Get In On the Panel

Newcomers in the Performing Arts; A Panel Discussion will be held on Friday, March 10th at 2pm in the Rotary Auditorium at the Charlottetown Library Learning Centre with an important conversation between mediator, Mark Carr-Rollitt (Transform Events & Consulting, DiverseCity) and a panel of local immigrant Performing Arts professionals. There will also be light refreshments and entertainment. Looking forward to seeing you all there as we work to bridge the gap of connection and communication between the performing arts and newcomer communities🎭

Theatre PEI

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Birds of a Feather

The Second Annual Watermark Children’s Theatre Festival
 
Two productions will be featured in the Second Annual Watermark Children’s Theatre Festival this Spring. Birds of a Feather by Robert Watson, produced by Neptune TourCo of Halifax, from March 31st to April 2nd, and What If by Katey Hoffman, produced by Geordie Theatre of Montreal from April 14th to 16th. Both plays are for ages 5+ with tickets costing $8 for students and $12 for adults. All shows are at 1:00PM.
 
Birds of A Feather is a play about two youngsters who meet in Hawaii and discover they share a love for the wildlife around them. Through dance and make believe Violet and Sarah learn that birds come in all sorts of varieties; just like families. As they observe the lives of two playful albatross, the youngsters learn about compromise, believing in yourself, and that family is made up of the people you love. Directed by Rebecca Wolfe, starring Ella MacDonald and Moneesha Bakshi, designed by Lucas Arab, Kaelen MacDonald, and Ryan Rafuse.
 
What If tells the story of Nicky, who wakes up every day with knots in her stomach and worries in her brain. While most kids can’t wait for recess so they can hit the playground, anxious Nicky would rather spend her time safely hidden away in the school’s sick room with her Big Book of Birds. In the sick room, Nicky can enjoy her routine in peace and quiet – but when Milo, a rambunctious boy with diabetes, comes barreling into her life, Nicky’s peace and quiet turns to chaos! At first, these polar opposites’ worlds collide, but as time goes on, cautious Nicky and adventurous Milo both come to discover they may have more to learn from each other than they think. Directed by Amanda Kellock and starring Symantha Stewart and Jackson Thouret.
 
Tickets can be purchased at http://www.ticketwizard.ca or by calling the box office at 902-963-3963.
 
For more information please contact Lara Dias at 902-963-3963 or admin@watermarktheatre.com
 
Watermark Theatre
57 Church Hill Ave                
North Rustico, PE                
C0A 1X0           
(902) 963-3963
http://www.watermarktheatre.com

Theatre PEI

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Dead Man’s Curve

By Ed Staskus

   Maggie Campbell was almost 22 years-old the morning she drove face first into a cement truck. She was driving a yellow 1973 coupe a girlfriend of hers at the Bay Deli, where they both worked, had sold her for one hundred and eighty-five dollars in cash. It was a rust bucket, but it was a Jap car so the two hundred thousand miles on it hadn’t made a dent in it running, at least not yet.

   She had gotten up late that frosty spring morning and shoveled down a Fudgsicle, a hot dog, and a cup of joe for breakfast. “I better go,” she said to herself, throwing the Fudgsicle stick in the trash with the other Fudgsicle sticks.

   Her roommate and she were sharing a small house on Schwartz Road behind St. John’s West Shore Hospital in Westlake. She was late for class at the Fairview Beauty Academy. She bolted out to the car. When she got into it, she couldn’t wait for the front window to defrost more than the small square absolutely needed to look through. She was squinting through one square inch of windshield taking the curve at Excalibur Ave. and bopping to Jan and Dean on the radio.

   “It’s no place to play, you’d best keep away, I can hear ’em say, won’t come back from Dead Man’s Curve.”

   “I never touched the brakes,” she said after hitting the cement truck headlong.

   The truck was parked on her side of the street. The front end was facing her. That was the first surprise. She knew she was on the right side of the street as she came around the curve since she could see full well out her driver’s side window. At first, Maggie didn’t know what happened. The second surprise was that when she tried to get out of her car she couldn’t move. When she looked down to see why she couldn’t move she saw the steering wheel jammed into her legs. She was sandwiched between the wheel and the seat. Some days you are the dog and other days you are the fire hydrant.

   She finally got out of the car by swinging one and then the other leg over the steering wheel. Standing next to her coupe, looking at the man suddenly standing in front of her, she realized why no one had come to help her. He was white as a ghost. The rest of the cement men behind him looked like they were looking at a ghost, too. They thought she had died in the car, which had turned into scrap metal in an instant.

   “I tried to wave you off,” one of them said.

