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Holland College is offering a variety of credit courses in Business, Computer Studies, Health, and C [ ... ]

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The PEI Community Theatre Festival will be held at the Carrefour in Charlottetown on March 30, 2019, [ ... ]

SoCal Geekdom

Island graphic novelist attends Comic Con in San Diego

by Troy Little

Comic Con, the annual Mecca for pop culture in North America took place in San Diego this past July. This hedonistic playground of geekdom was attended by over 140,000 people, of which I was one.

Once upon a time this event was much smaller and geared strictly towards comics but it’s now been by and large taken over by Hollywood, TV and video game marketers, catering to all genres of pop culture. While they may be somewhat obscured in this stew, comics are still the hub and core of this monolithic event.

Troy at book signingOver the next five days I managed a few book signings, did some shopping, stayed up very late and met a lot of really amazing people. Attending an event like this reminds you that you are not alone in what you do. It’s a community of artists, writers and creators from all over having a rare chance to leave the isolation of work and connect with like-minded people. It’s both challenging and humbling to see the vast caliber of talent out there.

Comic Con hosts the coveted Eisner Awards show, the comic book equivalent to the Oscars. It was for this event specifically that I made my pilgrimage (special thanks to the PEICA for their assistance in that regards). My graphic novel Angora Napkin was nominated with four others in the category “Best Publication for Teens”.

On Friday night I found myself in line at the bar prior to the award show with the most likely winner of the award, Jill Thompson, standing behind me. I turned to her and offered to buy her a drink if she agreed to give up the Eisner (she has a few all ready) to the new guy. She’s a fiery red head, a tough competitor and has a twisted sense of humor. We conspire to have the losers rush the stage and steal the Eisner from the winner.

Finally, the show begins. The casts from the “Scott Pilgrim” movie walk on stage to announce the first few categories and give out awards. The second award of the night was for my category and for a brief, thrilling moment I thought…. What if I win?

Hearing “… And the nominees are: Troy Little for ‘Angora Napkin’, IDW Publishing” and seeing my book projected on the big screen was a very surreal moment, one I never really expected to happen. I felt very happy. The second nomination was “Jill Thompson & Evan Dorkin for ‘Beasts of Burden’, Dark Horse Comics” and the place erupted in cheers and applause. I turned to my publisher, laughing and said, “Oh well, it was a good run.”

As expected Jill took the Eisner and no one rushed the stage. I can happily and honestly say, “It was an honour just to be nominated” now. Although things turned out as I thought I felt strangely challenged; I made it to the Eisners! I could do it again….

I had a great time at the after party and practically leapt out of bed the next morning after only 4 hours of sleep, fired up the hotel coffee maker and immediately starting inking pages from my next book. Jill Thompson watch out, it’s so on.

The Love Story Returns

Amy Reitsma and Jory Rossiter play title roles

by Amanda Blakeney

Amy Reitsma and Jory Rossiter as themselvesAnne & Gilbert, will run this year from June 15th through until September 26th at the Harbourfront Theatre in Summerside, and audiences will be able to experience the talents of new leads—Amy Reitsma and Jory Rossiter.

The story focuses on the sometimes-complicated relationship between Anne Shirley and childhood sweetheart Gilbert Blythe as they enter adulthood, with Anne commencing her career as a school-teacher. Centering on the realities of their new-found relationship, the play may surprise audiences.

  “It’s very important to know that the relationship isn’t clear-cut—it’s very three-dimensional, and Anne and Gilbert may not choose one another in the end,” Rossiter says. Reitsma continues, adding, “The story is a love story, but it’s a complicated love story about a realistic romantic relationship. It’s the story of two people’s lives, and how they fit into one another’s lives. There’s not necessarily a happy ending.”

