All posts by Edward Staskus

Edward Staskus is a free-lance writer from Sudbury, Ontario, and lives in Lakewood, Ohio, on the north of the Rocky River valley.

Christmas in Twangtown

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| Homburg Theatre

CHRISTMAS In Nashville is a live tribute to the wonderful World of Country music that began in Nashville, Tennessee over 100 years ago.

With radio broadcasts over WSM in Nashville this showbusiness phenomenon has entertained Millions of Country music fans on that most famous of stages, the Ryman Auditorium.

Christmas In Nashville will recreate for you some of Country music’s finest moments starting way back at it’s earliest beginnings in Nashville, Tennessee.

On Saturday, December 14th, come with us as we take you back in time and a visit with, Minnie Pearl, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Kitty Wells, Tammy Wynette, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Comedienne, Bobby-Jo and more.

The fun starts at 7:30 PM. Y’ALL COME DOWN NOW, Y’HEAR?

PEI Professional Theatre Network

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PEI Theatre is the Guild, Harbourfront Theatre,
Confederation Centre for the Arts,
Watermark Theatre, and the Victoria Playhouse

Life of Elf

December 13, 2019 at 7:00pm at The Guild

Based on the beloved holiday film, this hilarious fish-out-of-water comedy follows Buddy the Elf in his quest to find his true identity. A title known the world over, Elf The Musical JR.is a must see holiday musical.

Based on the cherished New Line Cinema hit, Elf JR. features songs by Tony Award-nominees, Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin, with a book by Tony Award-winners, Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin.

Buddy, a young orphan, mistakenly crawls into Santa’s bag of gifts and is transported to the North Pole. The would-be elf is raised, unaware that he is actually a human, until his enormous size and poor toy-making abilities cause him to face the truth. With Santa’s permission, Buddy embarks on a journey to New York City to find his birth father and discover his true identity. Faced with the harsh reality that his father is on the naughty list and that his half-brother doesn’t even believe in Santa, Buddy is determined to win over his new family and help New York remember the true meaning of Christmas.

This modern-day holiday classic is sure to make everyone embrace his or her ”inner elf”

Buy Tickets

PEI Professional Theatre Network

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PEI Theatre is the Guild, Harbourfront Theatre,
Confederation Centre for the Arts,
Watermark Theatre, and the Victoria Playhouse

Holly Jolly Fraser Holiday

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 20TH, 7:30 PM  at the Harbourfront Theatre
All Seats: $27.50 tax & fees included

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Join us Friday, December 20 for a Holly Jolly Christmas with Don Fraser & friends, featuring all the best of popular Christmas and holiday music.

Get ready to hear those jingle bells a-rockin’ with PEI favourites Kendall Docherty, Catherine O’Brien, Caroline Bernard, and the Reindeer Express, consisting of Devin Hornby (bass), Trevor Grant (drums), Don Fraser (keyboards), and Perry Williams (guitar). The night will also feature well-known Island entertainer, Marlane O’Brien, who’ll share Island Christmas stories to take you back to holidays gone by.

This December, gather around the fireplace at Harbourfront for an evening of music & stories that will fill your heart with festive cheer.

Plus, to make the night even sweeter, Christmas goodies will be available with our compliments during intermission. Come celebrate the holidays with us – we can’t wait to see you soon!

PEI Professional Theatre Network

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PEI Theatre is the Guild, Harbourfront Theatre,
Confederation Centre for the Arts,
Watermark Theatre, and the Victoria Playhouse

Give the Gift of Theatre

Victoria Playhouse Christmas

For every theatre and live music lover on your Christmas list!

The Victoria Playhouse Flex Pass – four tickets to any of our Festival Season plays or concerts. Any day, any time, any combo! Fill someone’s stocking with joy this year and save almost 20% off the regular admission price.
Shop Online Now!

Or call our box office at 1-800-925-2025

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Burke at the Movies

Now Showing: Two Film Screenings Planned Honouring Brian Burke

Confederation Centre Art Gallery also launching exhibition catalogue Predicaments: Brian Burke, a Retrospective’

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The Confederation Centre Art Gallery (CCAG) is hosting multiple events over the next month to celebrate its current retrospective exhibition on prolific P.E.I. painter Brian Burke. Special thanks are extended to CN 100, exhibition and catalogue sponsor.

Tomorrow—Wednesday, December 4at 12-noon in the CCAG, a free screening will be held of Island filmmaker Brian Pollard’s Figure in a Landscape. This 25-minute documentary focusing on Burke includes scenes from the painter’s Island studio and opening receptions of his works in San Francisco and New York.

