YOUR Harbourfront Theatre is looking beautiful this morning in the winter sun .
YOUR Harbourfront Theatre is looking beautiful this morning in the winter sun .
The secret is out – Tim Baker is joining our LIVE @ the Centre programming!
Bringing “Tim Baker and All Hands” to the stage with the opening performance by Georgia Harmer, they will perform at the Sobey Family Theatre on April 12 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets now available for members! Not a member? Join now for early access – confederationcentre.com/support/membership/
General sale starts on Friday, February 3.
By Ed Staskus
The day push came to shove I had no idea what was going on. I was born 9 months 7 days and some hours after my mom and dad were done with the art of romance on a smile of a summer night. The day before I was born everything was so far so good. I was curled up warm and cozy in my mom’s womb. But before the day ended I was unexpectedly twisting and turning. I was restless all evening. The next thing I knew my mom and dad were in a taxi in the middle of the night on their way to the hospital.
I was born in the Sudbury General Hospital of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Everybody called it ‘The General.’ The hospital had opened the year before. There were 200 beds, and it was modern as could be. The Sisters of St. Joseph used their own money to get northern Ontario’s first English-speaking hospital built. They mortgaged their properties to get the loan for the construction.
“They used to do this cool thing,” Ginette Tobodo, a Sudbury mother, said. “On the walls they painted certain colors, one color for the lab, another color for the cardiac department, and you just followed the color to where you needed to go. It was easy to find your way around.” My dad was sure I was going to be a boy, so he followed the color blue. It took him to the cardiac department where he explained he was going to have a heart attack if he didn’t find the maternity ward.
In the end, when I was born a boy, he was on cloud nine. Courtney Lapointe’s three brothers were born at the same hospital. She was down in the dumps every time. “I wanted a sister so bad, I bawled my eyes out at the hospital when each one of the boys was born.”
Being born is no business for babies. It’s a man’s job. When the squeezing and pushing were all over, and I looked around, I didn’t see anything recognizable. There were plenty of colors and shapes. The colors and shapes moved and made sounds. Everything more than a foot away was a mystery. I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. I was washed and swaddled and went to sleep. After I woke up I wanted to suck on something. When I smelled my mother’s milk I liked the smell and taste of it.
My parents had moved to a new house on a new length of Stanley Street. It was just west of downtown, and dead ended at a cliff face of nearly 2-billion-year-old rock. My mom and dad had emigrated to Canada in the late 1940s, like many other Lithuanians after World War Two. Canada was admitting DP’s who were willing to do the dirty work. My dad was a miner for INCO. He loaded bore holes with black powder charges and stood back. My mom had been a nanny for a family of 13 but was now her own homemaker.
Sudbury is not a large city, but it is the largest city in northern Ontario. It is about 70 miles north of the Georgian Bay and about 250 miles northwest of Toronto. There are 330 lakes within the city limits. It came into being after the discovery of useful ore in 1883. The Canadian Pacific Railway was being constructed when excavations revealed vast stores of nickel and copper on the edge of the Sudbury Basin. Something crashed there from outer space a long time ago. Few craters are as old or as large anywhere on the planet. It wasn’t long before mines were being dug and settlers were arriving to work in the mines. 42,000 people lived there the year I was born.
My first two years of life after coming home were uneventful. In the event, I couldn’t remember much of what happened from day to day, much less the week before. I was like a yogi living in the moment. I was about two and a half years old before I came into my own. I started busting out of my toddler bed so often my dad put a lock on it.
I found out there were rules. One rule was no climbing on the radiators. Another rule was no going into the basement. The basement was where the coal-fired boiler was. A third rule was absolutely no scaling the rock cliffs at the back end of our backyard.
“Behave, or Baubas will come and get you,” my mom repeatedly warned me.
Baubas is an evil spirit from Lithuania with bloodshot eyes, long skinny arms, and wrinkly fingers. He came from the Old World to Canada with the DP’s to keep their kids in line. He wears a dark hat and hides his face. He supposedly slept in our basement behind the octopus furnace. According to my mom he kept a close watch on my behavior. I had never seen him and never wanted to see him. Whenever I balked at eating my beet soup, my mom would knock on the underside of the kitchen table, pretending somebody was knocking on the door, and say, “Here comes Baubas. He must know there’s a child here who won’t eat his soup.”
