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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.

Human Impulse

Profile: Peggy Reddin

by Jane Ledwell

Peggy Reddin (photo: Buzz)As a human race, we dance. It’s an impulse—a basic, natural impulse to move,” says Peggy Reddin. It has been several years since the dance umbrella co-founder’s role at Confederation Centre of the Arts flowered into a role as Director of Arts Education, also working with Holland College-Confederation Centre partnership School for Performing Arts (SOPA). Dance and movement are still the metaphors that impel her.

“Dance is about the essence,” she says. “You take away all the extraneous stuff, and it’s just about pure impulse. Dance has the smallest audience perhaps, because in some ways it is difficult to read. You have to take a leap of faith… You’re trusting yourself that you’re getting what you’re supposed to get out of it.”

Our stories are what allow that leap of faith. “Organic, truthful storytelling is the focus in dance. It has to be coming from within. You can have a smiling, happy face, sure… but what your impetus for the movement is—that’s very internal. You have to draw on personal experience, but not put it out there as psychotherapy… It’s imagination and empathy as well. And awareness.”

How can a dance instructor—or any arts instructor—build awareness and teach empathy in our texting-while-walking culture? Peggy says, “What I learned working with dance umbrella is that first, you let them play. You start with creative movement and incorporate play and imagination.”

She says, practically, “I’m a better teacher than performer. I was always interested in other people and how the arts affected other people… My creativity goes into developing students. And as I get older, that is more and more the case.”

In addition to being a SOPA instructor, Peggy casts herself as a “den mother,” too. “It’s too bad their parents miss all this!” she says. “Three-quarters of students are from off-Island, many of them away from home for the first time. It’s a time of huge growth for them.”

She feels a sense of fulfillment that her life as a teacher has led to her role with SOPA. Teaching the arts, she says appreciatively, is “a tradition that goes back centuries. Now we have and will continue to pass on the tradition of theatre and dance.”

As a teacher and director of arts education, she says, “My challenges are balance and flexibility—which are the same challenges I had when I was dancing more! Balancing individual needs with the needs in the larger group, and the needs of instructors; flexibility so that when challenges arise you can respond… I just have a whole lot of faith that people will be here when I need them to be here.”

She says with pride, “It’s okay to make your own rules, and SOPA is doing that, consciously avoiding a cookie-cutter approach.” Like “Anne with an ‘e,’” she likes to think of “SOPA with an ‘e’”—“and the ‘e’ is room for eccentrics and for the individuality of students. I like to think when they finish they’ve not been shaped into anything but who they are—but moreso.”

One question Peggy imagines people might ask about SOPA is, “Why this program here? If most theatrical productions happen in the big cities, shouldn’t I go to the big cities?” Her response is passionate: “We’re not irrelevant here. We have a culture and stories that are just as important as those told in a three-million person city. If we’re constantly telling people to go away, go away, go away, and they don’t come back, what does that leave us? We need artists to tell our stories.

“Choosing to stay here shouldn’t close any doors. The training here as good as they’ll get anywhere else, in a class of eight, not 28.”

She continues, “We do more, not less, because of where we are. It’s more of a struggle, but more of a reward.” The reward for Peggy Reddin is to dance, fully human; to teach, fully communicating; to be herself, fully embracing new opportunities to make herself “moreso.”

Big Dreams

Profile: David Cyrus MacDonald

by Jane Ledwell

David Cyrus MacDonaldI want the life of my dreams,” says David Cyrus MacDonald with world-embracing verve. “And I feel very fortunate that in many ways I do have that. I love being in my band (Paper Lions), having a creative outlet. I love making life on PEI better (with my sponsorship company, Confederation Entertainment).”

When we talk, David’s enthusiasm for life—and sense of its precariousness—is heightened by a smartphone on his desk that could ring at any minute to let him know his wife Morgan is in labour with their first child. Soon, the phone will also bring him the good news that Paper Lions, the band he drums in, is up for a field-leading seven Music PEI nominations.

“Paper Lions has been a huge surprise,” David says. The band has been a long-time, full-time commitment, but its consistent smoulder of success has recently burst into flames with a viral video, new album, and high-profile performances (such as on CBC Radio Q) building hype and buzz. “There’s always some new, exciting thing happening with the band… My bandmates are such excellent songwriters and musicians, I feel every album is better than the last, and every tour I feel we’re a better live band.”