Next, on Thursday, December 12 at 7 p.m., the CCAG will host a book launch and film screening. Enjoy refreshments and a cash bar as the Centre launches the exhibition catalogue Predicaments: Brian Burke, a Retrospective, with essays by Judith Scherer, Robert Slifkin, Heinz Stahlhut, and Pan Wendt.

Following this launch, the public is invited to take a look behind Burke’s well-known 2004-05 portrait series Many Years Later with a screening of Pollard’s 45-minute documentary, also titled Many Years Later. Co-produced by William Harrington, the film features interviews with Burke and the subjects of these paintings—the artist’s friends—who, in the late 1960s, were part of the teenage social scene that frequented the Basilica Recreation Centre in Charlottetown.

Predicaments: Brian Burke, a Retrospective is showing until Sunday, January 5, 2020. Curator Pan Wendt will present a closing day ArtTalk around the exhibition on Sunday, January 5 at 2 p.m. at the CCAG.

The exhibition features over 117 pieces loaned by galleries and private collections all around the world, including several pieces from the permanent collection.  Burke’s paintings are characterized by a challenging intensity and dark wit, focusing on the human figure, and addressing existential themes of isolation, alienation, as well as broader social and political questions. The artist died in 2017, leaving behind an unforgettable visual legacy.

PEI Professional Theatre Network

28660348_162333201093170_735205771249634989_n

PEI Theatre is the Guild, Harbourfront Theatre,
Confederation Centre for the Arts,
Watermark Theatre, and the Victoria Playhouse

A Closer Look

A Closer Look: Five Questions with P.E.I.’s Michelle Bouey

Islander talks ‘Dear Rita’, Soulpepper’s ‘Rose’, growing up at the Centre, and why representation in theatre matters

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Islander Michelle Bouey will make her Festival debut next year, performing in the musical love-letter to icon, Rita MacNeil, Dear Rita at The Mack.

An alumna of the TD Young Company, Bouey effectively grew up at the Centre, including years of dance recitals and drama festivals. The Sheridan College graduate will also appear in Anne of Green Gables—The Musical™ next summer, playing Prissy Andrews.

The Centre is currently offering the biggest Festival sale of the year. Until midnight on December 3 (tomorrow), patrons can purchase tickets for all four summer theatre productions at 50% off. Tickets can be accessed online, by phone at 1 (902) 566-1267, toll free at 1 (800) 565-0278, or at the box office. The sale is offered for select dates and is based on availability.

 

Q1: Michelle, you’re coming home in 2020. What’s your favourite thing about a PEI summer?

A: Seafood and the beach! I love being so close to some of the best beaches in the world and the sense of timelessness that goes with it. After a day at the beach it’s fun to have a drink with a friend, while listening to jazz on the Row. A classic Island experience is running into at least three people you know, almost anytime you walk around the downtown area. My favourite thing of all is being able to spend time with my family, who I don’t get to see as often as I’d like.

Q2: Do you have a cherished Centre memory?

A: So many…from dance recitals, summer camps, high school shows, fundraisers, drama fests, and being in the Young Company, it often felt like the Centre was my second home. My summer in the Young Company was my last on the Island before I moved to Toronto for college—what a summer it was! I had dreamed about being in the Young Company since the age of seven and I almost had to shake my head at times that it was me up there performing.

Q3: Are you excited to perform in two very different productions all summer?

A: This is my first time doing theatre in rep [two shows at once], so I actually can’t believe I get to live in two worlds at once. It’s thrilling to me. I love The Mack and the intimate safe space it creates. It’s the kind of venue that gives you more of a chance to connect with your audience.

I grew up listening to Rita MacNeil and watching her Christmas special. To think that a small group of us get to honour her legacy—on East Coast soil, none the less—is so special. For ‘Anne’, I’ve always wished I could be a part of that story. As a child, I never thought being in the show was something that could happen, because of my Asian heritage. Being in a space that feels like home, in a show I’ve cherished in my heart for so long, is special, full-stop. Also, there might just be that kid who looks a lot like me and has their own aspirations to be on stage one day.

Q4: What’s one thing you think many people don’t realize about Anne™?

A: I think many people go into the show thinking it’ll just delightful and fun—and it certainly is! But, I don’t think anyone can prepare you for the heartwarming, deep, emotional journey it takes you on.