 

The production is under new—but familiar—direction this season, as Martha Irving, who played Marilla Cuthbert in the production in 2008 and 2009, lends her talents. “It’s very exciting to be working with Martha,” says Reitsma. “She brings a fresh perspective as a director, and really wants to present honest, true stories.” Audiences are likely to draw parallels between themselves and the characters, who Irving ensures stand the test of time. “The production is the exact opposite of a cookie-cutter production,” says Rossiter, which forces both actors to immerse themselves in the realities of their equally-spirited characters. “Martha really wants to find the heart of the show and of the characters, regardless of how small a role they play.”

This search for the respective hearts of Anne and Gilbert proved to be rewarding for leads Amy Reitsma and Jory Rossiter.  Undergoing intensive rehearsals for the role, Reitsma points to the challenges of fairly portraying such an intelligent and liberated character, combined with the complexities of fast-paced musical theatre. She says, “This is a very different role for me. I usually act in straight theatre, but being the lead in a musical production is a new experience. There’s no time to drop the ball, here, and you’re always kept on your toes.” Returning to the stage as Gilbert is vindication of sorts for Rossiter, who suffered an injury while cast as Gilbert in Anne of Green Gables—The Musical™ in 2004. “I feel like there’s some unfinished business there. I think there are many similarities between me and Gilbert—and I feel as though I’ve grown up alongside him, in a way,” he says.

Anne & Gilbert runs June 15th to September 26th—three shows a week—Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday (matinée). The show is produced by Maurice Gallant.

www.harbourfrontheatre.com

Spirit Tree

Tribute to an old friend

by Emily Jelliffe

Good-bye Spirit TreeWhen I was in grade five, my job was to draw a humongous tree for the class mural. Although I wasn’t very good at drawing, I had a knack for making branch upon branch extend to fill the empty page. That’s how I like the naked sky to be: lined with veins of life, dancing with leaves and blossoms. It thrills me to look up and see the umbrella above vibrant with colour, changing with the seasons, and pure in it’s stance, whether stark or full. I like to observe the canopy reaching and growing and blooming with beauty. I like it to emphasize the fullness, bounty and strength that life gives us. I like how submerged in the present moment it is and how it causes me to surrender to this moment too.

People say that dog is “man’s best friend,” but I would argue that “tree” fills this description more accurately. Consider some of the gifts trees bring us: air, food, fire, shelter, furniture, musical instruments, paper and even comfort in a lonely landscape. From that perspective, there’s no further argument. Have you ever actually made friends with a tree? I mean, hung out, talked, hugged? My favourite tree is a friend of mine, and this tribute is really a eulogy. For those who knew this elm will miss it greatly too. Have you ever been driving or walking by Province House and noticed a woman hugging one of the giant elm trees there? That woman was probably me, visiting my friend “Spirit Tree.” However, I’m not the only tree hugger in town, perhaps it was Candy or Dixon, or one of the many other people who gravitated to this kind elder. Spirit Tree was my first real tree friend. I named this gracious giant Spirit Tree because he gave my spirit a lift each time I went to see him.

It’s hard to remember when I first found a need to go and sit with my friend, but, over the years, I grew to love my visits. Pouring your heart out to a tree is a great way to surrender your ego and get truthful with yourself.

Last summer, I took my newborn son for a walk to meet Spirit Tree. My heart sank to the pit of my stomach when I saw no leaves gracing his branches, when I noticed the vast difference of the nearby giants with wide spreads of foliage standing next to my tree’s bare lifeless limbs. What had happened to cause this? Disbelief and sadness swept over my senses. I had taken it for granted that Spirit Tree would always be here. The empty space left in the sky will haunt me with rich memories. I’ll remember making footprints in the snow to touch him, and how often I reached across his vast trunk to absorb his stillness, and how beautiful it was to sit at his base and take in the world around. I’ll remember how, even if I was blocks away and could see only his branches, that this mere recognition would compel me to dash over and say a quick “hello.” I’ll remember the many nights I fled to him on my bicycle and how, standing 100-feet tall, he gave me the courage to let all my guards down until my own spirit rose to meet his. I’ll remember the many times I whispered into one of his crevices all the stories of my heart and how aligning with him was like tapping into a pipeline of grace that was fed by Mother Earth.

