves language, Shakespeare’s history plays, classical Greek tragedies, and mid-20th century family dramas centred on the harmful effects of manipulative mothers, it provides scenes for actors to revel in.

Directed by artistic director Duncan MacIntosh, the fine acting company of The Watermark revels. In handsome, effective costumes and a spare set designed by Scott Penner, each actor turns in a nuanced performance.

As Eleanor, Gracie Finley gets the best lines. She demonstrates cold and calculating menace and obsessive self-regard, while still convincingly drawing out demonstrations of desire for her affection and love from her family. Described as “Medea to the teeth,” she makes it believable that she could slaughter her children. “I don’t much like our children,” she admits, and elicits laughter, but will the savvy queen metaphorically sacrifice so much? (Having read the history and seen the movie, I was still on the knife’s edge trying to remember or guess how the play would end.)

As the sons, John (goofy), Richard (staunch), and Geoffrey (sly), Alex Furber, Robert Tsonos, and Jonathan Widdifield portray them all betimes worthy of affection and betimes worthy of scorn, with Widdifield’s Geoffrey a particularly consistent and strong portrayal. As Alais, at first innocent, Leah Pritchard finds some icy resolve in the mistress as winter chills the family. Brian Bisson’s Phillip seems mostly an observer until his central, flawless scene with his old lover, Richard.

And the lion himself, Henry, a Lear in reverse who refuses to divide his kingdom for his children, nonetheless faces betrayal by his children. John Dartt closes the second act wrenchingly, affectingly, hauntingly. An actor’s moment, performed to perfection. As Eleanor has foreshadowed with scorn, “Oh, what a desolation. What a life’s work.”

Funny, tragic, and strong, The Lion in Winter’s political machinations as family drama are ideal for the small stage at The Watermark. The actors pitch us into the enclosed, cold space of Henry’s castle at Chinon, drawing a shiver out of a warm summer night. Merry Christmas.

Like a Hurricane

Canada Rocks!

Review by Jane Ledwell

Canada Rocks!During post-tropical storm Arthur, my daughter and I stepped out of the roar of wind and into the fancy new seats at the Confederation Centre for the roar of Canada Rocks! We half-expected Neil Young’s “Like a Hurricane” to be added to the playlist, but there wasn’t room for one more song in the fully loaded 74-song revue. The cross-country playlist of Canadian hits is back in a production that is stronger than the original production in script, musical selection, staging, timing, and performance. The show not only has a lot of heart, it’s the only show I know that has “Heart.”

Canada Rocks! benefits most from a terrific ensemble. When everyone is onstage, singing and dancing, it’s a blast, and when individuals step to the microphone, their individual voices soar. The songs work best when they go full-on diva or full-on chorus plus orchestra. Anything in the middle works less successfully—even though the smaller-group performances with less instrumentation are usually closer to the songs’ origins.

The songs and performances that go furthest into what musical theatre does best—from expressive singing and dancing to lively lighting and sets—these are the songs that turn out best. Where the video screens show Canada flashing past as though through a train window and where a song’s romance or raunch is brought out by dance.

One of the challenges of the Charlottetown Festival is that Anne of Green Gables—The Musical wags the tail of the casting dog, so the cast skews to those who can perform as children, matrons, Presbyterians, and agile egg-and-spoon racers. Canada Rocks! is designed to make the most of those cast members’ singing and dancing skills, a great strength.

The pleasure and surprise of Canada Rocks! is when someone steps out of the chorus into the spotlight—often a voice we haven’t heard featured yet—and the singer owns a song. While it’s hard to single out performances, it would be wrong not to mention the master-class in Broadway performance provided by Susan Hensley or the commanding charisma of Réjean Cournoyer.

The narrative is almost unnecessary. Playlists, mixtapes, musical revues—these already have a narrative: the listeners’ lives. The songs either reflect their experience authentically or they don’t. With four experienced and accomplished show co-creators—Doug Gallant, Terry Hatty, Wade Lynch, and Hank Stinson—Canada Rocks! successfully hits a wide variety of experiences and tastes. Even my seven-year-old was delighted to hear songs that speak to her memories, though we have tried to raise her on indie rock, bless her non-mainstream little heart.

A small audience on the afternoon of a tropical storm—that started out as quiet—was rocking the new red theatre seats by the end of the first half of Canada Rocks! By the finale, they were raucous.

My hope is that the audience will carry its obvious love of live performance to more live shows and take in the wide range of original music being performed across PEI. We’re creating future generations’ playlists.

Working in Concerts

Profile: Andrea Ellis

by Jane Ledwell

Andrea Ellis (photo: Buzz)When Andrea Ellis was a child, she didn’t tell her parents she wanted to be a firefighter or an astronaut. She said, “I want to work in concerts.”

