Down Home at the Harbourfront

Chiquésa is an all-female group from the Franco-Acadian community of Prince Edward Island, La Région Évangéline. While the group officially disbanded in 2007, they do still play selected engagements. These ladies blend rich harmonies and toe tapping tunes with a warm, unique style that make the music of Acadie come alive.

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Their repertoire is primarily comprised of French-traditional and Acadian songs, complemented by their own arrangements of contemporary and original pieces. They create an original blend that audiences find both enchanting and captivating.

With four lead vocalists, Chiquésa has proven that they can not only sing, but know how to sing as a group intertwining each other’s original vocals with effortless grace into a whirlwind of harmony. Throw in some energetic fiddling and dance and you’ve got the recipe for a great down-home Acadian soirée full of surprises!

Chiquesa is at the Harbourfront Theatre on Wednesday, August 31.

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Rhythm Boys Roll Into Victoria

With flashes of flair and fancy footwork, and a blatant disregard for predictable stage presence, Prince Edward Island’s Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys deliver an ultimate concert experience filled with high-energy electrifying entertainment.

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With a slight bend of his knee, Gordie launches into a song. Guided by the sharp cuts of his fiddle, his famous crazy legs shake and twist with a laughing regard for physics. The whole time The Rhythm Boys deliver surefooted roots instrumentation to accompany the spectacle.

Gordie and the band are at the top of today’s vibrant old-time musical revival and are a mighty fine example of what an unending revival it is.

“This band is a real breath of fresh air and fun. Given the generic ‘roots’ label, there are heavy influences of bluegrass, western swing, Celtic and even Scottish country dance music in here. It all adds up to a mighty fine package.” – Maverick Magazine, UK.

The Rhythm Boys are at the Victoria Playhouse on August 29.

Guild Goes Wild

Performers from The Guild Summer Festival and The Guild staff will take the stage on Saturday, August 27th, 2016 for the the annual Guild Gone Wild Variety Show. This star­studded night will feature show­stopping singing, dancing, and more, all performed by some of the most talented performers from our island, and across the country!

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After the success of previous Guild Gone Wild variety shows, we’re very excited to bring back another this year! With so many talented performers and musicians, you won’t want to miss it! This show is a great way for audiences to see The Guild Summer Festival casts, from a variety of shows and backgrounds, perform something different.

We’ve got everything from Madonna, to ukulele, to step­dancing, and of course, musical theatre! We’ve also got a few surprises in store and a few special guests as well! This show is not to be missed!

Every Little Bit Helps

Watermark Raises $1,176.75 for the Actors Fund of Canada

Watermark Theatre is proud to announce that $1,176.75 was raised this week through audience collections and company member contributions for the Actors Fund Of Canada (AFC). Generous audience members of Blithe Spirit on August 22nd and The Glass Menagerie on August 23rd reached into their pockets and donated to an extremely important organization to actors across the country. Cast, crew, and administrators at the theatre also contributed.

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The AFC is the lifeline for Canada’s entertainment industry. Through compassionate and confidential support, the organization helps Canadian entertainment professionals maintain their health, dignity and ability to work. The AFC is an expression of the community’s good will, helping entertainment professionals when they are at their most vulnerable due to injury, illness or other personal hardship.

In the past 24 months, The AFC has distributed over $1 million in emergency financial aid to help entertainment professionals working in all aspects of theatre, film & TV, music, and dance. The AFC believes by supporting the health and well-being of arts and entertainment professionals, the industry as a whole will benefit. In a sector in which employment can be unpredictable, it’s good to know that a caring community is looking out for their most vulnerable.

Artistic Director Robert Tsonos shared his personal story with audiences of how the AFC helped him over 20 years ago when he was a young actor struggling with a medical emergency. “I needed an MRI scan and in Ontario at that time there was an eleven month wait, so my doctor recommended I go to Buffalo, New York to get a scan right away. The cost was $600, and to a young actor just starting his career this was an enormous amount of money. I applied to the AFC and they helped pay for my trip to Buffalo as well as the medical costs. I was extremely grateful and have been helping to raise money for the organization ever since”.

To donate to the AFC go to http://afchelps.ca.

All In, and the Dog, Too

For five decades and counting, The Charlottetown Festival has always been a tight-knit community, and this year’s cast and company is no exception. Several family connections can be found across this summer’s playbill, including Mamma Mia! star Eliza-Jane Scott and her young son, Ducolon Banville, who joins her as a Child of Avonlea in Anne of Green Gables—The Musical™. David Cotton, who plays husband-to-be Sky in Mamma Mia!, has enjoyed the summer alongside his actual wife, Sarah Vance in both mainstage productions. The Spoon River company featured two husband and wife teams: new ‘Islanders By Choice,’ Matt Campbell and Alicia Toner, as well as Brendan Wall and Mary Francis Moore.

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The greatest link however, connecting three productions and the summer and fall seasons, is the Guy-McGrath/Phillipson clan. Dora-Award winner Stephen Guy-McGrath splits his time playing Aussie funnyman Bill Anderson in Mamma Mia! and Cecil the Farmer in Anne™. Guy-McGrath is joined by daughter Eleanor Guy in Anne™ who plays his on-stage daughter. Guy-McGrath’s wife Melanie Phillipson also arrived on P.E.I. recently and begins rehearsals this month for the final production of the season, Belles Soeurs: The Musical, opening September 13.