   “Hey, here’s a clue, bub, I didn’t see you and I didn’t see the truck,” she said. “Thanks for the heads up, but I didn’t see anything.” The next thing she knew a woman walked up to her and shoved Kleenex up her nose.

   “You better sit down,” she said.

   “That’s OK,” Maggie said. “I’m good. Besides, I’ve got to get to school.”

   “No, you better sit down. I’ve called an ambulance. They should be here in just a minute.”

   “Seriously, thanks, but no. I just bumped my nose.”

   She sat Maggie down. When she did Maggie’s white beauty school skirt rode up and she saw her mangled knees. The skirt was bleeding.

   The convertor radio underneath the dash had slammed into them. Even though she couldn’t feel anything bad, she could see shinbones and a thighbone. That looks bad, she thought. It had only been a minute since she had gotten out of the car. The front end of it was jack-knifed. She left patches of raw skin behind her on the front seat. 

   It was when the excitement was over that she went for real. She lost her eyesight. It was her next-to-last surprise. She blinked. It didn’t help. She blinked again. It still didn’t help.

   “Everything’s gone fuzzy, like an old TV on the fritz.”

   “Just close your eyes. The paramedics are here.”

   “OK, open your eyes,” one of the paramedics said.

   “Are they open?” she asked.

   “Yeah,” he said.

   “Are you sure? I can’t see anything.”

   “Is it like in a closet, or more like the basement, with the lights all out?”

   “A closet or a basement? What kind of as question is that? Oh, my God, you are such a smart ass. Who sits in a dark closet except crazy people?”

   They laid her down and out in the ambulance and, suddenly, her sight came back.

   “It was just the shock,” she told them.

   “Stop self-diagnosing,” the medic said.

   “I was a lifeguard at the Bay Pool. I know my stuff!”

   St John’s West Shore Hospital must have thought she was younger than she was. Underage is what they thought, so they called her parents. Her mom was on the way, they said. It was Maggie’s last surprise.

   “You did what? You called who? I’m 21-years-old. You didn’t need to call my parents.”

   “It’s done.”

   “You rat bastards!” Maggie was beyond mad. She hadn’t talked to either of her parents for more than a year. “Fuck off and die” had been the last thing she had said to them.

   She planned on moving out as soon she turned 21, but her dad didn’t want her to grow up or move out. Maggie wanted both, to be 21 and gone. Her parents wanted her out, too, but they didn’t want her to go, either. When she told them she would be leaving the day of her birthday, first, they slapped the crap out of her, and then they threw her out of the house. She had no money, no clothes, and nowhere to go.

   She called her dad from a phone booth about picking up her clothes.

   “If you come grovel for them, you can get them out of the trash,” he said.

   “You keep them, dad, because I’m not going to grovel.”

   At the very least they raised a true-blue Scottish kid, Maggie thought. She never knew if her dad really threw her clothes in the trash because she never called or went back, at least not for the clothes.

   Her mom burst through the emergency room door at St. John’s at the same time as her dad got her on the phone. Before that she had been joking with the doctors, saying she cut her legs shaving.

   “Oh, my God, look at her legs!” her mom started shouting.

   “Who let that woman in here?” Maggie blew up.

   “Who’s the president?” her dad asked over and over on the phone until the line went dead. The next thing she knew her whole family, sisters, brother, her dad rushing in from work, were all in the room, and then the adrenaline started to wear off fast. She had been laying there, not too panicked, and suddenly her constitutional joy juice was all gone. She hurt like hell. She went banshee.

   AAARRRGHHHHHH!!

   Her younger sister started crying and everybody got so upset about her crying that they put her in her dad’s lap. Her mom stroked her hair. Maggie was left on her back on the table in pain and agony, ignored and all alone until a nurse finally wheeled her away to surgery. No one noticed she was gone.

   At the end of the day, what happened wasn’t off the charts. She broke her nose and had two black eyes along with a concussion. One of her teeth was loose. She hurt both of her knees. One of them had to be operated on. She was released three days later. A policemen told her afterwards if she had hit the back of the cement truck instead of the front she would have been decapitated.

   If that had happened and she had been driving a rag top instead of her hard shell, then “HEADLESS GIRL IN TOPLESS CAR” would have been the headline on the front page of the next day’s West Life News. As it happened, she ended up in the middle of the back page.

Ed Staskus posts on 147 Stanley Street http://www.147stanleystreet.com and Made in Cleveland http://www.clevelandohiodaybook.com. To get the site’s monthly feature in your in-box click on “Follow.”