I’ve seen the show every year and then some since 1997 and it never fails to touch me greatly. I didn’t think I would see it last year but, my good friend, Emma Rudy, took on the role and I had to go. She shone so brightly and captured the sparkly personality of Anne perfectly. I’m so excited to be working with her next summer. 

Q5: You’re also an active songwriter, what were your personal highlights in 2019 and anything on the horizon to look out for?

 A: 2019 has been, thankfully, a busy year. I would say that two things stand out and it’s interesting how they represent my two passions. Firstly, being part of Mike Ross’s new musical ‘ROSE’ at Soulpepper Theatre was incredible. Based on Gertrude Stein’s children’s book of the same name, Mike captured the magic and innocence of the book perfectly. I played many different parts, as well as my cello. The cast, the show, the magic…I’ll never forget.

 The other amazing experience of 2019 would have to be taking part in Musical Stage Company’s production of ‘UnCovered.’ On the stage of Koerner Hall in Toronto, we sang the songs of Stevie Wonder and Prince, uncovering the different layers of their music in unique and personal ways. Working with Canadian musical icons such as Jully Black, Divine Brown, and Jackie Richardson was deeply rewarding.

As far as my own music goes I’ve released three singles on the usual platforms and a few more are on their way. Aaron Hastelow, no stranger to Island audiences, and I will also be performing a cabaret at The Guild on January 3rdand 4th in the New Year. I may just be revealing a new song or two…

 

Special thanks are extended to Festival title sponsor, CIBC, and to Anne of Green Gables—The Musical™ sponsor CAA Atlantic. The Centre wishes to acknowledge the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Government of P.E.I., and the City of Charlottetown for their continued support.

PEI Professional Theatre Network

28660348_162333201093170_735205771249634989_n

PEI Theatre is the Guild, Harbourfront Theatre,
Confederation Centre for the Arts,
Watermark Theatre, and the Victoria Playhouse

Big Ass Bowl

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There is plenty of good better best seafood chowder on Prince Edward Island, since there is plenty of seafood on all sides of the crescent-shaped province. There are cultured mussels and lean white halibut and wild-caught lobster. The chowder comes in cups and bowls. Some of the bowls are bigger than others and can be meals in themselves.

There is only one Big Ass Bowl, however.

“We had a large bowl of chowder last year, but I don’t see it on the menu anymore,” said Frank Glass to the young man who was putting glasses of water down on their table.

“We have a really good seafood chowder,” he said, pointing to the menu.

“Is it a big bowl?” asked Frank.

The young man sized up an imaginary bowl with his hands.

“No, the chowder we had was in a bowl about twice that size,” said Frank.

“Oh, you mean the big ass bowl.”

“The what bowl?” asked Vera Glass, sitting across from her husband. They were at a table at one of the windows overlooking the Clyde River. On the far bank the red roof of the PEI Preserve Company, where jams and jellies are made, glowed in the roll-up of dusk.

“That’s what we call it in the kitchen,” the young man said. “We don’t call it that on the menu, obviously. If you want it, I can ask, and I’m sure we can make it for you.”

“You’ll just clear the decks and whip it up, even though it’s not on the menu?” asked Vera.

“Sure,” said the young man.

“Sweet,” she said.

Vera and Frank Glass were at the Mill, a snug as a bug up-to-speed restaurant in New Glasgow on Prince Edward Island.

It is neither a small nor big roadhouse, seating maybe fifty diners, right on the road, on a zigzag of Route 13 as it runs south from coastal Cavendish through New Glasgow to Hunter River. There is a performance space on the second floor and a deli case just inside the front door full of pies and meat pies. The building is blue, two–story, and wide front-porched. It is kitty-corner to the bridge that crosses the snaky river. The Mill describes itself as “carefully sourcing seafood, steaks and entrees served in a rustic yet refined space with scenic views.”

That’s hitting the nail on the head.

It was the night before Hurricane Dorian slammed into PEI, even though it wasn’t a hurricane anymore when it did. It was a post-tropical storm, which is like saying you took it on the chin from a cruiserweight rather than a heavyweight boxer.

“Under the right conditions, post-tropical storms can produce hurricane-strength winds,” said CBC meteorologist Jay Scotland the day after the storm. “Dorian serves as a good example that the difference between a hurricane and a post-tropical storm is more about the storm’s structure and not its intensity.”

On Saturday morning, moving north, it sucked up energy from another weather system moving in from the west. The winds spreading over the island grew to hurricane strength during the day and the storm unrolled over a larger area than Hurricane Juan, the “storm of the century,” had done in 2003.

“Look who’s back,” said Vera, looking over Frank’s shoulder.

