All posts by Edward Staskus

Edward Staskus is a freelance writer from Sudbury, Ontario, and lives in Lakewood, Ohio.

Love Junkies Are Here

We are thrilled to be hosting a spectacular soiree in support of Santa’s Angels. Join us on Thursday, December 8th at The Guild for an evening of entertainment and giving, featuring special musical guests the Love Junkies. Doors and reception at 6:30pm. Tickets are $50 with all proceeds going to Santa’s Angels. Tickets are available online at theguildpei.com, over the phone at (902) 620-3333 or in person at 111 Queen street.

The Guild will also serve as the toy drop-off location for Santa’s Angels. From now until December 21st drop off new, unwrapped toys at the Guild box office.

An Exciting New Time

The Victoria Playhouse Board of Directors is excited to announce the appointment of Johanna Nutter as Artistic Director. Ms. Nutter is no stranger to the Victoria Playhouse having first performed alongside Bill McFadden in Trying in 2007, directed by founding Artistic Director Erskine Smith. In 2010, the Playhouse became the first theatre to present a full run of Johanna’s award-winning show My Pregnant Brother. She is a nationally recognized theatre creator who has performed on stages across Canada and Europe in both English and French. She’s known for authentic storytelling and surprising collaborations. In her words:

I’m deeply grateful to the Playhouse for this opportunity to dedicate myself to the theatre that raised me. Erskine gave me a chance when few others would and his trust and guidance helped me flourish as an artist. In Victoria by the Sea, and across the Island, I’ve met people full of heart and talent who welcome everyone with humour and grace. I look forward to serving our community, learning what we most need to share, and helping to get that on stage. 

Darcy Gorman, President of the Victoria Playhouse Board of Directors, had this to say:

I am thrilled that Johanna is the new Artistic Director for the Victoria Playhouse. One need only speak to Johanna for a few moments to feel her passion for our little theatre company. Johanna’s experience, dedication, and vision will bring magic to the stage that will delight new and old audience members alike. Please join us at the theatre for this exciting new chapter.

We’re jumping in with both feet and there’s something special planned for the holiday season, so please stay tuned…

Theatre PEI

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Blood Lines Chapter 4

By Ed Staskus

   JT Markunas was stationed in Charlottetown with the Queens RCMP detachment. He was a grade above constable, but still pulled service in a police pursuit vehicle. He didn’t mind the car he had drawn today. He could have done without the blue velour interior. It was plenty fast enough, though. It was a Ford Mustang.

   He rented a two-bedroom farmhouse in Milton. It was small but the appliances had been updated and it sported a new roof. He planted a root garden. His parents were pleased when they saw the photograph of beets, turnips, and carrots that he mailed them. JT was from Sudbury, Ontario and Prince Edward Island was his third assignment since joining the force. His first assignment had been at Fort Resolution in the Northwest Territories. He missed Sudbury but didn’t miss Fort Resolution.

   When he was growing up, the Canadian Pacific hauled ore on tracks behind their house. When the trains wailed, he wailed right back. When he was a boy, astronauts from the USA trained for their moon landings in the hinterland, where the landscape resembled the moon. After he grew up, he trained for the RCMP at a boot camp in Regina. He was surprised to see women at the camp, the first ones ever allowed on the force. They kissed the Bible and signed their names, like all the recruits, and wore the traditional red serge when on parade, but they wore skirts and high heels and carried a hand clutch, too. 

   He was sitting in his blue and white Mustang Interceptor. Even though Ford had built more than 10,000 of them since 1982, the RCMP had only gotten 32 of the cars. He had one of the two on the island. There were lights on the roof, front grille, and rear parcel shelf. He was in Cavendish, on the other side of Rainbow Valley. He was watching for speeders, of whom he hadn’t seen any that morning. He was thinking of stopping somebody for whatever reason if only to justify the pursuit car. He was also thinking about his second cup of coffee but waiting until he started yawning. He thought it was going to happen soon. When it did, he would 10-99 the radio room and take a break from doing nothing.

   Cavendish was Anne’s Land. It was where the book “Anne of Green Gables” was set. He had never read the book, but doubted it had anything to do with what he could see in all directions. The amusement park across the street was named after Lucy Maud Montgomery’s 1919 book “Rainbow Valley.” It was waterslides, swan boats, a sea monster, monorail, roller coasters, animatronics, castles and suspension bridges, and a flying saucer gift shop. The paratrooper ride might have been everyone’s favorite, at least if they were children who didn’t know what fear meant.