The drummer is in touch with the rhythm the band creates together. “There’s just this knowing of what each other are doing—sensing who is having a good day, who is having an off day, and syncing up with them with this crazy precision—until we’re this unit that locks together, this machine that creates a lock with the audience.”

After more than 1,000 live performances, David is still in awe of the magic: “We just literally go up there with these instruments, these tools, and make these sounds, and people go crazy. It’s one celebration after another,” he grins.

“A lot of the reality of being in a touring band is pretty grim and pretty sad. The pay-off is in the music, and the audience, and the pride you bring to family and friends. A lot of my identity is wrapped up in the band…

“It’s like an epic novel, and I get to be a character,” he says. That doesn’t mean it’s fiction. David says, “Our band—and maybe this is a failing—we don’t want to try to posture and fake things. We don’t try to be something we’re not.”

His smile is broad, but his thoughts are deep, “I’m very in touch with my mortality, and I have been for a long time,” he says. “That’s enough to say, that’s one reason I’m less afraid of pursuing my dreams… I find I’m at my best mentally and physically when I’m pursuing some ambitious dream.”

Part of the dream is Confederation Entertainment, the up-and-coming sponsorship agency David started in Charlottetown and that continues to grow, working proudly with events and organizations such as Music PEI, the ECMAs, Anne and Gilbert, and Old Home Week, to match them with sponsors.

“Becoming an entrepreneur was about a journey of self-discovery and empowerment,” David says. “I want to accomplish something bigger than ‘self’. I saw the need for organizations and events (for sponsorships), and I thought, ‘I can do this for people.’”

David doesn’t fear building a big life in a small place. “I love my friends and family in PEI. I like being in a place that is so small. I don’t want to be anonymous,” he says. “I like having ongoing, fluid relationships with a broad number of people around me, in a community setting.”

If life is short, home is important: “The fact that we’re all going to die means—I really want to pack a lot into this life,” says David Cyrus MacDonald. “I just turned 30, and in my 30s, I want to continue to build the band and continue to build the entrepreneurial dream. I want to be a good husband and father. That’s what I want my 30s to be all about; I know I want to take the band and company plan and to follow it through all the way.”

Difference Drummer

Profile: Alan Dowling

by Jane Ledwell

Alan Dowling (photo: Buzz)Pick a month and play a game: How many listings in The Buzz include drummer Alan Dowling? “In the course of a year, I play with at least a dozen totally different groups,” he says. It’s a steady, hectic rhythm: “In a one-month period, I might do country, rock, jazz, blues, and drumline (marching drums). That might be a typical month.”

Alan loves variety. “I love to be hired for one-off things, when I can’t commit to a regular band. I love the fact that I do get called for everything from jazz to out-and-out country,” he says. “I think it keeps me fresh and young. I don’t want to be one of those people who get too comfortable in one style and don’t want to do something new.”

Variety is a philosophy Alan Dowling hands on to his students in Holland College’s Music Performance program, part of the still-freshly-minted School of Performing Arts: “The more styles you can play, the more chance you will be hired,” he states. A long-time IT instructor at Holland College, Dowling was given a chance at the School of Performing Arts to return to teaching music—a return to a career he started when he first gave drum lessons at age 16. “IT work has overlapped with music: planning, analysis, doing things step by step… It’s the same process—just the outcomes are different,” he laughs.

He has had the chance to lead the work on designing everything from the curriculum to the facilities for the Music Performance program, transforming a heritage building in Charlottetown into a high-tech space with teaching space, ensemble space, and soundproofed practice rooms for music performance. “It’s very satisfying. It has been a busy few years getting it off the ground.”

At Holland College, “the focus is on contemporary music. Most universities that have a music program focus on classical; fewer focus on jazz… A lot of people want to continue on and study music, and in the Maritimes they have been limited in the paths they could go, when maybe they really wanted to be a rock player. Maybe they really wanted to be a metal player. We wanted to give another option.” Holland College covers rock and country, R&B and pop, Celtic and world music, jazz and Latin, on a curriculum exclusively licensed from Alan’s alma mater, Berklee School of Music in Boston. “We want to open their ears, make them willing to hear anything,” he says.