“Who?”

“Michelle.”

“Good, maybe she’ll be our waitress.”

“She looks better tonight, not so spaced.”

“Didn’t she have to go home the last time we were here?”

“I think so.”

“Hi, how are you?”

“Good,” said Michelle. “I see you two have made it back again.”

“This is our third time here in three weeks, although we’re leaving for home on Sunday,” said Vera.

“So, you’ll be here for the storm.”

“It looks like it.”

“Where’s home?”

“In Ohio, Lakewood, which is right on the lake, just west of Cleveland,” said Frank. “We get thunderstorms that come across Lake Erie from Canada, but nothing like what we’ve been hearing is going to blow up here in your neck of the woods.”

Hurricane Dorian hit home like a battle-ax.

“The result was much higher rainfall and more widespread destructive winds across PEI with Dorian compared to Juan,” said Jay Scotland, the weatherman.

On Monday Blair Campbell, the chief executive officer of PEI Mutual Insurance, said they logged the most claims ever on Sunday, the day after the storm. More than four hundred policy holders called in property damage.

“These are damage claims in the frequency and magnitude that we have not seen before,’’ he said.

Fishing boats from Stanley Bridge to Covehead were smashed submerged.

“Sobeys in Charlottetown this morning was worse than Christmas,” said Michelle. “You couldn’t get anywhere with your cart. Everybody was buying dry cereal, canned fruit, ready-to-eat, and cases of water.”

Frances MacLure was stocking up.

“So far I have just bought batteries,” she said.

“I have two radios and I’m just going to make sure one of them is going to work. It’s always nice to be able to keep in touch if the power is out for any length of time,” she said.

There were water and sandwich makings on her list, as well.

“Just for a quick bite if the power goes off.”

“Everybody was buying batteries,” said Michelle. “The last time a hurricane came to the island, power was out for more than a week.”

“We are very concerned, we’ve certainly spent the last three days in readiness, in going through all of our checklist and checking our equipment,” said Kim Griffin of Maritime Electric as the weekend approached.

“There is a lot of greenery and foliage on the trees, that is a concern to us. So, we are really asking our customers to make sure they are prepared and ready.”

“When was that?” asked Frank.

“About fifteen years ago,” said Michelle. “Summerside has its own power, but if it goes out in New Brunswick, this whole part of the island won’t have any power.”

“Do you still have that moonshine cocktail?” asked Vera.

“We do,” said Michelle.

Vera had an Island Shine and Frank had a pint of lager.

“Are you going to have the big chowder?” asked Vera.

“Yes,” said Frank.

“I’m going to have a small bowl of soup and the ribs,” said Vera. “What about going halves on the lamb and feta appetizer? It’s good with everything.”

“Sure,” said Frank, agreeably. “You can’t go wrong with the ribs, and the mac and cheese they come with. That cheese from Glasgow Glen, it’s good. I had it the last time we were here.”

“I hope Emily has the sweet potato curry soup tonight,” said Vera. “Curry is my number one favorite thing in the world.”

“What about me?”

“You’re close, maybe third or fourth.”

“That close, huh?”

“You don’t like curry, which is a problem. I think Emily is a curry person, like me. She probably does a great Fall Flavors menu.”

The Mill’s owner and chef Emily Wells was born in England and lived on the continent before coming to Prince Edward Island in 1974 when her parents bought Cold Comfort Farm. She is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of Canada, committed to healthy local food and ethical food production. She has worked in restaurants in PEI and Ontario for more than three decades and is a key contributor to the River Clyde Pageant.

The pageant, four years running, is about the tidal river, and features great blue herons, trout puppets, schools of dressed-up jellyfish, bridge trolls and mermaids and fishermen.

“I love it when you put curry in things, but then all of a sudden you don’t taste anything else. I feel like you can taste everything else in her soups.”

“It’s like her chowder, it’s chock-full, but nothing’s drowned out, all the parts stand out,” said Frank. “It’s not too busy.”

“Everything here is always better than I expect, even though I always expect it to be good,” said Vera.

“My boyfriend is a chef at the Blue Mussel in North Rustico, and it’s hard for us to get a day off in the summer on the same day, so we hardly ever eat out,” said Michelle.

“After eating here and at the Mussel, we don’t always want to go, anyway, but we ate out in Charlottetown a few weeks ago, and the chowder we got was mostly a milky liquid, with so little fish in it. We poked around for whatever we could find but ended up asking for another loaf of bread. We got it to dunk into the chowder, because there were hardly any pieces of anything.”