I am not the only one who will miss him. I imagine, like myself, many people (and animals) who have crossed his path will be saddened by his absence. To celebrate the life of Spirit Tree is to share my love of trees with others and to embrace this moment in life, however full or empty it may be.

Donairs

Talking Bands
by Ross Mair

Jeff Matheson, left, and Donovan Morgan contemplate their next move.

Charlottetown’s nightlife is about to get a make-over, what with the opening of a couple new joints catering to the needs of those who have seen a real scene. Not to slag on our city’s scene, but I need both hands to count the amount of top-40 dance clubs and none to count the real clubs, I’m talkin electronica, house, someone who can scratch you know? The kind they play in the cities beyond the bridge.

So we got new clubs? Check. A new sound? Check. Donairs? Check. What?! And not those greasy, spicy snacks some of us rock after the bars, I’m talking about the electronica duo Donairs, comprised of Jeff Matheson and Donovan Morgan.

Both have spent some time honing their sound in Toronto, both have roots in the local music scene beyond electronica. Donovan has played Hunter’s more than a few times with The Last Forever, a cover band, Flush, and used to DJ under the name Putty. Jeff has worked the old Waterworks in Summerside and what used to be Thirsty’s in Cavendish. No, I didn’t dig these guys up, they’re not fossils, they’ve been trading places in Toronto making music and gaining contacts.

“I learned a lot, saw a lot and there’s a lot more people with a lot less talent,” said Jeff about his days in Toronto learning audio engineering. “Nowadays anyone can be a digital DJ.” Blame the internet I suppose, but if not for the internet these guys might not of gotten so far so quick.

The group is signed with Reticent Can/US and more recently with Mad Hatter records out of the UK, a firm associated with such names as Carl Cox, and if you know the industry what-so-ever, that name should speak volumes. A few of their singles under the Reticent label sold well before the company fell through—thank the economy—but were noticed by Pete Tong’s label Bedroom Bedlam.

“Thousands of songs come out almost everyday, so for these people to hear our music is pretty good,” said Morgan. As this was happening Cox started paying closer attention to the music coming out of Mad Hatter, playing it frequently on his hit BBC Radio show, The Essential Selection, making it all the more likely Donairs tracks could be played and heard by millions world-wide. Not bad for some local boys.

“We’re in the food trough with the rest of the big pigs now,” said Morgan, optimistic that Donairs has a chance at cracking the world-scene.

Until that happens, you can check them out at those new clubs that will be opening in Charlottetown. Globe, the venue Donairs will figure prominently with its located on Vic. Row and Alibi is next to Baba”s Lounge on University. The two have a host of other gigs planned over the course of the Summer, so stay tuned.

Best of the Fest

Report from 2008 Toronto Film Festival

by Randy Burrows

In September, 312 films screened as part of the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival. So it’s pretty easy to avoid the red-carpet, Ben Mulroney-side of the festival during the ten days. And, as a fan of cinema, it’s wiser to avoid that side of TIFF and concentrate on the smorgasbord of cinema. Not only is tracking down Brad Pitt a colossal time-waster, it’s cost-ineffective to spend money on TIFF’s increasingly pricey $22 tickets to see studio films that are scheduled for multiplex release next month anyway (Burn After Reading, for instance, was released nationally before TIFF ended). Besides, Joe-Blow-filmgoer is slowly being bullied out of the Hollywood-y stuff anyway. This year, TIFF priced one venue’s tickets at $30, making the venue unavailable to folks with festival passes and ticket packages. So the 45 movies in my TIFF ’08 lineup featured gambles on smaller unknown indies and foreign flicks.