She laughs, “I guess as a child I was always keen on music, and I was interested in concerts… The whole experience intrigued me, but I’m not sure what I imagined was entailed!” Whatever it entailed, the accomplished and focused young musician, singer, and teacher has managed to build a career “working in concerts.” As Executive Director of the Indian River Festival, this summer she’ll present internationally prestigious concerts.

By Grade 11, Andrea was already volunteering with the Indian River Festival and soon was concert staff. She says the Indian River Festival was “free PD for a student,” and she went on to work with the Atlantic Presenters Association and Contact East, “working in concerts” and other live performances, coordinating tour bookings and professional development for artists. “Having sat in a room and heard the best presenters in Canada talk shop is very valuable,” Andrea says.

“I love the idea of being able to work at concerts and perform a little myself and be a part of the musical community of PEI,” Andrea says. She does so in her work at Indian River Festival, as a Bachelor of Music–trained private piano teacher, and as a founding member of the “Sirens” choral ensemble, a group gaining a reputation for challenging and ambitious programs.

Sirens is a choir of overachievers, and Andrea says, “For us (as members of Sirens), it’s trying to create a group that is delivering the highest-level performance we can deliver with the time we do have… We push our personal performance in terms of each program and challenge ourselves.”

The graduate of the National Youth Choir says, “We want people to be mesmerized by sound. Voices that blend are amazing. (Singing in harmony) one of the coolest things we can do as people. Moments you know it really fits, you can be overwhelmed by it.”

The acoustics of the Indian River Church are often described as mesmerizing. Andrea says, “As soon as you open your mouth, you realize how special (the church) is. For a choral singer, it’s very immediate what you hear—but the sound also keeps moving. So you come to a cadence and perhaps stop, but the sound continues just a little bit.”

The Indian River Church, Andrea says, “is a real gem.” “There’s such a community that supports that building,” she enthuses, “and all with the same goal, to keep the venue present, to keep it part of the community, to see this landmark continue. To see the church rising up as you come up over the hill on the Clermont Road, it’s quite amazing.”

Andrea values the continuous relationship between the musical community surrounding the church and “the people who were married there, with family history in the community,” and the spirit and energy “keeping it alive.”

Indian River Festival’s artistic director, Robert Kortgaard, Andrea says, “is really connected with the Classical community of our country… He is able to choose artists who can deliver high-quality performances and also are able to talk about what they are doing: why they are performing a piece, or what the composer was going through when they wrote it.” Andrea continues, “Seeing artists, seeing how they are reacting to what they’re doing, hearing the story… It humanizes the music and humanizes the artists.”

This year, Andrea does not anticipate big changes in Indian River. “I am certainly in continuation mode. The past few seasons have been quite successful,” she says. “I always love the variety. That’s the best thing for me. To hear singer-songwriters, traditional music, and Classical music…”

At the Indian River Festival, Andrea observes, “There is a core Classical and a core contemporary audience, and others who like jazz or blues. My goal is to every now and then get the core audiences to cross-pollinate with each other.” Working and playing in Indian River and across PEI mean Andrea Ellis is fulfilling her childhood musical wish.

Fuel for the Fire

Profile: Harmony Wagner

by Jane Ledwell

Harmony WagnerFilm-maker Harmony Wagner thought filming Victoria Park crows would be the easiest part of her short film, Queen of the Crows. “They’re so abundant down there, I didn’t think it would be a problem,” she says. But when the time came for writer/director Harmony and her partner, producer Jason Rogerson, to weave them into the narrative of a story about an Island family struggling with mental health problems, the crows were elusive. “We definitely had to chase them,” she laughs. “I didn’t realize how quickly they’d pick up on where we were and then move. We really had to rely on special effects.”

The efforts paid off with a short film that not only was selected for the Atlantic Film Festival but also was selected as part of Telefilm Canada’s contribution to the Short Film Corner at the Cannes Film Festival in France. “To be included in this group is very prestigious for Canada, as well as for PEI,” Harmony says.

Ironically, “I was very close to giving up,” Harmony admits. “It’s very hard making films. It’s hard to motivate enough money, to get enough cash to pay people well.”

At the same time, when there’s energy behind a project, Harmony believes in letting that energy happen and “getting out of the way of it.” Part of her world-view is shaped by her work as a practitioner of Chinese medicine and her long-time practice of martial arts.

“Chinese medicine is holistic,” she says, “It’s about taking in the whole story.” Doing acupuncture, she says, “I work on the front line of pain, and its solitary, and I’m holding onto people’s personal information. I need a creative outlet that’s expansive, and that’s collaborative… to keep myself in balance.”