   Earl Davison, the man behind Rainbow Valley, was looking for a roller coaster when he found the paratrooper ride. He was in Pennsylvania searching for a bargain at a park that had gone bust. The coaster seemed to fit the bill at first sight.

   “It’s a terrific ride, but you’ll need to have a good maintenance team to keep ’er running,” the Pennsylvania man said with unexpected candor.

   When Earl hemmed and hawed, the man suggested his paratrooper ride instead. “It’s the best piece of equipment I have. I will sell you that for $25,000 and we’ll load it for you.” By the end of the next day Earl had written a check and the ride was ready to go for the long drive back to Prince Edward Island. He flipped a coin about it fitting on the ferry. It came up heads.

   Earl dreamed up Rainbow Valley in 1965, buying and clearing an abandoned apple orchard and filling in a swamp, turning it into ponds. “We borrowed $7,500.00,” he said. “It seemed like an awful lot of money at the time.” When they opened in 1969 admission was 50 cents. Children under 5 got in free. Ten years later, he bought his partners out and expanded the park. Most of the attractions were designed and fabricated by him and his crew.

   “We add something new every year,” Earl said. “That’s a rule.” The other rule-of-thumb was smiles plastered all over the faces of children. “Some of the memories you hear twenty years later are from people whose parents aren’t with them anymore. But they remember their visits to Rainbow Valley and that lasts a lifetime.”

   When his two-way radio came to life, instructing him to go to Murphy’s Cove to check on the report of a suspicious death, JT hesitated, thinking he should get a coffee first, but quickly decided against it. Suspicious deaths were far and few between in the province. Homicides happened on Prince Edward Island once in a blue moon. This might be his only chance to work on one. When he drove off it was fast with flashing lights but no siren. He reported that the address was less than ten minutes away. 

   Conor Murphy saw the patrol car pull off the road onto the shoulder and tramped down the slope to it. Some people called the RCMP Scarlet Guardians. Most people in Conor’s neck of the woods called them Gravel Road Cops, after the GRC on their car doors, the French acronym for Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Conor didn’t call them anything. He had been on the force once and didn’t mess with what they might or might not be. 

  JT put his cap on and joining Conor walked up to where Bernie Doiron was waiting beside the tractor. When he saw the arm handcuffed to the briefcase, he told Conor and Bernie to not touch anything and walked back to his pursuit car. He wasn’t sure what code to call in, so he requested an ambulance, and asked for the commander on duty. He described what he had seen and was ordered to sit tight.

   “Yes sir,” he said.

   It wouldn’t be long before an ambulance and more cars showed up. They couldn’t miss his Mustang, but he turned the lights on top of it back on just in case and backtracked to the tractor.

   “Who found this?” he asked, pointing at the arm. 

   “I did,” said Bernie.

   “Is it the same as you found it?” JT asked. “Did you move or disturb anything?”

   “No, we left it alone,” Bernie said. 

   “And you are?” JT asked Conor.

   “I’m across the street in the green house,” Conor said. “These are my fields. Bernie came down and got me when he found this. A fox has been at the arm.”

   “I see that,” JT said, even though he didn’t know what had happened to the arm. He rarely jumped to conclusions. It was flayed and gruesome, whatever had happened. He wasn’t repulsed by it. He was patient and objective. The quality that made him a good policeman was that he was patient. He waited with Conor and Bernie for reinforcements to show up. None of the three men said a word.

   JT looked at the ground around him ready for the growing season. There was no growing season where he grew up. His father worked the nickel mines in Sudbury his whole working life, never missing a day. He had been an explosives man and made it through his last year last week last day unscathed. The long-time miner had always known there was no one to tap him on the shoulder if he made a mistake.

   His mother raised four children. She dealt with powder burns every day. Her brood were firecrackers. They were among the few post-war Lithuanians still left in Sudbury. The rest of them had worked like dogs and scrimped and saved, leaving for greener pastures the first chance they got. His parents put their scrimping and saving into a house on the shores of Lake Ramsey and stayed to see Sudbury transition from open pits and wood roasting to methods less ruinous to the land they lived on.

   An ambulance from a funeral home in Kensington was the first to arrive, followed within minutes by two more RCMP cars. A pumper from the North Rustico Fire Department rolled to a stop, but there wasn’t anything for the volunteer firemen to do. They thought about helping direct traffic, but there was hardly any traffic to speak of. The summer season was still a month away. They waited, suspecting they were going to be the ones asked to unearth the remains. They brought shovels up from their truck and leaned on them.

   A doctor showed up, and bided his time, waiting for a commissioned officer to show up. When he did there were two of them, one an inspector and the other one a superintendent. They talked to JT briefly, and then to the fire department. The firemen measured out a ten-foot by ten-foot square with the arm in the center, pounded stakes into the ground, demarcated the space with police tape, and slowly began to dig, opening a pit.