When I told my friend Lele about Baubas, she laughed and tried to steal my security blanket. Lele lived one block over on Beatty St. We played together every day when we weren’t fighting. Whenever we fought it was always about my blanket. Whenever I was hard on her heels trying to get it back, she waited to the last minute before laughing maniacally, tossing it to the side, and running even faster, knowing full well I would rescue my blanket first before trying to exact revenge on her.
Most of my friends were Lithuanian kids like her. The man who built our house lived across the street in a house he built for his own family. He was French Canadian. Sudbury was the hub of Franco-Ontarian culture. He had two sons who were my age. We ran up and down the street playing make believe. There weren’t many cars and even less traffic. The Palm Dairies milk delivery truck rolled up the street every morning going about 5 MPH. The driver drove standing up. The throttle and brake were on the steering column. Their bottles of chocolate milk had tabs on the top through which a straw could be stuck. In the wintertime we skated in our yards when our fathers flooded them to make rinks. Sometimes in the morning in the sunlight hoarfrost sizzled. We practiced falling down and trying to get back up hundreds of times a day. I only spoke Lithuanian. My two friends spoke French and English. I learned to speak English from them. They said French was for art critics.
They slept over one Monday night when their parents went out to dinner and later to a wrestling match at the INCO Club. Dinty Parks and Rocco Colombo were the gladiators that night. They bumped heads hard in the third round, and both went down. Rocco shook it off but was drop kicked by Dinty when he tried to get up. The next second Dinty got the same treatment from Rocco. It went back and forth, each man pinning the other for a two-count until the referee finally called it a draw. When he did the two wrestlers violated one of the most holy canons of pro wrestling by shaking hands before leaving the ring. Nobody in the audience could believe it.
Sometime after our dinner my two friends showed me what they had brought with them. They were magic markers. We drew a picture of Baubas pierced with arrows. We drew a picture of him running on the Canadian Pacific tracks behind our house being chased by a raging locomotive. We drew a picture of him hitchhiking out of town in the direction of Gogama way up north.
“Do you remember the mean green dinosaur?” my friend Frankie asked. His name was Francois, but he got red in the face whenever anybody called him that. We had seen “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms” earlier that summer at the Regent Theatre on Elm St. We walked there with some older boys and girls and paper bags full of popcorn my mom popped for us. We sat in the front row so we could see as much as possible. The movie was about a hibernating dinosaur woken up by an atomic bomb test. When he wakes up he becomes ferocious. He ends up in New York City where he terrorizes everything and everybody.
When we got tired of drawing pictures they convinced me to strip down to my skivvies and drew wavy lines all over me with a green magic marker. They drew a life-size dot on the tip of my nose. When they heard my mom outside the door the next thing I knew the marker was in my hand and my mom was demanding an explanation from me. I tried to tell her it wasn’t my fault, but my mom had no patience for explaining and complaining.
“Go wash that off,” she said and pointed to the bathroom.
The green marker, however, wouldn’t wash off. The ink was indelible. I called to my friends for help, and although they tried they were more hurt than help. They scrubbed enthusiastically until those parts of me not green were red with irritation. When they were done I was red and green all over.
The tenth or twelfth time I climbed on a chair on the sly to get on top of the radiator to look out the side window was the time I lost my balance and went over the side. I stuck my arm out to break my fall and broke my collarbone. Before I knew it I was on my way back to ‘The General.’ I had to wear a sling for two weeks. That wasn’t the worst of it, though.
My mom never bought anything from the Rawleigh salesman who went door to door selling snake oils. The next time he knocked on our door she did buy something, however. It was a bottle of PolyMusion, a yellow syrup with a horrible orange rind after taste. The Rawleigh man said it was a cure-all. There was no hiding when my mom came looking for me with a tablespoon of the thick liquid. She was nice enough afterwards to serve me blueberries soaking in a bowl of Multi-Milk.
My brother was born when I was a year and a half old. After he got home our mom unretired our enameled diaper pail. When the time came his poop got scooped away and his diapers went into the pail to soak in water and bleach. The pail had a lid. We were thankful for that. When he went off his liquid diet after six months she put him on baby pablum, which was like sweet-tasting instant mashed potatoes.
