Compiled by Sean McQuaid
Past and present ACT members share their thoughts on the company’s 20th anniversary through a brief Buzz survey…
Bunty McCabe Albert (retired federal public servant)
1st ACT credit: HMS Pinafore (chorister, 1997)
Favourite ACT production: Unfair question. Probably The Mikado (2000) and Macbeth (2013), which I produced. But of those I was not involved with, Wit (2000).
Why I Love It: Barbara Rhodenhizer was AMAZING.
ACT’s impact on me: I love ACT because of the sense of community and common purpose involved in every show. While still a federal public servant I was once interviewed about my most memorable positive group experience: it was producing The Mikado. (Not what they wanted to hear!) Everyone was there because they wanted to be. Everyone had the same goal: as good a production as we could mount. Everyone knew their role (on stage and off) and took responsibility for their output and performance. Production team meetings were collegial, with people who listened respectfully to others' input and brainstormed to get the best artistic (and financial) result.
ACT’s impact on PEI: Twenty years of high quality community theatre. Several actors and crew who have gone on to professsional and semi-professional careers after cutting their teeth with ACT. A contribution to a vibrant Charlottetown arts community. Bringing plays to PEI that people would otherwise never get to see: Inherit the Wind, Doubt, Wit, Shakespeare, G&S, Noel Coward, six new plays (Plays in a Day).
Notes: I was not one of the original members of ACT. I joined ACT in late 1996 or early 1997 because I heard that someone was going to mount a G&S production in the spring of 1997 and I wanted to be in it. It was HMS Pinafore; I auditioned and got in. It was a fantastic experience working with a bunch of like-minded, dedicated, talented people. This led to being property mistress (and a chorister) for Pirates of Penzance (1999), co-producing a couple of shows, joining the board and producing The Mikado in January of 2001. Burn-out followed. But, I went back to ACT in 2010 to plan to stage Macbeth in Cotton Park in Stratford as part of the 2012 Stratfords of the World Reunion and have been very active ever since.
Jennifer Anderson (social services)
1st ACT credit: Our Town (Emily, 1995)
Favourite ACT production: The Crucible (1996)
Why I Love It: I just really love that play.
ACT’s impact on me: ACT was a fantastic community for me to develop my acting skills and feel a sense of belonging. ACT produced some great plays giving me the opportunity to work with excellent material that I would not have been exposed to otherwise. I went on to be a professional actor for a number of years after leaving PEI, largely due the confidence I built through my time working with ACT. I look back fondly at my time with ACT and would like to still be involved if I lived in PEI. I'm so glad that the group is still going. I miss all my supportive and very talented friends from ACT and wish I could be there in person to celebrate this anniversary!
Aldera Chisholm (fundraiser, Calgary Zoo)
1st ACT credit: Julius Caesar (2000). I played Lucius to Rob Thompson's Brutus which was so much fun. I had to learn to play the harmonica, and discovered that I truly have no musical talent.
Favourite ACT production: The Mousetrap (2001)
Why I Like It: Mousetrap was such a great show. That play remains one of my all-time favourites, and I had the opportunity to work at a professional theatre here in Calgary during their run of Mousetrap. (ACT's version was just as good!) I loved it because the team put such amazing care and attention into the set, and they did a fun activity getting the audience to try to predict the murderer during intermission. I remember being in the show and thinking "I wish I could see this from the audience perspective."
ACT’s impact on me: ACT really fostered a love of theatre for me. When I moved to Calgary, that helped me get into working in fundraising for a non-profit theatre, so I can truly say that without ACT, I really wouldn't be in my current career.
ACT's impact on PEI theatre: Having since moved 'away' and seen other communities' theatre productions - I didn't realize at the time how valuable ACT was. ACT was offering community theatre that is as good as anything I've seen on stage in Calgary, and Calgary has a pretty strong theatre tradition. I think the fact that ACT brings such a range of production styles, it really introduced us to styles of theatre that perhaps we wouldn't see otherwise. ACT helps develop a love of theatre (and therefore other arts) both for audiences, and those folks lucky enough to find themselves working on a show.