Film screenings at TIFF are pretty cool events. Not only do crowds consist of relatively smart people, but also relatively old people. The arcades in the lobbies were eerily silent. Huge cinemas are full at 9 am for obscure little foreign films. This year it seemed that festival-goers were a little less social than others and a little more caught up in the worlds of their iPhones and Samsung Instincts. To my disbelief, several boorish filmgoers routinely checked and sent texts during screenings causing glowing phones to luminate everywhere. I suppose, though, that wasn’t as bad as the behaviour of the critic who turned around and hit Roger Ebert during a screening. Violence and texting aside though, TIFF audiences are a knowledgeable, friendly, and film-loving crowd, and it’s exciting to be in their midst for a few days.

When you go to the festival and take chances on films you know little about, you really hope that you guess well. You don’t always. For instance, I learned that films about family-run X-rated cinemas involving people chasing goats are not a wise investment of time (Serbis). Neither are experimental films with no scripts and involving three characters loitering (Three Wise Men, and Birdsong). However, there were a number of gems that I came across, some of which have North American release schedules. If you have a chance, check them out.

Best of My Fest:
1. Wendy and Lucy (USA)—an affecting drama about the decay of the economy and its intrinsic link to struggling families.
2. The Wrestler (USA)—a brilliant performance by Mickey Rourke as a washed up “Macho” man.
3. Il Divo (Italy)—a biopic about an Italian politician handled with the energy of Tarantino and the style of Ritchie.
4. Revanche (Austria)—Gotz Spielmann’s gritty new crime/love drama. Brilliant (his last masterpiece Antares is available on DVD).
5. JCVD (Belgium)—Jean Claude Van Damme plays himself in the hilarious drama/comedy/action film about Van Damme’s dwindling career.
6. Waltz with Bashir (Israel)—Shocking and emotional animated documentary about a military massacre.
7. Four Nights with Anna (Poland)—Funny and creepy. A Mr. Bean-like character takes to stalking his neighbor.
8. Martyrs (France/Canada)—starts as a nasty revenge-thriller, turns nasty, then turns surprisingly thoughtful.
9. Not Quite Hollywood (Australia)—energetic documentary about Aussie exploitation films.
10. Hunger (UK)—an intense story of the IRA-Britain tensions and ensuing hungers strike of Irish prisoners.

Going Her Way


Marolyn Dodge Matthews displays unique rug hooking

by Wendy Jones

Marolyn Dodge Matthews at Macphail HomesteadShe’s an unstoppable 65-year-old rug hooker whose grey hair has been cropped and spiked like a punk star, then dyed a vibrant cardinal red on the crown and raven black at the fringe and nape. She can sometimes be seen plying her trade along Charlottetown’s boardwalks. She refuses to let convention stop her from living life on her own terms.

The fact that she uses a cane doesn’t stop Marolyn Dodge Matthews from doing what she loves either. With the help of her husband (as chauffeur), she travels around the Maritimes, the eastern seaboard and across the country gaining inspiration for her whimsical folk art rugs and craft pieces. She is well-known to many Islanders, having worked at the front counter of Frenchy’s for many years.

Had he been on hand for the opening of Matthews’ exhibition My Way at the Macphail Homestead in Orwell on Sunday, July 20, Sir Andrew would no doubt have been scandalized—if not by the avant-garde nature of a few of Matthews’ pieces then surely by the tone of some of the conversations. His sitting rooms were full of Shady Ladies who noted that strippers had added some excitement to the opening of last year’s exhibition. Titillating as it may sound, strippers attending last year’s opening were more concerned about the condition of the floorboards and the Shady Ladies were merely hooking rugs.

This year, volunteers at My Way could hardly keep up with the demand for bright red sold stickers for Matthews creations. Matthews has an flair for colour and a well-defined style that is all her own. The primitive simplicity of her work is counterbalanced by the sophisticated incorporation of sundry media into her pieces. Matthews is a true Maritime story teller, the sticks and stones, fish net and found objects that she integrates into her work reflect the traditions and values of her community and tell the Amherst, Nova Scotia-born artist’s own tales. Her work will continue to hang at the Sir Andrew Macphail homestead through to August 15.