I was feeling better by Canada Day, what everybody called Firecracker Day. One of the bad boys on Stanley Street got his hands on a pack of Blockbuster firecrackers. They were five inches long and a half inch in diameter. “Do not hold in hand after lighting” was printed on top of the 4-pack. We snuck behind the last house on the other side of the street and behind some bushes at the base of the cliff. One of us had brought an old bushel basket and another of us brought an old teddy bear. The bear had a hard rubber face. We lit a Blockbuster, turned the basket upside down over it, and ran to the side. The Blockbuster blew the basket to smithereens. When it was the teddy bear’s turn we pushed a Blockbuster into a rip in his belly and ran to the side. The blast blew the stuffing out of the bear, which caught fire, some of it starting the bushes on fire. The man who lived in the last house put the fire out with his lawn hose. There was hell to pay up and down Stanley Street that night.
No matter how many times I was warned to stay away from the rock cliffs was as many times I went scuttling up them. There were Canadian Pacific tracks at the top that curled around the backside of Stanley Street. One day I was exploring and lost track of time. My pockets were full of black pebbles by the time I realized what time it was. One of them was different. It was a shiny pinkish gray. Sudbury’s rock, which was everywhere, wasn’t naturally black. It was naturally pale gray. Smelter emissions contain sulphur dioxide and metal particulates. Sulphur dioxide mixed with atmospheric moisture creates acid rain that corrodes rock. A coating of silica gel trapped particulates that coated the rock black as pitch.
I ran home, jumped the railroad tracks, and scrambled down the rock face. When I burst through the back door into the kitchen I saw my mom sitting at the kitchen table. She looked distressed.
“Where have you been?” she asked, angry. “I’ve been looking for you for hours. I was worried sick.” She looked like she wanted to hit me. I pulled the shiny rock from my pocket.
“I was searching for treasure,” I said. “I found this. It’s for you.” After that everything was forgiven, thank God.
The day I screwed up my courage to find out what was down in the basement was the day I turned clumsy stunt man. My dad was blasting rock deep in the mines and my mom was taking a nap on the sofa. My brother was in a rocking baby Moses basket next to the sofa. He had been crying his head off lately and the only thing that stopped the flood of tears was the basket. One of my mom’s arms was over her face and her other arm was unconsciously rocking the basket. I snuck past to the basement door. I quietly opened the door. I took a step down, which turned out to be a misstep, and tumbled down the rest of the stairs to the bottom. When I came to a stop after backflipping the last step I was surprised I hadn’t cried or screamed. I was also surprised to find I was unhurt. I looked in all directions for Baubas. I thought I saw something move in the shadows. I heard hissing and whispering. It felt like something was pulling my hair. I raced back up the stairs and burst into the living room. I was in a cold sweat. My mom was still asleep. My brother opened his eyes and winked at me.
When I looked behind me there was no Baubas anywhere in sight. I closed and fastened the door to make sure. I needed fresh air. I went outside and sat on the front steps. Frankie and his younger brother Johnny came over. Johnny was short for Jean. The towhead had a dime in his hand.
“Look what I found,” he said. A sailboat was on one side of the coin and King George VI was on the other side.
“Let’s go to the candy store,” Frankie said, taking the dime. There was a store around the corner on Elm St.
“There’s a monster in our basement,” I told Frankie and Johnny while we were walking there. “We almost got into a fight.”
“I have nightmares about an unstoppable monster,” Johnny said.
“The way to fight monsters is with your brain, not your fists,” Frankie said.
“How do you do that?” I asked.
“You think up a plan.”
“What’s thinking?” I asked.
“It’s what you do with your brain,” he said. “No problem can stand up to thinking.”
Frankie was almost a year older than me and knew everything. Johnny was half a year younger than me. He didn’t know much. He stared at the dime not in his hand anymore. I liked what Frankie said. I could stay out of the basement but still do battle with scary old Baubas. I couldn’t wait to get home and outwit the monster. I was going to think him back to where he came from.
Ed Staskus edits Theatre PEI. He posts on 147 Stanley Street http://www.147stanleystreet.com and Made in Cleveland http://www.clevelandohiodaybook.com.
Side Hustle is back for another round of hilarious improv comedy at The Guild! Get your tickets now for an evening of fun. Available online at theguildpei.com, over the phone at (902) 620-3333 or drop by the box office at 111 Queen St.