   They had not gotten far when the arm fell over. It had been chopped off above the elbow. One of the firemen carried the arm and briefcase to a gray tarp and covered it with a sheet of thick translucent plastic.

   “Has anybody got a dog nearby?” the inspector asked.

   Most of the firemen farmed in one way or another. Most of them had dogs. One of them who lived less than two miles away on Route 6 had a Bassett Hound. When he came back with the dog, he led him to the pit. The hound sniffed around the perimeter and then jumped into it, digging with his short legs, barking, and looking up at his master. The fireman clapped his hands and the dog jumped out of the pit.

   “There’s something more there,” he said. “Probably the rest of him.”

   They started digging again carefully and methodically. When they found the rest of the man twenty minutes later and three feet under, he was a woman. She was wearing acid wash jeans and an oversized tangerine sweatshirt. She was covered in dirt and blood. One of her shoes had come off. What they could see of her face was ruined by burrowing insects. She was decomposing inside her rotting clothes.

   The doctor stepped up to the edge of the pit with the two men who had come in the ambulance. “Be careful, she’s going to want to fall apart as soon as you start shifting her weight,” he said. 

   The two men were joined by two of the firemen. When all four were astride the dead woman they slowly moved her into a mortuary bag, zipped it up, and using the handles on the bag lifted it up to two RCMP constables and two more of the firemen. They carried the bag slowly down the hill, the dog following them, placing it on a gurney and inside the ambulance.

   The constables went back up the hill to join the rest of the RCMP team, who were getting ready to sift through the pit looking for evidence. They would scour the ground in all directions, to the tree line and the road. JT had gotten his Minolta out of the trunk and took photographs. When he was done, he joined them. They spread out and with heads bowed started looking for anything and everything.

   The ambulance was ready to go when Conor came down to the shoulder of the park road. He stopped beside it and tapped on the driver’s side window. When it rolled down, he pointed up the slope.

   “Don’t forget the arm,” he said.

Excerpted from Blood Lines at http://www.redroadpei.com.

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

Theatre PEI

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Ten Thousand Dollar Door

By Ed Staskus

   It was supposed to be a ten-thousand-dollar door, but I got lucky, and got in and out for two hundred fifty dollars. I never went back. One shake down is more than enough. There weren’t that many apples on my apple tree that I could afford to give bushels of them away for nothing in return.

   When I first started going to Toronto by myself in my late teens it was by Greyhound. I rode the bus to Buffalo and walked across the Peace Bridge. When I got to the Canadian side, the border police asked me where I was from and for identification. I showed them my driver’s license. They waved me through. When I went home I did the same thing. The American border police waved me through.

   After I got married my wife and I often went to Canada, to Wasaga Beach, to Penetanguishene, to Nova Scotia, and finally to Prince Edward Island, which we liked and made a habit of returning to. We did, at least, until a band of towelheads went nuts and flew jetliners into the Twin Towers. We had just gotten back from PEI a few days earlier. After that, crossing borders slowly but surely became more officious. We found out soon enough we would need passports to get into Canada and back into the USA.

   My wife applied for and got her passport in five weeks. I didn’t apply at first because I wasn’t sure of my citizenship status. I had never been sure, no matter how sure I sounded at the border, asserting I was an American citizen. My parents grew up in Lithuania, fled the Red Army to Germany in 1944, emigrated to Canada after the war, and finally settled in the United States in the late 1950s. They were naturalized in the mid-1960s. I knew my brother and sister were citizens, but I wasn’t certain where I stood because of my age when my parents became citizens.

   We spent a few summers vacationing on the Eastern Seaboard, but when we decided Prince Edward Island was the place to be, I resolved to settle my body politic issue. Push came to shove, and I asked one of our ethnic community’s poohbahs if she knew anybody she could recommend to help me out. She gave me a tip about a friend of hers who was a lawyer. The lawyer had been in the import export business for more than 30 years and was herself an immigrant. 

   I made an appointment and went to her office. The lobby was sizable and almost full, full of colored people sitting and waiting their turn. Most of them looked like they were from Asia or the Indian sub-continent. The citizenship business seemed to be booming. When my number was called I was shown into the boss lawyer’s office. That was my first surprise. I had not thought I would be talking to the main man, even though he was a woman. 

   She was round with a round face. Her lips were dolled up. She looked at the paperwork and documentation I had brought with me and said, “I will be your helping hand.” She shot me a cherry bomb smile. “All right,” I said. I thought she would be working on my behalf going forward. I found out she was working me over.