“The last piece we do,” Alan says, “which is hardly seen in any program, is the music business side. These are skills you need them today, and they are not taught anywhere.”

A major recent honour is that Holland College is the first North American college or university in 20 years invited to be part of the Berklee International Network. Berklee auditions 8,000 hopefuls around the world each year, and some high achievers may be directed to Holland College.

He says, “The people from Berklee were blown away by the music community here. We’re used to it and think it’s part of the way of life here. They look at the arts coverage in The Buzz and the listings of what’s going on and literally say, ‘how big is this place?… We don’t know we have it so good.”

As a recruiter, Alan’s message is that “You should be in this program if you can’t picture yourself doing anything else but music… You’ll have to work hard, but you’ll bring a lot of joy into your life.”

He says, “The last three years, that’s been my world,” designing and building the Music Performance program, “but the last thing I want to do is be someone who only talks about music in the classroom and never does it.

“Even here, doing the administration of the music program, teaching, hiring… drumming is still my greatest satisfaction… I still get the most fulfillment from actually playing. If there are not enough gigs on my calendar, I’ll create some,” he says—a promise to continue to give The Buzz music listings a strong backbeat.

Many Facets

Profile: Laura Cole

by Jane Ledwell

Laura Cole (photo: Buzz)In Ontario, what was one in a million here is one of a kind,” says Laura Cole of her chosen Island home, where she settled almost ten years ago first in Pinette and then in Charlottetown to pursue her passion for craft and creation.

“We came here to retire…someday,” she adds with a wry smile, in the busy studio/office where she creates glass-on-glass mosaic and works part-time as the Executive Director of the PEI Crafts Council, but she is not complaining about  “a job that’s really of my own making,” splitting time between the Crafts Council and her own craft business, Random Pieces Glassworks.

A hobbyist in woodworking since she was a kid, Laura started working with glass after “one of those ‘hey, presto’ moments” and decided to buck the trend of refinishing old windows with mirrors and instead replacing broken glass with stained glass mosaic.

Laura’s glassworks are “not traditional stained glass, not traditional fused glass, and not traditional mosaic.” The cut-glass mosaics she creates use the same cuts as stained glass, without the leading; the same assembly as mosaic, without the grout; and the same kinds of materials as fused glass, without the melting. This glass-on-glass mosaic was an emerging style in Ontario, and Laura essentially introduced it here, and shared the technique through cozy workshops in her studio in Pinette and later in Charlottetown.

Laura loves the glass-on-glass mosaic style because “It allows free expression. It is more rustic, yet it has more light and colour, because of the nature of cut glass, The extra cut surfaces mean more facets, like cut crystal, and that means more sparkle, because of the way the light plays on it.”

After a career as an agrologist, recreation planner, and expert in geographic information systems, she left her last job with the City of Ottawa to move to PEI. “We wanted to move to the coast but didn’t know which one. We made a road trip to all the provinces, but kept coming back to PEI. I would not change it for anything,” she recalls. “We’ve been very welcomed into the community here, and very welcomed into the craft community.”

Her welcome into the craft community led to a role as bookkeeper for the PEI Crafts Council and soon to part-time work as Executive Director, growing and revitalizing the organization. Workshop space in her studio gave way to space for a desk.

She describes her work as “growing the Crafts Council—recruiting more people, getting more younger folks coming back to the Island. Some are ‘sons and daughters of’ [established crafters], and some have had off-Island training and are coming back to put in their time and are enjoying it here.” Younger crafters and returnees join “a dedicated core group of people who have been keeping the Crafts Council going”—even through rough times, such as when the Council lost funding and had to close its long-standing retail shop on Victoria Row.

Laura doesn’t dwell on the past, with successes still to come. The Crafts Council’s popular Christmas Craft Fair will run this year for its 49th consecutive year, with “an amazing selection of crafters,” Laura says. “The Crafts Council standards always remained high,” Laura says. “We’re all about hand-crafted.”