Readers who are interested in getting together with a fun group of casual hookers are welcome to join Marolyn and the Shady Ladies at the Spring Park United Church in Charlottetown every Wednesday from mid-September onwards. They do not hold meetings or give instruction, but they do have fun, provide support, and share their creative rug hooking ideas.

Matthews and the Shady Ladies will be hooking at the Wood Islands and Area Ferry Festival on August 31. Visual artists and craftsmen are invited to come along and complete a work of art depicting the scenery or ambience of Wood Islands between 9 am and 3 pm. Their works will be exhibited and may be purchased following the event. For further information please call Wendy at 962-4131. Artists wishing to attend the Chowder Supper following the event must register before August 15.

Lucy Maude's Lives

New play by Leo Marchildon and Adam-Michael James premieres

by Wendy Doubt

Adam-Michael James and Leo MarchildonOur visit to Cavendish Beach four years ago transformed our lives,” say playwrights Leo Marchildon and Adam-Michael James. “We felt like we had “come home to a place we had never been before.”

They were captivated by Lucy Maude Montgomery’s history, her birthplace and the celebrated musical, Anne of Green Gables—The Musical. After someone suggested they write a musical about Montgomery herself they enthusiastically immersed themselves in the culture of Anne and allowed Montgomery and the eight principal characters of Green Gables to take over their lives. “It felt like Maude chose us (to write her biography),” Marchildon says.

The playwrights visited every conceivable historical site connected to Maude, read all of her stories, books, journals and papers, interviewed (or viewed the works of) everyone who has ever been involved in researching the author’s life or recording their interpretations of it. James’ and Marchildon’s musical production The Nine Lives of Lucy Maude Montgomery opened June 20th at the King’s Playhouse in Georgetown—exactly one hundred years after the release of Montgomery’s beloved Anne of Green Gables.

Montgomery’s family “were surprisingly in accordance with what we did,” Marchildon says. “They found our treatment clever, poignant and touching….We tried to be tasteful and circumspect,” he says. “But it ain’t Anne.”

“She always chose to do what was expected of her,” says James. “Maude wanted to create something good (from her life) but had a belief system that prevented her from divorcing her husband. She had a great power to live a lie.”

Montgomery kept the miseries of her existence a secret from even her most intimate friends until her last breath was expelled. It was only in her carefully preserved journals that she dared impart the full extent of her anguish.

A number of theatrical and film devices anchor the audience’ perceptions—rear screen images project the actual locations of the scenes; the scores reflect the genre of the day as do the period costumes. The “Anne” characters step onto the stage from inside a large facsimile of the first Anne of Green Gables book and the actors playing actual historical figures freeze in action while the fictional characters voice their opinion about what’s happening in the “real world.”

When a friend asked Montgomery if she could write a biography about her, Maude replied, “Biography is a screaming farce.” It remains to be seen whether or not audiences will enjoy this latest attempt to express Montgomery’s innermost thoughts and ideas and her deeply private torments on stage, or whether they will agree with the author’s opinion.

Tremtones Tribute

PEI’s “first rock and roll band” receives Stompin’ Tom Award

by Stephen Pate

The Tremtones with the Stompin’ Tom Award presented at the 2008 East Coast Music Awards in Fredericton in February. From left: Doug Carmody, Doug MacEwen, Billy Roy Murnaghan, Niall MacKay. (Photo: Stephen Pate)

After waiting 51 years to receive acknowledgment of their music The Tremtones walked away from the 2008 East Coast Music Awards (ECMAs) with a major piece of prize hardware.

“It feels terrific to win the Award,” said Billy Roy Murnaghan Tremtones founder. “It took a long time. We didn’t expect it. It came out of nowhere.” Murnaghan, who now lives in Barrie, Ontario, travelled back to PEI for the awards ceremony.

“There were two Doug’s at the Awards, Doug MacEwen, Doug Carmody, Niall MacKay and I,” said Murnaghan. Fellow band member Niall MacKay of Montague said the Award “was humbling to think we deserve it after all those years.”