   She told me I had a problem with my citizenship and might be deported at any time. She said she wanted to get started right away. She explained the initial consultation fee was going to be $250.00 and the balance to resolve my problem was going to be $9,750.00.

   “This is going to cost me ten thousand dollars?” I asked, incredulous. It was my second surprise. It was an unwelcome bombshell.

   “Yes,” she said and ushered me out. I had been in her office for five minutes. It took me fifteen minutes to drive home, where I mulled over the problem of finding ten thousand dollars. It was winter and we weren’t planning on going back to Canada until the next summer, so there was no rush on that account. But what she had said about being deported was worrying. I had fond memories of my hometown of Sudbury, Ontario, but being uprooted was not what I wanted to happen. We had bought a house which we were renovating, and I had both full-time and part-time jobs. We had a mortgage and friends and family in town. We had a Maine Coon who would miss roaming the backyards of our neighborhood.

   I went back to the law office the next month. I was introduced to an associate and escorted to a small room in the back. A table and two chairs were in the room. I sat in one of the chairs and the young associate sat in the other chair. He handed me a contract for the work they were going to be doing. I handed him the same paperwork and documentation I had shown the top dog. I started to peruse the contract. After a few minutes he looked up, cleared his throat, and said, “I don’t exactly know why you’re here. According to what I am looking at, you already are a citizen.” It was my third surprise.

   “Are you sure?” I asked.

   “I think so, but I better doublecheck with my boss,” he said, backtracking, but the cat was out of the bag.

   “All right,” I said, and as soon as I said it I wanted to be gone.

   “I can’t stay,” I said white lying and standing up. “I’ve got to get to work. Let me know what you find out and in the meantime I will read this contract.” We shook hands, I gave him a cold smile, got into my car, and drove away.

   The next day I drove to a post office where I knew they processed passport applications. When the line in front of me thinned out and I found myself at the counter, I said I wanted to apply for a passport. A middle-aged woman in a drab uniform walked up from the back and motioned me towards a chair and a camera. She handed me an application and told me how much applying for a passport was going to cost. It was ninety-seven dollars.

   “All right, but would you look at my birth certificate and this other paper work first. I was born in Canada and I’m not sure I am actually an American citizen.” She spread everything out on the counter and looked it over. It didn’t take her long. Five minutes into it she said, “Sure, honey, you’re a citizen, no doubt about it.”

   I filled out the application, got my picture taken, paid the fee, and thanked the woman for her help. I got my passport in the mail about a month and a half later. The passport had my stone-faced picture in it and was good for ten years. I could go anywhere in the world with it.

   A few weeks later the associate called. He wanted to know if I had read the contract and was ready to go ahead with it. “No, I am going to pass on that.” I had thrown the contract away long since.

   “That could mean a lot of problems for you,” he cautioned. “The State Department is cracking down, what with all this terrorism.”

   “I don’t think so,” I said, and hung up when he kept it up.

   Somebody else from the firm called me the following week. I told her goodbye the minute she started into her song and dance. After that the phone calls stopped. We went to Prince Edward Island for two weeks the following June. Except for the long lines at the border crossings, everything went off without a hitch. The Canadian border police said, “Welcome to Canada.” The American border police said, “Welcome back to the United States.”

   My wife and I bumped into the poohbah at a get together a few years later. I mentioned the immigration attorney. My wife tugged on my sleeve. I told my tipster how her legal beagle had tried to pull the wool over my eyes. I told her about getting my passport with no run around. I told her ten grand was hard cash and how fortunate it was I hadn’t lost more than the consultation fee, never mind the dodge that made me cross. Most of the time the only way to beat a lawyer is to die with nothing.

   “I know her well, she’s a friend, and she would never do anything like that,” the woman explained and complained. She might as well have called me a liar. “She’s nationally known for helping immigrants. She’s helped thousands of people and is one of our city’s leading citizens. Don’t say bad things about her.”

   She wasn’t somebody who listened to anything I ever said, so I didn’t argue. What would have been the point? It was in one ear and out the other. It was her way of letting you know you didn’t matter much. After that, though, I never took anything she said at face value, just how I learned to never take what any lawyer ever says at face value.

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

Theatre PEI

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Taking a Walk

It’s time to celebrate the holidays! 🎄🎊

Join us for a family-friendly winter’s walk to hear heartwarming tales of seasons’ past, of unusual yuletide traditions and stories of dramatic events that brought Island communities together.⁠

Book Your Tickets: https://confederationcentre.com/…/yuletide-tales…/

In partnership with Discover Charlottetown

Theatre PEI

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Crayola Time

Saturday, December 10th at 10am at the Kings Playhouse.