The Crafts Council is building on this strength through workshops, professional development, and special events. The Council has been proving itself with successes such as a “Business of Craft” course curriculum at Holland College and taking on the management of the PEI Buyer’s Market and the PEI Studio Tour weekend. They’ve even got an app for that, the PEI Handcrafted Trail.

Laura envisions continuing to build “growth in numbers, and growth in quality” through the Craft Council.

For her Random Pieces, Laura says, “My dream would be to be represented by a gallery someday. I love doing large originals, though I like the little pieces for the shops very much too, and I get some really interesting commissions.”

For the Crafts Council and the crafts community in PEI, Laura’s motto remains, “ It’s handmade, and it’s here.” She’s happily stamping it all “Made in PEI.”

Night Watchman

Profile: Derek Martin

by Jane Ledwell

Derek Martin (photo: Buzz)I’ve had a lot of different jobs, and most of them feed into my work here in the cinema,” says City Cinema owner Derek Martin. “I’ve been a stage manager for theatre, and I know about making sure a show is running on time, managing a crowd. I’ve worked in a supermarket, so I know all the pop bottle labels should be facing out, and to check the best-before dates,” he says with a smile. “I worked on a farm, so I know how to handle the 50-pound bags of popcorn that come in. I worked in the back office of an investment firm in London, so I know how to manage the books.”

The job that took Derek to London in the 1980s was, in fact, on a tall ship. “It was 1984, and the tall ships stopped in Lunenburg. I was just married, and we found out that there were paying berths on a ship to Guernsey,” Derek remembers. The Atlantic crossing was 28 days to Guernsey for $500 and a commitment to work a shift on watch, four hours on, eight hours off. “It was amazing, on the water,” he says. “Unless a freighter went by, it was the same experience as it was a thousand—or ten thousand—years ago.”

And what did he learn on the tall ship? “I was always more comfortable in bad weather being on top and seeing what was going on.”

Derek is still on watch, but what he watches now are the movies at City Cinema, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. In addition to “taking advantage of the excuse of the 20th anniversary to plan some special events,” it’s a good moment to be on deck to look back and ahead.

From the crow’s nest of the Cinema, Derek says, “There’s still no substitute for the movie-theatre experience. The movie on the big screen, sharing the experience with like-minded people… As a kid, I was teased for being a Leonard Cohen fan—‘why not just go into the corner and slit your wrists’—but when you go to a show with 1,100 other Leonard Cohen fans, you know you’re not alone.”

But the lesson from working in the cinema is, “A movie is a movie, after the lights go down.” And that, he thinks, is a great thing.

In the late 1980s, Derek settled back in PEI, primarily working in theatre: acting, stage managing, and even working as an office assistant with Theatre PEI. Sometimes, roles overlapped, as when he acted in the play “Young Maud” on the Confederation Centre Mainstage. He remembers, “I had to take off my stage manager’s stop watch to go onstage to try to seduce Lucy Maud Montgomery.”

When the King’s Playhouse in Georgetown was rebuilt after a devastating fire, Derek, with Roy Cameron, took over running the playhouse, with their Wild East Productions, presenting concerts and “really good plays—a proper summer repertory, from highbrow to Neil Simon to everything in between.” Among other highlights, Derek worked with Don Harron on a two-hander called Mass Appeal that toured to Toronto, and Wild East brought productions also to the Studio Theatre at the Confederation Centre.

At the beginning of the 1990s, Derek was hired as the executive director of the complementary programs (arts festival) for the Canada Games, to coordinate a full and rich program of writers, performing groups, and other artists from every province and territory touring “one end of the Island to the other. There was a Canadian film festival too, and Peter Richards curated that and we had a film from each province.”

This led, indirectly, to the Cinema, but after 20 years, Derek is winding down his ownership of City Cinema. “The Charlottetown Film Society, a non-profit group, is working on a business plan to take over the cinema. The board members are people who come here, who love movies, love the Cinema,” he says. “The main idea would be for very little to change from a customer’s point of view.”

And, he adds, “I’ll stay for some indefinite time as manager.”

Derek doesn’t pin down future plans. “I want to wait until I’m there,” he says. “Theatre is the one thing I would like to do. It’s collaborative, and so much more social. Also, theatre projects have a very defined beginning, middle, and end… I might be interested in going into film… Or I never did get to university, so I might get more education.”