The Sooner the Better

 the lifeline for Canada’s entertainment industry

The Reactivation program deadline is Friday, March 10, 2023! If you work in live performing arts, $2,500 may be available for you. Apply today – the application has been simplified and is easier than ever – https://www.artsreactivation.ca/.

La date limite pour appliquer au Programme de réactivation de l’AFC est le 10 mars prochain ! Si vous travaillez dans le domaine des arts de la scène, vous pourriez recevoir 2500$. Soumettez une demande dès maintenant. Le processus a été simplifie pour le rendre plus accessible – https://www.reactivationdesarts.ca/.

The Reactivation Program is funded by Canadian Heritage.

Le Programme de réactivation est financé par Patrimoine canadien.

Theatre PEI

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Thanks for the Submissions

The application for 2023’s Island Fringe Festival is now closed.

We had a record number of submissions this year—we wan to share a huge THANK YOU to all who applied to be part of IFF2023!

Draw took place on Islander Day, February 20 with notifications being posted and sent out shortly after.

The 2023 Island Fringe Festival is scheduled to take place August 2-7. Hope to see you there!

Theatre PEI

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It Takes 2 to Tango

By Ed Staskus

   “I’ve always been obsessed by weddings,” said Marsha Weeks. “I used to buy wedding magazines when I was 7-years-old and dream about planning a wedding.” We have to dream before our dreams come true.

   Most kids don’t grow up to be the firemen and rock stars, much less the heroes and explorers they dreamt about. It’s a long shot when it comes to becoming a hero, or even a wedding planner. Most children, because of ups and downs, twists and turns, turn out becoming and doing something else, mechanics, working in stores, teachers, and doctors.  

   Marsha Weeks grew up in Fredericton, a small community in Queens County on Prince Edward Island. The province is Canada’s most bantam, made up of only three counties. It is the only province with a capital that isn’t a metropolis. Most islanders live in the country and small towns.

   After graduating from high school, she moved west, almost three thousand miles west, enrolling at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. She stayed for ten years. “I did hospitality management and managed restaurants,” she said. When she moved back to PEI she worked in hotels in Charlottetown, the capital, then went into sales and marketing at the Stanley Bridge Resort, not far from where she grew up.

   “I now work for the Children’s Wish Foundation,” she said. She is a wish coordinator. “We grant wishes to children from the ages of 3 to 17 who have been diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses.” Founded in 1983, the charitable organization has chapters in every province and territory of Canada. It has granted more than 25,000 wishes. The most popular ones include travel and meeting celebrities.

   Super-heroes are splashed across the pages of comic books and IMAX screens, battling super-villains and saving the world. Real heroes are usually real people helping another real person. She helps kids hitch their wagons to a shooting star.

   She also helps grown-ups get hitched to their sweethearts. Since returning to Prince Edward Island, she has become a licensed marriage commissioner and officiant. Dreaming about weddings and watching re-runs of “Say Yes to the Dress” has finally paid off.  

   “The provincial government started licensing it in 2006, because there was a demand for same-sex marriages,” said Marsha. “There was the church, too, which doesn’t allow marriages outside of the church. A priest wouldn’t be allowed to marry somebody on the beach.”

   When 90 people flew to the island last summer for the wedding of Matthew MacDonald and Katie Shaver, they landed at a wedding officiated by Marsha Weeks and staged on a red cliff overlooking the Northumberland Straight. “It was important to us to showcase the island and have a real east coast feel,” said Katie.  

   “We were blessed with perfect weather, a great late summer PEI day!” 

   Although you have to take the birds and bees into consideration, as well as inclement weather and the buffet table surviving the wind, nothing beats tying the knot outdoors. Unless you mistake the lay of the land and your car gets waylaid. “Someone from Ontario coming to a wedding here decided to drive over the dunes on to the beach,” said Marsha. “They got stuck in the sand and had to be towed out.”

   In any event, the flowers are already there – pink and purple lupins line the fields, roads, and ditches in June and July – and your photos will look great.

   Almost 900 marriage certificates were issued in the province in 2018, according to PEI Vital Statistics, nearly 400 of them going to couples with a relationship to the island, but not necessarily living there. The Marriage Act was simplified in 2016, allowing people off-island to wed with passports alone, doing away with the need for birth certificates. There are almost one hundred marriage commissioners licensed to conduct a legal marriage ceremony. Marsha Weeks is one of the busiest of them.

   One summer day last year she officiated five weddings on one Saturday.

   “I started at Cavendish, a destination wedding, went to Fox Meadows Golf Course, a farmer’s field in Brookfield, into the woods at Clinton Hills, and ended up on a back road on the Trout River, at a private residence.” 