Winner of our PEI Playwriting Competition
We are thrilled to announce that Marlene Campbell is the winner of our PEI Playwriting Competition with her play The Conversation. The honour comes with a $1500 cash prize and a public reading of her play.
Nineteen plays were submitted to the competition by PEI playwrights. The jury for the competition consisted of Santiago Guzmán, Dia Gupta Frid and Watermark’s Artistic Director Robert Tsonos.
The public reading of the play will be held on March 30th at 7:30PM.
The conversation at the supper table between an elderly mother and her caretaking daughter takes an unexpected turn into uncharted territory. In the desire for a real conversation not all of what is revealed is welcomed, but both women realize that time is slipping away taking with it the opportunity for understanding and forgiveness.
Marlene Campbell has written stories since she could hold a pencil. She grew up in Southwest, Lot 16, and now calls Arlington home. She has a degree in political science from UPEI, and has worked as a news reporter, in agriculture, home care, and as a cultural programmer. She has written several books including, Vintage Christmas, and Memories of Christmas. Through her work with Culture Summerside she wrote the book, Lighting the Way: The 100 Year History of Summerside Electric, published in 2021. In her day job she has written two plays, numerous radio dramas, vignettes, and public programs.
An unusual mix of instruments, Pulsart Trio shares a common artistic outlook where music is synonymous with freedom, sharing, and mutual listening.
Come celebrate their latest album, Swing Theory EP (June 2020) at The Mack, March 18 @ 7:30 pm.
For details, visit our website.
: Stéphane Bourgeois
Would you like to get more involved in your local community? Why not consider joining our loyal troupe of volunteers, who keep our building running – it’s a brilliant way to make new friends, learn new skills and support your local theatre.
We have a volunteer training session coming on the evening of Thu 2 Feb, so register before then (form at the below link) and we’ll have you up and running in no time!
Find out more and apply:
By Ed Staskus
It was pitch when Oliver, Emma, and Jimmy the Jet glided onto the campus of Lake Erie College in Painesville. It had taken them a half hour on their roller blades to go the 6 miles from Perry with Jimmy leading the way. He wasn’t winded in the least, although Emma was puffing from fright. Jimmy had broken every State of Ohio and County of Lake and City of Painesville rule of the road.
They went by way of Richmond St., Liberty St., and Washington St. When they got to Gillet St. they swung south until they saw Royce Hall. They took a right and right away saw Old Joe Croaker. He was leaning on a black slab of nothing. When he straightened up he was taller than Oliver and Emma put together. Jimmy rolled to an unlit spot to the side. It wasn’t his duel to the death.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” Old Joe said.
“We’ve been looking for you,” Oliver said.
“All right, sonny boy, now that you’ve found me, what are you going to do about it.”
“I’m going to put you on the first bus back to where you came from.”
“I come from here,” Old Joe said.
“You came from here once, but those days are long gone. Besides, you can’t go back to where you came from because that place doesn’t exist anymore.”
“Hell ain’t disappearing anytime soon,” Old Joe said.
“That’s where you need to go back to,” Oliver said.
“The pit is no good for my constitution, such as it is.” He shrugged and flakes of straw made a halo around his head. They saw exactly what Old Joe meant. Hell was too hot to handle for the likes of what he was made of.
“Does that mean you won’t leave?”
“Not unless you make me, which looks like it it’s not going to happen, you being the young ‘un you are.”
“All right, I challenge you to a knife fight in a phone booth,” Oliver said. “Your machete against my sister’s jackknife.” Emma handed the jackknife to Oliver. Old Joe started laughing. Before long he was laughing like ten thousand maniacs and choking from laughing so hard. Jimmy the Jet gave him a slap on the back. Old Joe coughed, spit out a mouthful of phlegm mixed with dust, and calmed down.
“Boy, you’re blowing hard but you ain’t making any sense. You wouldn’t stand the no-chance of a snowball in hell.”
Oliver rose up to his full height. He stood on a bench and slapped Old Joe across the face, challenging him in a way all men and monsters understood. “Only cowards don’t accept challenges,” he said. “Or would you rather throw words at each other and leave it at that?”
“You have made the last mistake you’re ever going make, sonny boy,” Old Joe said, whipping out his machete and carving pumpkins in the air with it. When a lightning bug flitted past he cut it in half in mid-air without even looking. He plucked a straw out of his sleeve and split is lengthwise with his blade like a razor. “My Spine-Splitter had never failed me,” he said.