From one end of PEI to the other pieces of preparation were coming together.

“We have been busy as a team,” said Randy MacDonald, chief of the Charlottetown Fire Department, the day before the storm. “Our team has been making preparations for tomorrow’s storm.”

He said chainsaws and generators were on hand. “We may see trees down, branches down, large branches taking down power lines, that sort of thing.” Rapid response cars, trucks, and ambulances were gassed full and staff was on the alert, ready to go.

While the tempest was rolling up the coast, Michelle didn’t just rush to Sobeys. She took matters into her own hands, in her own kitchen, in her own house.  “I live just down the road from here, next to the Gouda place. I send my son there for pizza, since he can walk over.”

The Gouda place makes artisan cheese.

“I’ve passed my name and my expertise on to Jeff McCourt and his new company Glasgow Glen Cheese,” said the former Cheese Lady, Martina ter Beek.

Glasgow Glen Farm slaps out skins from scratch, down the line doing the dough to sprinkling homegrown veggies and meats on the pie, featuring their own made from scratch gouda, working behind the front counter at two long tables just inside the door, wood firing the pizzas in a brick oven.

In the summer there are picnic tables alongside the gravel parking lot, a grassy field sloping away from a pile of cordwood.

“I made chowder,” said Michelle. “It was a fishy stew, like Mel does. I ended up using cod, clams, and scallops. I made everything else, clam juice, potatoes, carrots, onions, and tomatoes out of my garden. Once the potatoes were almost completely cooked, I took the pieces of cod and sat them on top. I put a lid on it and all the flavor, yeah, of the cod went into it.”

She didn’t need any bread to help her chowder out, either.

While Vera pulled gently at her baby back ribs, Frank started scooping out his large bowl of broth and seafood.

“How’s the sinkhole?“ asked Vera.

“So far so good,” said Frank. “It’s sort of like a Manhattan clam chowder, like the Portuguese make, and like a seafood goulash at the same time.”

“Like a cioppino.”

“Like a what?”

“That’s the official name of it,” said Vera.

“Anyway, I can taste bay leaves and thyme, and there might be some oregano in it. It’s loaded with stuff. She must have hit the motherload at the fish market. There are mussels, halibut, lobster, a chuck of salmon, and mini-shrimps.”

“Emily probably uses whatever she has on hand,” said Vera.

“On top there’s a red pepper rouille, almost like a pesto, which gives it a kick,” said Frank.

“Are you going to be able to finish it?”

“I’m going to give it my best shot.”

Halfway through their meal, when Vera spotted a plate of maple mousse walking by, she said to Frank, “That’s what I want to try for dessert tonight. It’s frozen mousse, like ice cream. I thought it might not be good for sharing, but that thing is more than big enough.”

“All right,” said Frank, “since that Anna kid is a wizard. First, we eat well, then we face tomorrow, no matter what happens.”

The Mill was almost vacated evacuated when they paid their bill of fare and left.

“You wouldn’t know a hurricane is blowing in,” Frank said to Vera as they lingered in the front lot after dinner, leaning against the back hatch of their Hyundai, watching the no traffic on the quiet road, the starry northern sky quiet above them.

When Saturday morning rolled around, it started getting dark, and by noon it started raining. It got windy and windier. The Coastline Cottages and the Doyle houses on the other side of the park road lost power in the late afternoon. Churchill Avenue in town was closed down. The Gulf Shore Parkway east from Brackley was closed down. Roads in all directions were closed down, as utility wires and branches blew away. Fences were flattened, roofs torn off, and hundred-year-old trees toppled.

The damage to the Cavendish Campground, seven-some miles away from where Frank and Vera were staying, was so bad it was closed for the rest of the year. An arc from Cavendish to Kensington to Summerside was walloped. Islanders tarped roofs, sawed up tree limbs, and hauled away debris for days afterwards. On Sunday morning all the trails administered by Parks Canada everywhere on PEI were shut down until they could be assessed.

After their cottage lost power, Frank and Vera packed for their drive home the next day and tidied up while there was still some light. “At least we know the mondo bridge is as sturdy as it gets,” said Vera. When it got dark, 19th century-style dark, they popped open the remains of a bottle of red wine and spent the rest of the night riding out the lashing all-out rain and gusting big ass wind.

PEI Professional Theatre Network

28660348_162333201093170_735205771249634989_n

PEI Theatre is the Guild, Harbourfront Theatre,
Confederation Centre for the Arts,
Watermark Theatre, and the Victoria Playhouse