   For once, she hired somebody to drive her. “I didn’t want to risk being late, and I wanted to be able to give them as much attention as I could,’ she said. “I didn’t want to just jump out in time for their ‘I do’s’”

   It isn’t only traditional wedding season bells, either.

   “I officiated a large wedding in western PEI,” she said. “The bride and groom chose to incorporate their children with a sand ceremony to symbolize the blending of their two families into one and presented the children with necklaces as their own special gifts. It was a reflection on how important a big happy family meant to the couple.”

    Most people, as recently as ten years ago, used to get married in a church. Nowadays most people get married in a civil ceremony. “I think it’s going to continue that way,” said fellow commissioner Marlo Dodge. “You can get married wherever you want, whenever you want. You can tailor the ceremony to the way you want.”

   So long as you include the legal parts, you can write your own ceremony. 

   Not many people, however, write their own music. There are scores of wedding ceremony songs, from the traditional to the modern. “All You Need Is Love” by the ever-popular Beatles is still popular, as are Josh Groban’s “The Prayer” and “Fairytale” by Enya. “The Wedding March” by Felix Mendelssohn has stayed a Top 10 on the soul music charts since it was first played in 1858 as a recessional for a royal wedding.

   Marsha started making soul music on her own when she moved back to Prince Edward Island. She had gotten the hang of the pump organ as a tot sitting at her grandmother’s feet. “One of the fondest memories I have growing up is of her playing hymns. She loved playing for herself. I’m like that. I get something out of it on the inside.” She started taking fiddle lessons six years ago from Gary Chipman.

   “Someone recommended him,” she said.

   She couldn’t have tied the bowstring knot with anybody better. Gary Chipman learned to play the fiddle when he was 5 years old. His father, a well-known Charlottetown-area fiddler, taught him his first tunes. By the 1960s he was being featured at local dance halls. He toured with Stompin’ Don Connors and is well known for his down east Don Messer style of fiddling.

   “The Cape Breton style is rhythmic, with Scottish cuts,” said Marsha. “The down east style is melodic, it flows, it’s a lot faster.” If Don Messer played with little ornamentation and great assurance, Gary Chipman plays with expressiveness and great assurance.

   “I was taking lessons from him, but I had not heard him play,” said Marsha. She heard him one afternoon at Remembrance Day. “I couldn’t see the stage, but I could hear a person playing. That is amazing, I thought. Who is playing that fiddle?”

   It was her music teacher. She had only ever heard him play scales. She didn’t know he had played on the folk musical TV variety show “Don Messer’s Jubilee” when he was still a youngster. “My chest swelled so much I thought it would burst, it was so exciting,” said Gary. The half-hour show at the time was second in viewership only to “Hockey Night in Canada.”

   “These are the good old days, today,” said Gary. “I’m going to keep playing until I can’t play anymore.” What Louis Armstrong said is, “Musicians don’t retire. They only stop when there’s no more music in them.”

   “The Don Messer show was near and dear to a lot of people in Atlantic Canada,” said Marsha. ”When they cancelled it, there was a huge protest. Not riots, but a huge uproar.”

   Since brainstorming is the marriage of ideas, Marsha put on her thinking cap. She went to the beach on the national seashore. She went for a walk by herself. She went home and took a hot shower. It’s where some people do their best thinking. She let her thoughts take center stage. 

   “I’ve always had an element of promotions and event planning in my career. Gary’s natural ability to play music, my entrepreneurial spirit, it was a kind of natural fusion, and I decided I wanted to organize a show.”

   They put together a performance, and then did another one, and ”it kind of blossomed after that.” They spent two seasons doing shows at Avonlea Village and two seasons after that at Stanley Bridge. 

   Avonlea Village is in Cavendish, the small town that Lucy Maud Montgomery called Avonlea in “Anne of Green Gables.” It is a re-creation of the 19th century village, merging purpose-built with heritage buildings. The Women’s Institute in Stanley Bridge is 4 miles up the main drag on Route 6. There are ceilidhs at the community hall six days a week in the summer. 

   “The Stanley Bridge hall has such a soul,” said Marsha.

   Two years ago Gary Chipman spent summer nights there playing with Keelin Wedge, a hairpin turns wizard on the fiddle, and Kevin Chaisson. Last year he played Mondays with the Chaisson Family Trio and Wednesdays with the Arsenault Trio. Jordan Chowden, a world-class step-dancer, made the stage boards go percussive. The Chaisson’s from Bear River have deep roots in PEI’s music scene They are part of the spearhead keeping traditional fiddling alive and well on the island.

   Marsha hosted the shows, joining in when the opportunity arose, although keeping up with the Arsenault’s was no mean feat.