Emma pulled her brother aside. “Maybe we should call 911 from that phone booth,” she suggested, nervously looking Old Joe up and down. They could hear Tiberius barking in the distance. “I‘ve got a quarter,” Jimmy said wobbling on his skates. “He can’t be all bad,” Emma added.
“He comes the closest,” Oliver said. “Besides, there’s no jail that can hold Old Joe.” He fixed the scarecrow with a look. “Can I borrow your whetstone?” he asked. When he had it in his hands he used it to sharpen the cutting edge of Emma’s jackknife. The scarecrow watched him with what seemed to be pity in his eyes.
“I’ll take my chances,” Oliver said. “What about you, bird brain? Are you going to stand and deliver, or not?”
Old Joe’s intelligence had been questioned every day every month of every year of his life. He had spent years trying to find the Emerald City, hoping to find a brain, but to no avail. He still didn’t have a single IQ. Even though he was dumb as play dough, he was smart enough to take offense when offense was given. It didn’t matter that it was coming from the mouth of an 8-year-old. He stepped to the door of the phone booth.
“Your days are numbered,” he said looking down at Oliver. “It’s going to be zero hour soon enough.”
“Age before beauty,” Oliver said, gesturing at the phone booth. Old Joe glared at him but stepped into it. The second step was harder than the first one. It was tight quarters for him. When he was inside it took him a few minutes to turn around. When he finally did, hunched over, the top of his head bumping the top of the booth, his elbows smooshed, Oliver stepped in and closed the door. He snapped his jackknife open. The scarecrow brought his machete to bear, except he didn’t.
The machete was bigger than the phone booth was wide. When Old Joe tried to pivot the blade, it got stuck. When he yanked on it, it stayed wedged in place. No matter what he tried he couldn’t get it free. He looked down at the towhead who was slicing open the legs of his pants and pulling straw out. It didn’t take long before Old Joe’s legs looked like toothpicks. He soon didn’t have enough strength in them to stay standing. He didn’t like the looks of what was happening. He began to collapse in slow motion. When he did Oliver started pulling straw out of the rest of him. Old Joe grimly realized the jam he was in.
“Give me a break,” he said.
“We’re not going to give you the skin off a grape,” Oliver retorted.
The scarecrow tried beating Oliver with his arms. Tiberius ran up barking like a mad dog and ripped one of his arms off. Old Joe tried to clobber the dog with his remaining arm. Tiberius sank his teeth into it and ripped it off like he had the other one. Old Joe tried to bite Tiberius, who shrugged it off. He got what was left of the scarecrow by the back of the neck and dragged him out of the phone booth. He shook him, straw flying in all directions, until there was hardly anything left of Old Joe except a snarl.
“I can do better than that by a country mile,” Tiberius said, and unleashed a snarl to make all dogs proud. The scarecrow groaned. “Is this the end of Old Joe?” he asked, bitter and exhausted. Emma walked up with the box of kitchen matches Oliver had entrusted her with. Oliver gave the jackknife back to his sister and lit a match. There was straw scattered everywhere. It caught fire. Oliver lit another match. More straw got fire. Before long all of Old Joe was on fire. He stank like armpits and sulphur.
Oliver, Emma, and Jimmy the Jet stood back and watched the fire burn itself out. Oliver rubbed Tiberius’s head. The dog purred like a cat taking a nap. Before long there were only ashes where there had once been a fearsome spook.
“He brought it on himself,” Oliver said, lacing up his roller blades. Emma laced her skates up, too, as did Jimmy. It was getting near to morning.
“How did you know a knife fight in a phone booth was going to get it done?” she asked her little brother.
“I didn’t, at least, not exactly,” Oliver said. “You never know where you are going to end up, but you’ve got to be ready to make it happen when you get there.”
Ed Staskus edits Theatre PEI. He posts stories on 147 Stanley Street http://www.147stanleystreet.com and Cleveland Ohio Daybook http://www.clevelandohiodaybook.com.
Looking to nurture your child’s interest in arts? Sign them up for our Winter Break Art Camps!
Week 1 | February 21 – February 24
Week 2 | February 27 – March 3
Visit our website for more details – confederationcentre.com/winterbreakcamps/