The Tremtones at Prince of Wales College, circa 1958. From Left Doug MacEwen, Gordie Ferguson, Billy Roy Murnaghan, Dave Mills. Thanks to Billy Roy Murnaghan for use of the photograph.The Tremtones, PEI’s first rock and roll band, were awarded the Stompin’ Tom Award at ECMAs in Fredericton. The Tremtones were formed in 1957 and played in and around PEI and Atlantic Canada for the next ten years.

The Stompin’ Tom Awards are given annually to the unsung heroes of the East Coast Music industry. “These well-deserving recipients have all made significant contributions to East Coast music…” says Wade Pinhorn, of the East Coast Music Association.

Murnaghan who had been playing in country bands recalled how the Tremtones started. “The band started in the footings of Birchwood High School,” said Murnaghan. “Gordie Ferguson and I were working digging the footings. We sat down next to each other one day at lunch. We got talking about music and Gordie said ‘I just got a new guitar, one of those Sears Harmony Silvertone guitars.’”

“I decided to work with him,” Murnaghan continued. “At age 17, I’d been playing guitar for 4 years. Next in was Gordie MacEwen the keyboard player and Dave Mills on drums. After that we were the Tremtones.”

“There weren’t many basses back then,” recalled Murnaghan. “The first bass was made from an old jukebox guts. We drove over to Moncton and bought an old jukebox from the distributor. We made a bass amplifier from the guts and the big speaker.”

Playing around Charlottetown, the Tremtones covered rockabilly, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Gene Vincent, and Eddie Cochrane among other popular artists of the day.

“We did a lot of Elvis,” said Murnaghan. “I still do a lot of Elvis in the old folk’s homes. Elvis is popular. When I sing ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ I get the audience to sing the ‘Oooh oooh oooh’ to make it fun.”

“We did Jerry Lee Lewis ‘Great Balls of Fire’ and that became the theme of our reunion at the Rollaway,” said Murnaghan. “That was an historic club for us and PEI. Don Messer and the Islanders played there along with lots of other musicians.”

“Our favourite fast songs were ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ and the Jerry Lee Lewis ‘Whole Lot of Shaking’. The crowds loved Ricky Nelson’s ‘Lonesome Town’ for a slow song,” said Murnaghan.

“’Oh Donna’ was a big favourite for snuggling,” added Niall MacKay who variously sang, played bass and drums with the Tremtones. “We made a lot of people happy, made them smile. We played one end of the Island to the other, sometimes 6 nights a week. CJRW Radio would broadcast our dances at the Cahill Stadium.”

“My biggest regret at the ECMA’s was not having a chance to pay tribute to our fallen members, Gordie Ferguson, Dave Mills and George Halliwell,” said Murnaghan.

In their 60s, Billy Roy Murnaghan, Niall MacKay, Doug Carmody and Doug MacEwen are still performing in public. MacKay has been dubbed the ‘Grandfather of Rock and Roll’, a title he likes.

Old rock and rollers don’t fade away. They just rock on, their music still popular at dances and parties across PEI.

Events Calendar

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Some Upcoming Events

The Shack Wacky Review

With Patrick Ledwell and Mark Haines  February 2
PEI Brewing Co Join comedian Patrick Ledwell  [ ... ]

Sequential thinking

Serial arrangements at Confederation Centre Art Gallery Until March 19 The tradition of artists wo [ ... ]

Gadfly crew

Urban roots dance January 31
Homburg Theatre Gadfly is an eclectic urban dance crew that is steppin [ ... ]

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Music PEI Canadian Songwriter Challenge

In partnership with ECMA 2019 Music PEI and ECMA 2019 have announced a partnership bringing togethe [ ... ]

The facilitator

Profile: Steve Bellamy by Jane Ledwell “Arts are ways into emotions. Arts are where we connect, [ ... ]

A gift of Island poetry: John MacKenzie

The Feet of Blue Herons If you happen to live in another town,
Or country, or even galaxy
As dim and  [ ... ]