Dean Constable (General Manager of Theatre, Confederation Centre of the Arts)
1st ACT credit: Noises Off (running crew, 1996)
ACT’s impact on me: My first production with ACT was in 1996, when I volunteered to be part of the running crew on Noises Off. After that I worked on a few productions in a different role each time. ACT gave me the opportunity to try my hand at many roles in theatre and connected me to the larger theatre community in PEI. ACT certainly bears some of the blame in where I have ended up today.
Dr. Greg Doran, PhD (Coordinator of Theatre Studies, UPEI)
Favourite ACT production: I helped out with The School for Scandal (2006), which is also my favourite ACT show. I liked it because it was staged in the round, and the acting was amazing. Terry Pratt, who directed, did a terrific job with the show. It was also fun to see Ron Irving in something again.
ACT's impact on PEI theatre: I think that ACT has served a valuable role in helping to keep an audience for Theatre going on the Island. As much of the professional theatre is seasonal, ACT has helped to develop the theatre audience in the province through the rest of the year. It also serves a great community function, by bringing people together to be in the shows and to see them.
Notes: I sat on the Board at ACT for a number of years. The first ACT show I saw was Murder in the Cathedral (2005), which was very good.
Adam Gauthier (Teacher)
1st ACT credit: Office Hours (Stan, 2004)
Favourite ACT production: Doubt: A Parable (2013)
Why I Love It: Doubt was the furthest thing from a community theatre prouction. Everyone involved was on top of their game; the direction of Paul Whelan and Brenda Porter; the stage management of Wallena Higgins; the superb acting of Barb Rhodenhizer, Renee Perry and Tamara Steele. St. Paul's Anglican church served as the stage which added to the tone of this very powerful play. I was in this production as well which may bias my opinion a little but I consider Doubt to be my favourite ACT production.
ACT’s impact on me: ACT has given me the opportunity to grow as an actor. I've been directly involved with 15 ACT productions since 2004 and have learned so much from the people I have met in this organization. Some of the people I have met have become lifelong friends and part of my extended theatre family.
ACT’s impact on PEI: ACT has given people with a love of theatre the opportunity to develop and grow as artists. It may be a community organization but it has provided professional entertainment to Islanders for over twenty years. Without ACT, the theatre community on PEI would be very dim; it is a beacon of artistic quality and professionalism.
1st ACT credit: Our Town (Dr. Gibbs, 1995)
Favourite ACT production: Tough Question!!!! Noises Off (1996)
Why I Love It: Every actor has the same nightmare - to go dry on stage. Even though it happens to most of us, it is hard to deal with when it does. Noises Off was such a crazy show that you could go dry on stage and no one in the audience would be aware. It happened to me in Noises Off and the tears running down my cheeks were from laughing so hard. The revolving set was awesome to see and to work on.
ACT’s impact on me: Act has had a major impact on my living here. It has allowed me to participate in an activity that means a great deal to to me - on-stage, off-stage and in front of the stage.
ACT’s impact on PEI: I think ACT has had a significant and positive impact on amateur theatre in PEI, particularly since the demise of Theatre PEI.
Richard Haines (Art and Drama Teacher)
1st ACT credit: 1837 (Crew, 1998), Jesus Christ Superstar (Actor, 2005) Waiting For Godot (Director,2007)
Favourite ACT production: The Rocky Horror Show (2010)
Why I Love It: Just a roaring good time; cast, crew and audiences were so excited to be part of the experience. Putting our fingerprints on a cult classic not only let us show that ACT could do anything but also showed us how strong and diverse a community we really were.
ACT’s impact on me: ACT has provided me, and so many others, an opportunity to chase my passions. It is an open, caring community of people who support each other to make great experiences happen.
ACT’s impact on PEI: ACT has made theatre accessible for everyone, amateur, professional, young, old, and everything in between. Community has been its emphasis since its inception. ACT creates and supports a theatre community for everyone.