This workshop is free of charge, however numbers are extremely limited and registration is required. 
Register here: https://form.jotform.com/223254663931255

**Recommended for ages 6-14, but all ages are welcome!**

Join professional artist Patrick Guindon as he leads a workshop on painting in a folk-art style, using thick black lines and big, bold shapes and colours. You’ll walk away with a completed painting you’ll be proud to gift to someone this holiday season! 

Patrick teaches workshops so that every artist can express their own voice and style, whether you’re brand new to painting, a little nervous, or a seasoned pro. He’ll teach you the method, and guide you through techniques specific to your own needs in the moment. 

The workshop begins with about 10-15 minutes of instruction, and then a solid hour and a half to work on your piece. Some artists work faster than others, so the allotted time is around two hours in total for the workshop.

Patrick Guindon has been teaching for the past fourteen years in both traditional school systems and in private art class and workshops. After leaving his career as an Ontario elementary teacher in 2020, he moved with his partner and four young kids to Prince Edward Island, where he’s set up an art process studio for children and paints professionally. Patrick’s focus as an artist and teacher is always on the process and on bringing out the confidence, capabilities, and voice of every artist he works with.

Theatre PEI

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Gallant Does Christmas

ONE MONTH TODAY (Sun 18 Dec) we welcome back to Harbourfront the legendary island singer songwriter Lennie Gallant with his festive treat of a show, The Innkeeper’s Christmas. We can’t wait, and to help get you in the mood, here he is performing with the brilliant Black Umfolosi Music (Official), who are also with us on 10 Dec!

Watch here: https://youtu.be/R5c7UOBhAKs

Tickets here: 👉https://www.harbourfronttheatre.com/lennie-gallant-the…/

Theatre PEI

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Coming Soon!

Celebrating 15 Years, Watermark announces Spring and Summer Programming for 2023
 
Watermark Theatre’s Artistic Director Robert Tsonos is delighted to announce the Spring and Summer programming for 2023. The company is celebrating its 15th year producing the finest professional theatre on the Island.
 
First up is the Second Annual Watermark Children’s Theatre Festival in the Spring, followed by the comedic drama Steel Magnolias and the thriller Gaslightthroughout the Summer. The theatre will also continue to present The Watermark Music Series on Sundays in July and August.
 
Two productions will be featured in the Children’s Theatre Festival. Birds of a Feather by Robert Watson, produced by Neptune Theatre 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.
 
Steel Magnolias by Robert Harling will run from June 27th to August 26th and will be directed by Samantha Wilson. A group of Louisiana women bond and gossip at a local beauty shop while following the marriage and motherhood of one of the customer’s daughters. As the title implies, these women can be as delicate as magnolias and as tough as steel. When tragedy strikes, they draw on their underlying strength and love. Steel Magnolias is an iconic play that continues to speak to audiences all over the world about hope, loss, and friendship.
 
Gaslight By Johnna Wright and Patty Jamieson, based on the play Angel Street By Patrick Hamilton will run from July 7th to August 25th and will be directed by Martha Irving, who directed last summer’s hit production of Educating Rita. The thriller that spawned the term ‘gaslighting’, Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 play gave us the word we now use for an insidious form of mental abuse. Bella Manningham hears strange sounds and the gas lights dim for no apparent reason. But is she losing her grip on reason, or is it being loosened for her? Bella thinks she’s losing her mind. The truth might be far worse.
 
The Watermark Music Series returns, curated by Hannah Melanson. As always, Island musical artists interpret classic composers in a way that you have never heard before. The dates are July 23rd, Aug 6th and 20th, all at 7:30PM.
 
2023 Ticket Passes (4 Pack, 6 Pack) are now on sale at http://www.ticketwizard.ca or by calling the box office at 902-963-3963.
 
Single tickets will be put on sale closer to production dates. Fall and Winter programming will be announced in the next few months.
 
Watermark Theatre’s Mandate
Located in North Rustico, PEI, on land that is the traditional unceded territory of the Mi’Kmaq, the Watermark Theatre is a professional theatre company that produces time-honoured plays, as well as contemporary plays that resonate with our times.  As a company we are led by the principles of inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility and commit to incorporating these core values in everything we do.  We prioritize environmental stewardship and sustainability. The Watermark Theatre is dedicated to the development of the next generation of theatre artists and arts administrators through mentorship and professional training.
In all of our programming we strive for artistic excellence while endeavouring to inform, affect, and engage our audience and our community.
 
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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