While Harmony has experience as a performer, a musician, and a writer, film has been that expansive medium, and the inspiration for Queen of the Crows came with energy behind it. “It just falls through me,” she says of the story. “Something I noticed about society is that we speak more freely about addictions or cancer or other things than mental illness. We don’t let each other know.” Harmony comments, “As a society, it’s like we have a ‘stuck’ feeling. We don’t know what we can do. I wanted to create a window in on a family and their suffering, because every family has its own story.

Harmony says, “I put my feelers out for what thematically I want—a deeper underlying statement and a visual motif—and I ask for that, and the muse delivers the story.” Her laugh is self-deprecating, but she says, “I have abundant story ideas coming forward. That doesn’t stop, it just changes what form it comes in,” whether film, music, storytelling, or writing—and whether the creativity is for the audience of her almost-two-year-old or a film festival.

“I have a vision where I’d like to be an igniter and give fuel to positive change for myself and the world,” Harmony says. She has a humanitarian vision, yes, but also practical dreams for developing the film and television industry for PEI to be a creative outlet, a good employer, and an economic driver. “I would like to see more hopefulness for young people to stay,” she says. “I feel like we’re bleeding out.”

To do so, “We need to be more forward-thinking. We’re really good at looking at the past. We had some really good things happen in the past, and that’s hard to forget… And as an island, with that water lapping inwards, our geography contributes to looking in and looking back.”

But these traits don’t define our future. In Harmony’s view, “Sometimes, being at a disadvantage is an advantage.” Perhaps, she suggests, “Our storytelling is fresher without a deeply rooted TV or film industry, just as storytelling is transforming” with new, connected ways to reach audiences. “The creative impetus changes things.”

“We’re on the crest of a wave of a new way of being and thinking. We just need enough people thinking that way it becomes our collective pursuit.” If we can be as nimble as a flock of crows, we’ll always have a roost.

Blues Conversation

Profile: Chris Roumbanis

by Jane Ledwell

Chris Roumbanis (photo: Buzz)Charlottetown has got the blues on Saturday afternoons. It has for a while and is likely to continue, as long as the “Got Blues” collective of blues musicians keeps hosting winter Saturday afternoon jams with special guests at The Globe on Victoria Row (and at The Factory while The Globe is under renos). If you can say there’s a “blues scene” on PEI, musician Chris Roumbanis of the Blueprints band and Got Blues is a key figure behind it. “There were other artists,” Chris says, “but we were the ones that kept at it and created an environment for the many bands and jams that exist now.” Now, he says, “It’s become a community almost. Musicians feel [the Saturday jam] is a place they can come and let loose. There’s a camaraderie of fans and patrons who come out every week… And there’s something about electric blues that gets the toes going and makes the heart happy.”

In his ECMA-nominated band The Blueprints, Chris says, “we played literally all the time. We didn’t miss more than two weeks in ten years, from 1998 on.” The band played “Tuesday nights at Hunter’s, Sundays at Fishbones, and every place we could get a gig.” For Chris, with a job as a letter-carrier for Canada Post and a second job selling real estate, seven in the morning came early after late-night gigs, especially when his children were small.

Finally, he says, “I spoke to Steve Barber at The Globe and said ‘Do you want to do a Saturday afternoon blues jam?’ He said, ‘No, it won’t work.’” Chris worked on “wearing him down,” he laughs, and Barber agreed to try it out. These years later, The Globe has still got blues, and, Chris says, “Steve Barber from Hunter’s/Factory/Globe has been my biggest supporter.”

Now that Chris is a grandparent of seven kids, sixteen and under, he still likes that Saturday slot. “It’s daytime. It’s civilized,” he smiles. And playing with Got Blues, he says, “It’s like second nature, we play so much. It’s more of a blues conversation.”

Chris grew up in a musical family in North Bay and moved to PEI with his wife from British Columbia in 1980. He played in rock bands and played country and bluegrass, but it was the blues that he says “rings right to me.” In the late 1990s, he was in a band with friends, and when they brought in a country tune to learn—“Dust on the Bottleneck” Chris remembers it was—“I just said I can’t do it. I gave my notice,” he says.

And he gave himself over to the blues, with the Blueprints, a band that has lasted through personnel changes and side projects, but according to Chris, “We haven’t disbanded, but we don’t play much.” He hopes for a reunion of all the musicians who’ve been members and perhaps another recording, but, he admits, “I don’t see myself and the boys hopping in a van and touring Canada.” Meanwhile, Got Blues has moved beyond being a Saturday afternoon gig band and released an album, “Vol. 1” in 2013 with plans for another soon.