Credits: Director: Waiting For Godot, Jack The Ripper, Rocky Horror Show, Sweeney Todd, Much Ado About Nothing
Actor: Jesus Christ Superstar, At Play In The Dark, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Our Town (2015)
Producer: At Play In The Dark, An Evening of Fairy Tales (Not So Grimm/Mirror Mirror)
Other: 1837: The Farmer's Revolt, Strike at Putney Church, Noel Coward in Two Keys
Ron Irving (director/actor/writer)
ACT credit: The School for Scandal (Oliver, 2006)
ACT’s impact on PEI: Congratulations to ACT on its 20th anniversary. Twenty years of presenting Island theatre audiences with community theatre that is not only entertaining but often challenging. From its inception ACT has set its standards high, dedicated to excellence but willing to take risks. Its list of over 50 productions reveals an eclectic mix of popular plays, musicals and classics. I have been fortunate to have seen the majority of ACT’s offerings (I was even welcomed as a cast member in its 2006 production of “School for Scandal”) and I have been most often impressed with their concern for the artistic aspects of the work. This calls for commitment—that those involved will put in the hard work required to achieve the highest quality of production. That this has been sustained over twenty years is both laudable and remarkable. We look forward to its anniversary production of “Our Town” and to the many more plays of quality that ACT will stage in the future.
Sharon MacDonald (retired teacher)
1st ACT credit: Macbeth (stage manager, 2012)
Favourite ACT production: Much Ado About Nothing (2014)
Why I Love It: I have enjoyed working on the theatre productions in Cotton Park and the cast and crew were amazing to work with. Even the weather co-operated.
ACT’s impact on me: I was able to transfer my love of theatre and my experience teaching high school drama into the ACT productions, giving me great personal enjoyment and satisfaction.
ACT’s impact on PEI: ACT provides an opportunity for people who love theatre but have neither the time nor the inclination to pursue it as a full-time occupation to indulge this passion. ACT also encourages new talent -- actors, playwrights, production technicians -- and provides Island audiences with high-quality affordable entertainment.
Fraser McCallum (publicist)
1st ACT credit: Jack the Ripper (Dr. Forbes Winslow, 2008)
Favourite ACT production: Inherit the Wind (2014)
Why I Love It: I love a show that immerses you in a setting and ITW's production really felt like a fully developed town. Some great performances by David Bulger and Terry Pratt in the two lead roles and some challenging themes and arguments tackled that still ring true 100 years after these events took place.
ACT’s impact on me: ACT gave me the confidence to start auditioning for professional acting and comedy opportunities and introduced me to a whole community of actors and production people that I've since collaborated with on other endeavors.
ACT’s impact on PEI: A local institution in its own right and an important piece of the Island's arts fabric. ACT has given hundreds of people a chance to develop their craft with equally minimal or plentiful experience behind them and has filled the quiet Island theatre void in the fall and winter.
Nancy McLure (business support analyst/actor/director/stage manager)
1st ACT credit: The Crucible (Tituba, 1996)
At least that's the one I remember best from early years - where I actually performed...I loved the challenge of that one! Others: Great Expectations (An Evening of One Acts on Love, 1997) - at least I think I directed one of those one acts...A Chekhov play if I recall; and The Nerd (Clelia Waldgrave, 1997) -- that was fun!
Favourite ACT production: Our Town (1995)
Why I Love It: It was magical. I was so very proud of the cast and crew. I was an audience member and the show made me fall in love with theatre all over again. (Not to mention I was jealous as heck...always my best compliment... if I would like to be in the show too!) They reaffirmed my belief in doing something you love just for the love of it...and doing it as well as the "pros" (if not better)!
ACT’s impact on me: Again, love that people participate just because they love the theatre (in all its aspects)... Even if I don't play an active role anymore in ACT I am so grateful there are folks who still love community theatre and are making it possible for others to share in the joy of the theatre.
ACT's impact on PEI theatre: A safe place for people to try their hand at the art of true collaboration -working on a play, to develop a sense of community and culture...to learn and above all have fun
Sean McQuaid (writer/editor)
1st ACT credit: An Evening of Harold Pinter (director, 1998)
Favourite ACT production: Doubt (2013)
Why I Love It: Ably directed by Brenda Porter & Paul Whelan, Doubt boasts one of my all-time favourite acting duels as waged by enviably gifted leads Adam Gauthier and Barb Rhodenizer. A smart, thought-provoking story enriched by genuinely thrilling performances, it's among the very best live theatre I've ever seen anywhere.
Also dear to my heart are the two shows I directed, a Pinter double bill (A Slight Ache and The Lover) and Julius Caesar, both of which also featured Rhodenizer, one of which featured Whelan, and both of which featured Rex McCarville and Jonathan Stewart, all superb past and present local actors. I didn't pick either one of those shows as my favourite partly because it would force me to choose between them, partly because I was trying to be impartial, and partly because I'm too keenly aware of assorted directorial errors on my part in each one, so I tend to be tougher on my own credits.