    “Their liveliness is amazing,” she said. “If we are playing ‘St Anne’s Reel,’ they definitely add more notes to it. They put their own spin on everything. It’s their Acadian style and it’s fast.” 

   Before the shows Marsha does all of the social media, organizes the schedule, takes notes during rehearsals, and types up the play list in capital letters. She makes sure the doors of the hall are open, the lights are on, and the soundboard is right on.  “I’m always so proud to hand them their play list, although by the end of the night they might have done only a few songs on the page,” she said. “It’s just the way it is. Most of the time it works.”

   During the shows Marsha is the emcee and stage manager. “Everybody likes the sound of their instruments through the monitors a certain way. They’ve got to have water. Gary has to have his guitar on his right side, or else he gets all tangled up.”

   She is also the timekeeper. “It seems like I’m the boss of it, but that’s only because they never think to look at the clock. They would keep going all night if they could. Gary is the biggest offender. I don’t necessarily want the music to stop, either, but I’m the one who knows the show has to end at 9:30.”

   Marsha’s own fiddle has become an extension of her. “I understand now what I was missing,” she said. “It’s a part of me, a part of who I am. It’s a part of what makes myself me. You don’t have to be the best. You just have to feel it.”

   It’s her own soul music.

   “I make soul music,” explained Louis Kevin Celestin, a Montreal DJ and partner in the hip hop duo the Celestics. “I don’t think of it as a genre. It’s more of a feeling.” 

   “Don Messer was my idol when I was a kid,” said Gary Chipman. “I thought his band was the best kind in the world.  I had a dream of doing my own tribute show.”

   The dream came true in 2015 when he did a tribute show at Winsloe United Church, on the road between Oyster Bed Bridge and Charlottetown. Gary’s daughter was in the band and the Charlotte Twirlers, a square dance group, hoofed it up.

   Two years later Marsha and Gary took “A PEI Salute to the Music of Don Messer and His Islanders” farther down the road. They took the toe-tapping jigs and reels to National Fiddling Day in Charlottetown and the Harbourfront Theatre in Summerside. They took the show to Harvey, New Brunswick, Don Messer’s hometown.

   “It’s of real sentimental importance to me, having tried to emulate the sounds of Don Messer my entire fiddling career,” said Gary. 

   “The older the fiddle, the sweeter the sound,” is what they say.

    In September 2017 they took the show to Walter’s Dinner Theatre in Bright, Ontario. “I didn’t even know where Bright was, but we found it,” said Gary. When they got there, they sold out all the nine performances they did during their week’s run at the show hall and watering hole.

   “Gary plays old tunes in new ways,” said Marsha. “He’s the real deal. He puts his own twist on things.” 

   Sometimes Marsha puts her own twist on weddings. Sometimes stepping up to the altar and step dancing happen all on the same day. Sometimes somebody’s first dance is in the center aisle at the Stanley Bridge community hall, to the soul music of three or four island fiddlers getting the action going.

   “There were the two moms, the couple, their son, and me,” said Marsha. “It was an intimate wedding.” The couple from Alberta had come especially to PEI the middle of last summer to get married. 

   “I try to personalize it. I want them to have an amazing experience when they’re making their forever promises to each other.” There’s a diverse high kind of happiness in commitment. The first event many couples plan together is their wedding. There’s nothing unfun about it, either.

   “Marsha brought a genuine joyful vibe that is priceless. We felt she was truly happy for us. We are so glad we chose her to officiate our ceremony. That joy is something one can’t pay for.“

   Even though the sunny season is generally mild thanks to the warm water out in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, summer is short, and winter is long on Prince Edward Island. When it starts to snow it lasts until April. Harbors can be frozen solid into May. 

   “I’m a bit of an old soul,” she said. “I work full-time, but in the winter, I slow down and recharge. I write, do projects, and plan for the spring. I practice my fiddle. I practice every day.” Winter is when wishes are made and organized and saved up.

   “If I could just do weddings and fiddles all the time, it would be my perfect life,” said Marsha Weeks.

Ed Staskus edits Theatre PEI. He posts stories on 147 Stanley Street http://www.147stanleystreet.com and Cleveland Ohio Daybook http://www.clevelandohiodaybook.com.

Theatre PEI

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Working Under the Spire

📣We’re hiring an Office Manager! 💼 If you have administration experience, don’t mind wearing multiple hats, and are passionate about the arts, this is the job for you!

– Part-time (15-20 hours/week)

– $23/hour

– Benefits: 5 days paid sick leave, 2 weeks paid vacation, various tickets for events and concerts through the Festival Season

View the full job posting here: https://bit.ly/3HGtrSs

Theatre PEI

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