There’s an old saying Chris quotes, that “if you want to make a million dollars playing blues, you’ve gotta start with two million.” Chris is not in it for the money, though: “The way I see the blues, there are many, many songs with the same structure, but there’s a whole conversations between musicians happening in the moment,” he says. “It’s a soul thing that happens, and you can’t make it happen another way. Magic happens.”

The blues is part of the East Coast music tradition for good, Chris says. “It’s the same tradition as traditional music, like Celtic stuff (that I’m not a big fan of)—but it’s the same thing. People just have a different wavelength, or a different way of getting there. Blues is more of that same tradition of people sitting around sharing songs,” he says. “It’s like you’re all going to different churches, but you all end up in the same place.”

Dress Days

Profile: Rebecca Parent

by Jane Ledwell

Rebecca Parent (photo: Buzz)Rebecca Parent smooths her dress before sitting, a ritual she’s getting accustomed to. She is 15 days into “150 Days of Dresses,” which Rebecca and her creative co-conspirator Laurie Campbell have undertaken to promote What to Wear to the Birth of a Nation. They are co-creating, co-writing, co-producing, co-directing, and co-starring in this sesquicentennial two-woman show for the Watermark Theatre, to bring to life the stories of women on the outskirts (pardon the pun) of the Charlottetown Conference.

“We realized that February 1 to June 30 is 150 days,”—and it is of course 150 years since the Charlottetown Conference. “We wanted to be in cahoots with the women we’re talking about. So we’re wearing dresses or skirts—no pants—for 150 days. Those days that we have to wear pants, to shovel snow or do other tasks, we’re accepting donations from people across Canada who send in a photo and ‘have a dress day’ for us.”

The actors’ undertakings these days require more than one purpose: their creative time is full. Wearing dresses doubles as research and marketing. “We have to delve into the lives of women in Charlottetown at the time of the Charlottetown Conference, who were greatly affecting the men who were attending the conference—or not. We want to get into the headspace of the women.”

Their experience of dresses “obviously is not the same as for 1864 women. The idea is that I’m restricted in what I can wear, and I have to prepare accordingly,” Rebecca says primly. Wearing the research is meaningful because “it’s not easy to find social commentary by women in 1864,” Rebecca says.

The work of an writer, actor, and director overlap in identifying telling details: “When you’re acting…a lot has to do with story and character, and knowing where you are moving and why you are moving there. As writers, knowing the logistics of acting allows ourselves to help ourselves,” Rebecca says. “Knowing your own strengths, and those of your partner, you can create something you know is going to be strong. You can create work for yourself—and make it a success by playing to your strengths.”

Rebecca developed her strengths through formal training and professional acting, including lead roles in Anne and Gilbert and, transformatively, in the “technically demanding” role of Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion at the Watermark. “As a child, I was always a dramatic sort,” Rebecca admits. “I got into singing and I loved that. But while I love to sing, my heart is in the straight theatre. When I’m singing I’m too hung up on the fact I’m ‘Rebecca.’ When I’m acting, it’s like an extension of myself, without even thinking about it.”

This busy 2014 year, “I’m doing the gamut of the professional arts things,” Rebecca says with delight. In her first time directing, she is working on a production of The Hobbit with a cast of four-dozen youth and adults in the Star of the Sea Dramatic Society at the Watermark Theatre in North Rustico. “I’m loving working in a community I’ve been working in for four years as an actor in a different capacity,” she says. “Directing community theatre you must be a jack-of-all-trades,” and Rebecca is involving community in all aspects of the play, down to a paper drive for material for sets. In March, she will be the technical support for her boyfriend’s one-person play, Pourquoi pas? on an Atlantic tour.

“When it rains it pours,” Rebecca laughs. “So 2014 is great, but 2013 was a hard go.” Before receiving the Sesquicentennial Arts Commission for What to Wear from the PEI Council of the Arts, Rebecca confesses, “I was one car-sale away from moving to Toronto.”

Still, Rebecca says, “I want to work in Toronto, just to be in the city and see what other opportunities are there. But I’ve never been one to think I have to follow my track [and not be diverted]. I’ve kind of never said no. Whatever is thrown at me, I’ll say yes. There no rush for me to get there. I’m happy to be here in PEI, working in the Maritimes.” If it never rains but it pours, Rebecca is ready to get her skirts wet and her dress muddy.

Events Calendar

November 2018
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Some Upcoming Events

What They Had

November 26–December 2
City Cinema PG, coarse language
Dir: Elizabeth Chomko, US, 101 min. Hilary S [ ... ]

The Island Christmas Review

With Patrick Ledwell and Mark Haines December 5–8
Harmony House Theatre Christmas gives us permis [ ... ]

The Wife

Unti November 15
City Cinema 14A, coarse language, mature theme
Dir: Björn Runge, UK/Sweden, 100 min [ ... ]

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