ACT’s impact on me: Directing ACT shows was enjoyable and instructive; it helped introduce me to a wider circle of local talent and gave me a chance to work with some of my favourite performers, as well as performers who became favourites. Julius Caesar gave me my first taste of what running a really big, complex production was like, and it also featured one of my earliest on-stage roles as the "slight, umeritable" Lepidus (typecasting in action).
ACT’s impact on PEI: ACT has done a lot for the PEI theatre scene over the past 20 years, notably producing many good plays, but I think its greatest contributions can be summed up in three words: community, continuity and development. The group has maintained and expanded a theatre-oriented social community for two decades now, produced plays steadly throughout that same span, and helped facilitate development of PEI's theatrical talent in various ways over the years. That last bit's an especially valuable contribution since the untimely demise of Theatre PEI years ago left a sizable development void which ACT has at least partially filled.
Brenda Porter (ACT President)
ACT’s impact on me: ACT has filled many, many of my hours over the past 13 years. As Board member, director, and producer I have had the opportunity and challenges of being part of a true community. I have loved creative challenges, struggled with deadlines, problem solved with a dedicated team, begged for help, and laughed a lot.
ACT’s impact on PEI: ACT has provided an wonderful opportunity for people on the Island is be involved in amateur theatre of a high calibre - whether as participants on stage, behind the scenes, or in the audience. The range of productions - including full scale musicals, Shakespeare, standards such as The Mousetrap and The Crucible, and thought-provoking dramas such as Waiting for Godot and Doubt: A Parable - has been a real plus for the company and for audiences.
I was not one of the founding members of ACT. I have only been here in Charlottetown for 13 years. But what I think ACT should perhaps be proudest of is how consistently it has supported amateur theatre here on the island. We provide workshops and play readings, lend costumes and set pieces to other theatre groups, encourage attendance at local productions, and give an opportunity for children and adults to participate in the truly amazing experience of being part of an amateur production. The support that ACT has from many organizations and businesses within our community is also something of which we are very proud indeed.
May ACT prosper for at least another 20 years!
Terry Pratt (retired professor)
1st ACT credit: HMS Pinafore (director, 1997)
Favourite ACT production: Possibly THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE (1999). My nervousness at directing for "the big stage" (Confed Centre) being over, a lot of nifty ideas seemed to come easily -- not all of which the stage manager, Wallena Higgins, would let me do.
Why I Love It: It's theatah dahling -- the chills, the thrills, the spills. I do think that amateur theatre is quite important in a community. And it's probably about 95% of all the theatre there is in the world, and is experienced in the world. In short it IS theatre, and not to be sneered at because it does not meet the high standards of professional companies, which relatively few people ever go to see (I'm not talking about musicals.) Actually it can sometimes exceed the professionals, in my experience.
ACT’s impact on me: It has enlarged my idea of what I can do, and given me a lot of friends.
ACT’s impact on PEI: Hard to say. One small but important thing is that we are constantly lending costumes, props, and set pieces to other companies, and glad to do so. ACT is an example of the fact that you can live in a small place and think big. Never say, "It can't be done here." (Well ... you can say it if it's e-gambling.)
1st ACT credit: Our Town (Mrs. Webb, 1995)
Favourite ACT production: Wit (2000)
Why I Love It: A huge challenge personally, and given the subject matter, a challege for audiences as well who may have been a bit too comfortable with musical and comedic offerings -a more pleasant night at the theatre. We proved to ourselves and others that we could present more challenging theatre works to audiences and create opportunities for more "serious" works in future, i.e. Doubt: a parable, Proof, Waiting for Godot and The Crucible. Pretty impressive.
ACT’s impact on me: The impact of ACT on me personally has been impressive. I have been so fortunate to have been cast in shows that have pushed me beyond my comfort zone ...to create characters that made me grow, I hope, as both a person and a performer. I have met so many people who share the same passion and were willing to commit to the tasks at hand in all their many forms.And I've done a little bit of everything over the years... actor, props, painting, costuming, front of house, learning in the fullest sense what teamwork is required to make the "magic" happen. There truly is a place for everybody!