“Coming to the Festival together really strengthens the feeling that already exists of the theatre being a family,” Guy-McGrath offers. “I love walking to work with Eleanor and having a little quiet time before the show. It’s nice to be able to talk to your kid about your work and passion — knowing that they understand it and feel the same way. At the theatre I really try to let her do her own thing. It makes me very proud as a father to watch her navigate a professional environment and display such maturity and discipline. Frankly she’s better behaved then I am!”

Adapted from Michel Tremblay’s internationally acclaimed novel, Belles Soeurs: The Musical is an English-language comedy with an all-female cast and comes to P.E.I. following sold-out runs at the Segal Centre and the NAC. “These beautifully-connected, diverse women share deep bonds rooted in decades of friendship but are also flawed and vulnerable,” Phillipson explains. “It has been so well-received in Montreal and Ottawa and it will be interesting to see how Islanders respond. There is no need to be fearful of anything ‘too French!’ Anyone with a mother, a fondness for storytelling with music, and a nostalgia for Bingo will most certainly enjoy this piece.”

Phillipson is reprising her role as Thérèse Dubuc, a comedic turn that includes caring for her elderly mother, Olivine, and in one unforgettable musical montage, recreating the drama of a Bingo game in slow motion with a giant ball in a hopper. Her past credits include several seasons with the Shaw Festival, as well as Tarragon, Drayton, and others.

“I love that my character is very ‘real’ and not vain or pretentious. I get to channel my grandmother from Saskatchewan who was a very strong-willed, hard-working, stubborn woman who made time for sewing, quilting, gossiping and playing Bingo,” she continues. “I love the aesthetic and era of this piece, 1960’s Montreal, and, truly, the whole 12-member ensemble is incredible.”

Fiddler’s Sons Join the Family

No anniversary is complete without a party! Harbourfront’s 20th Anniversary Gala celebration evening will feature well known Island favourites The Ellis Family Band and Fiddlers’ Sons. Both of these groups have appeared at the theatre numerous times throughout the years and we are excited to have them back.

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The Ellis Family Band, comprised of brothers Rick, Brian, Steve and Dave Ellis and Greg MacDonald, has been a household name across PEI since the 1970′s. In 1983 they set out to Nashville to record their first single, Easy to Love, an instant hit across Canada, leading to a Juno nomination for Top Country Group. Over the next four years they toured extensively and recorded two more albums in Nashville. They had a #1 song, Thank You For Being My Friend, and top ten hits with fan favourites like Summer Nights, Why Am I Still Crying, and arguably their most popular song, Mother of Mine.

Fiddlers’ Sons is currently comprised of Eddy Quinn on lead vocals, John B. Webster on guitar and Keelin Wedge on fiddle, vocals, guitar and bass. Since its inception in 1997 (along with original member, the late Garth Matthews), the group has released several recordings, including the popular All the Way to Cardigan, and won numerous PEI Music Awards for their signature Celtic and roots traditional sound. They currently host the popular Close to the Ground Concert Series at the Kaylee Hall in Poole’s Corner.

An evening of great music, lots of memories and a few surprises are in store, and the celebration will continue after the show at a reception in the theatre lobby.

The Ellis Family Band and Fiddler’s Sons are at the Harbourfront Theatre Wednesday August 24 at 7:30 PM

Dance Umbrella Adds Umbrellas

Kylie Fudge-Jensen is the newest addition to the core teaching team for dance umbrella – a program of Confederation Centre – as well as the Holland College School of Performing Arts (or SoPA), presented in partnership with the Centre. Officials at the Centre are also pleased to announce Sion Irwin-Childs as a guest instructor this week for both children’s camps and evening workshops with adults.

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“I am thrilled to be welcoming these new instructors into our programs,” says Peggy Reddin, Director of Arts Education at Confederation Centre. “Whether it is for workshops of shorter duration or long-term commitment, we strive to enrich the local community by hiring teachers with a depth of training and experience. A fresh perspective and new ideas are always inspiring and exciting for our students.”

Originally from Victoria, B.C., Ms. Fudge-Jensen is a graduate of George Brown Dance and has been performing, choreographing, and teaching in the Toronto area for the past five years. Her specialization is ballet and contemporary with experience in jazz, hip-hop, lyrical, and modern dance. She has a strong base in movement improvisation and dance-for-camera work and in addition to creating her own collection of works, she has performed in solo pieces, duets, and a variety of group work including as backup dancer for international touring artists. “I am thrilled to be starting a new chapter with dance umbrella and SoPA,” she offers, “and am very excited to be back living on an island!”

Mr. Irwin-Childs will be teaching with the Centre’s dance camp from August 22 to 26 and also conducting workshops in the local community, with a focus on choreographic practice. He is a critically acclaimed choreographer, performer, and instructor currently on a coast to coast teaching tour. He carries a dance M.A. as well as an English degree from York University. After many years of teaching dance composition for Ballet Jörgen Canada and George Brown, he recently left to pursue equestrian interests and help nurture dance at a grass-roots level across the country. His touring workshop is based on a highly-rated Ballet Jörgen Canada Summer School series, gleaned from 13 years of experience.

“I have designed my workshops to be broadly inclusive and to require only a willingness to participate,” Irwin-Childs explains. “Students do not have to be fantastic dancers or imagine themselves continuing in dance to find a use for the skills that I bring to the table. My students develop a greater sense of confidence and a strong voice when given an opportunity to assert ownership over their respective skill sets. The positive impact of this outcome has been noticed in other classes, by parents and teachers and this is what I would like to bring to the Centre community.”

dance umbrella and SoPA classes begin the first week of September. For more information on summer dance camps and other arts education programs at Confederation Centre, please contact Kayla Shaw at 902.629.1175 or performingarts@confederationcentre.com, or explore online at confederationcentre.com.