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Heritage interpretation

Call for papers for upcoming conference in Sydney, NS Heritage interpretation in Atlantic Canada— [ ... ]

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Life in the Theatre
by Jane Ledwell

Marlane O’Brien (photo: Buzz)When the universe nudges me, I have to pay attention, because I don’t get nudged that often,” says Marlane O’Brien, with a wink. A professional actor in classical theatre, musical theatre, voiceover, television, film, and radio for 35 years, Marlane came to the Island for A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline and kept walking the red roads here. She says that a “nudge” doesn’t come with clear signs and signals: “I can’t say there was a specific thing—suddenly, I realized I was already on the path…”

The path she is on today is bordered with possibility. She can barely contain excitement for a new co-creation: “We’re in the process of establishing a professional winter theatre company for the Island.” The company, named Athena (for the “Greek goddess of both culture and business”) plans to commence its first season in September 2015. The company’s four women creators, from varied fields, have complementary skill sets, Marlane says, but all share a “tremendous passion for the creation of great art, in the performing arts.”

“We want a winter company that’s very intimate, very connected to the Island,” she enthuses. “We want the theatre to be respectful of up-and-coming theatre-goers. We want it to be—and I hate this word—but we want it to be ‘edgier’ theatre. We don’t want to push away established theatre-goers, but we’re ready for more controversial topics.”

Marlane says, “The Island has grown up—and grown up in such a hurry. Since the (Confederation) Bridge, the influences the Strait was keeping at bay have all arrived.” She reflects that as an Island culture, “We know what we want to keep from the ‘old’ Island, but we haven’t quite come to understand what we want from the new Island.”

Meanwhile, “there are company members (from the Confederation Centre summer company) who’ve bought a house here. We want to give them something to live here for, so they don’t have to go away six to ten months a year.”

Of those rare nudges like the nudge to create Athena, Marlane says, “I’ve reached a point like this maybe three times in my life.” The first time, she says was “when we decided we would produce (the original musical) The Maritime Star, at the Jubilee.”

“The second was producing Menopositive: The Musical,” she says—and which she “counts as a great success”—although “the pinnacle of the run through the Maritimes landed in Halifax the same day as Hurricane Juan,” she grimaces.

The third came in the form of new opportunities with the Charlottetown Festival. First, the chance “to play Marilla, a part I have coveted a long time,” in Anne. “My third year in the role, I am still finding new things about the part.” Marilla takes what Marlane describes as “a glorious journey—that the audience shares.”

To the thrill of playing Marilla, Marlane adds “to be so privileged to be part of the first production of Evangeline… Every single person in it—and I only had a small role—took part in that terrible story with our own hearts, our own passions, our own losses, so the audience cared about every character on that stage. This is what I became an actor to do.”

Beyond acting, Marlane is challenging herself to write for Athena’s upcoming first season, adapting short stories from Margie Carmichael’s book Stories from the Quilt: “The best way to leap in is to adapt something already written. The story and the language are already there.”

Marlane says of Athena, “I want to make sure the Island doesn’t get shortchanged. I sometimes think Islanders aren’t given enough credit for thinking for ourselves. We need to see things and make up our own minds… There’s an untapped audience out there that’s just waiting.”

Life in the theatre must be fed by life outside it. She says, “I am a woman who loves to get outside and smell the roses. To me, life is getting shorter all the time…” Marlane O’Brien says with conviction and a smile, “I have a reputation I should use for some good before I die.”

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Some Upcoming Events

The Charlottetown Film Society & L’Ipéen...

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City Cinema Tickets at the door, cash only, $7, or visit Eventbrite.ca for advance [ ... ]

Fräulein Klarinette

Piano and clarinet recital at UPEI’s Dr. Steel Recital Hall January 26
UPEI UPEI Clarinet Profess [ ... ]

Gadfly crew

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

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