ACT’s impact on PEI: ACT's impact on PEI has I think been immense. Aside from producing diverse theatre of a high standard, ACT has been instrumental in renewing the Community Theatre Festival, lending costumes, sets and props to other theatre groups, providing resources of various kind or simply encouraging the individual or other groups to follow their passion and their hearts. There have been new theatre companies created on the Island and new careers launched in all disciplines of theatre and if you look carefully, ACT was very often a contributing factor. Perhaps best of all, ACT creates opportunities...to discover who you are or who you want to be...and within a nurturing and supportive environment. What more could you ask for?
In answer to my own question ...an audience! It means even more when you share the experience with others who care. One of the most satisfying comments I hear is ...what is ACT doing next? Stay posted...We'd be happy to tell you!!!
Greg Stapleton (Eastlink Customer Experience Manager)
1st ACT credit: Our Town (George Gibbs, 1995)
Favourite ACT production: Too many to name... All of them. But a couple favourites of mine are a tie between The Foreigner & Noises Off (1995 & 1996).
Why I Love It: I loved the Foreigner because it allowed us all to see that Dave Sherren wasn't just an amazing Director, but was just as outstanding on the stage as well as Charlie Baker. He was so incredible to be on stage with and see his energy at that level.
Noises Off was just a great show through and through. Acting on stage with my good friend Ed Rashed is always a highlight of any acting I have ever done. The play within a play was one of the most challenging shows I have ever done and I felt was one of ACT's greats shows to date.
ACT’s impact on me: As I stated above, if it wasn't for Dave Sherren and ACT I would not have done the amount of acting I have done in my life. It has allowed me to be some pretty amazing characters on some incredible stages with some even more incredible people. People that I will share a special connection and bond with for the rest of my life.
ACT’s impact on PEI: A Community Theatre on PEI has grown so huge and has prospered over 20 years from a small group of people doing a read through of Our Town to now over 50 shows. Its involvement in the community has been a stepping stone for so many great performers in many different facets of theatre & performing [and] is a testament to how great Community Theatre really is. It is one of the things I am most proud to have been a founding member and [to] continue to be a part of [ACT] 20 years later.
Jonathan Stewart (Freelance Writer)
1st ACT credit: Four Cornered Couch (Hotel Clerk, 1998)
Favourite ACT production: Don't make me choose! But, let's go with the Four Cornered Couch.
Why I Love It: I thought I was a particularly sophisticated and worldly 17 year-old when I was cast in the sex farce The Four Cornered Couch. Looking back I realize I only got about 10% of the sex jokes in the play. However, rubbing Kirk MacKinnon's nipples on stage was probably the first time in my life I got to first base...so that's a life milestone right there.
A close second was Julius Caesar (2000): Shakespeare and Gangsters! Plus, that matinee when the gun sound effect didn't go off and I was wondering if the conspirators would have to bludgeon Caesar to death.
ACT’s impact on me: Essential. ACT and the PEI Theatre scene gave me the confidence to try anything and to pursue what I wanted in life.
ACT's impact on PEI theatre: Essential. PEI is a special place for the arts. ACT plays an essential role in building community, training artists, and making the Island a unique and fun place.
Rob Thomson (former government law-writer and bureaucrat)
1st ACT credit: Our Town (Mr. Webb, 1995)
Favourite ACT production: Maybe The Rocky Horror Show (2010)
Why I Love It: I got to wear red fishnet stockings (in public).
ACT’s impact on me: Most of my best friends I linked up with through putting on those shows. A sense of achievement - unlike many government committees, we (our production teams) were actually productive: there was always great cooperation, will-do delivery of tasks undertaken, and we made something good happen.
ACT’s impact on PEI: Good-quality theatrical entertainment of all kinds -- belly-laugh comedy, music, mystery, provocation of serious thought ... for who-knows-how-many thousands of audience members.
Bonus Memories: Cutting-it-fine costuming: The Crucible - Karen MacPhee finally getting my buttons sewn on between the first and second act of the first performance
Non-functioning set piece: Jesus Christ Superstar - the rope with which we were to bind Jesus for his scourging was caught in the wing and so was a metre too short ... I had to hold it with one hand and grasp Jesus' hand with my other hand.