Whatever he chooses to do, he says, “After 20 years, it’s time for a bit of variety… I feel I don’t need to be the owner of a business down the road.” As though still on ship’s watch, he says, “I believe it’s never too late for new horizons.”

Thoroughly Island

Profile: Nancy White

by Jane Ledwell

Nancy White (photo: Buzz)Visiting from Toronto, writer and singer-songwriter Nancy White calls herself a “lapsed Maritimer.” Nationally-known for wry wit in songs and musical political commentary, she adds self-deprecatingly, “You have to invent some phrases for yourself or else people will do it to you.”

The Island-born artist is on a fly-in trip to PEI to beach, visit friends, and see shows, including Anne and Gilbert, which she co-wrote. She confesses, “I was never an obsessive Maritimer. I’m not one of those people who is, ‘Christ, I miss the ocean, I’m dying!’” she laughs.

What hasn’t lapsed is her Island inability to take a compliment. As we talk about her astounding career writing musical commentaries on the news for CBC Radio’s erstwhile “Sunday Morning,” or her great album Momnipotent which defined the experience of a generation of feminist moms, or Juno wins and nominations, she diverts.

“I had a nice, but ordinary, voice, so I thought I’d better be entertaining,” she says of her beginnings as a musical humourist.

Call her “award-winning”? She says, “I came in first in freestyle at the Alberton swim meet at 14. I came in second for a radio award in New York once. I got silver but there was no gold. I was best, but not good enough. It’s the perfect Canadian award, in a way!” But she can’t help but revel in a recent honorary degree from Dalhousie University—called in the Anne books “Redmond College.” “Lucy Maud Montgomery went to Dal, too. So it connects L.M. Montgomery, Anne and me.”

Nancy White’s admiration for Montgomery and Anne is uncomplicated: no vestiges of the love-hate relationship that can develop among lifelong Islanders. “I don’t have Anne’s picture on my license plate, so maybe that’s why,” she smiles.

“Anne’s not a fictional character to me, so let’s let that go right now.” As a cub reporter at The Guardian, she wrote the first or one of the first reviews of Anne of Green Gables—The Musical, and the magic lasted. (“I’d seen a few musicals, but to see a musical that was about here!”)

When her writing and music brought her back to Anne—and Gilbert—she and her co-writers imagined a complementary show: “We wanted it not to have reference to the original show. We saw it as a companion,” she says.

“Doing the show has made my connection to PEI closer.” Poking fun, she says, “I grew up here before ‘the garlic.’ I’m sure it’s better now, and the Island will reach a high level of sophistication—then erode away into the sea.”

When we met, Nancy hadn’t yet seen this year’s remounting of Anne and Gilbert at The Guild. Experiencing what Anne would call “delights of anticipation,” she says, “I hear it’s a really intelligent read, with excellent actors and Martha Irving as director. As Marilla, you know, she was very good—excellent glove work” she smiles, “so she is really immersed in it.”

The morning after seeing the show, Nancy White calls to enthuse, “It’s unbelievable. It’s one of the best things I’ve seen in the theatre. Every line is just as I’d imagined… And the acting! The kissing is great in this version… You’re so close, it’s so intimate.” She adds, “You can feel the vibration going through their bodies when they touch…

“I’ve seen it so many times—but when you’re one of the writers, you even cry at the comedy because it’s working.”

Her standards stay high for her writing. “I wrote a song about Stephen Harper, called ‘The Silencer.’ It’s a pretty good song,” she admits, “—as an Islander, I guess I should say it was ‘better than having your eyes gouged out by mussel shells.’” She jokes, “I wrote a song called ‘Talking to Myself in My Car.’ Does that tell you anything about my career? Maybe I’ll be discovered and plummeted to stardom—oh dear,” she cringes, looking pained, “‘Plummeted’ is not the right word, is it?”

Nancy White is likely to remain a “lapsed” Maritimer. She loves the anonymity of the big city. “You like everybody to know who you are—to a level,” she says. “In Toronto, if I fall in a ditch, no one will pick me up—unless there’s another Maritimer coming by. Smoking, of course. And if you’re smoking, don’t pick me up.”

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