Category Archives: Profiles

Go Creative at the Guild

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The Guild is a Not for Profit Arts and Culture Hub with a provincial mandate to support new, emerging and professional artists, creative industries, and community organizations through subsidies, mentorship, training and professional development opportunities. We present and produce first class theatre 12 months of the year in our 175 seat black box performance space. Our Gallery at The Guild presents 6 months of curatorial artists paid exhibitions and an additional 6 months of community based exhibits in our public gallery yearly. We also offer versatile rehearsal space for artists as well as networking and promotional opportunities for Island artists, the public and the cultural sector.

We are the proud owners of a building in the heart of downtown Charlottetown (formerly a Royal Bank of Canada branch) In addition, we also house a Recording Studio, A Musical Theatre school for grades K to 12, and office space for several other creative industries; some of which are Music PEI, Creative PEI, This Town Is Small, and Federation culturelle de I’IPE. The Guild provides a community board room, a creative lab, weekly drop in mixers and several other spaces for artists to grow and flourish.

With the support of an active board, an energetic creative team, government partners and the community we have completed four infrastructure improvement projects, we have hired students through the Canada Summer jobs initiatives, created a Theatre Mentorship Program and present an annual Pay-What-You-Can spring festival. The Guild has become a venue where artists get much needed exposure, arts groups have a space to create, and the community has a gathering spot where everyone feels welcome.

We have five full time employees (doing the work of many) and more than 25 part time support staff members. In addition to this, The Guild is indirectly responsible for an additional 65 part time cast and crew from Festival Season.

Having said this, we are a small organization doing big things. To continue to operate we rely on the support of the community, local businesses, individuals and most importantly, investment from our three levels of government.

The Guild is a true reflection of Canadian culture- inclusive, relevant, accessible, exciting and entertaining.

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
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Chat With an Actor

A Chat With Actor Alexandra Montagnese

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Q: Tell me about the characters you’re playing this summer?

AM: I am playing Gabriella in Boeing Boeing the passionate, feisty yet forgiving, Italian flight attendant. She speaks a language of love through her actions and soon becomes protective when she starts to catch wind of the situation at hand. All Gabriella wants is calm sensual companionship in an otherwise turbulent lifestyle, hopping airport to airport without much time to lay roots.

In contrast, I play the social butterfly, Chick in Crimes of the Heart letting me dig in the deep rootedness of southern American family matters. I’m playing the cousin to the three sisters at the centre of the story. Every time we see Chick, she is coming from a meeting, or headed to another responsibility, always with an eye for scrutiny and decorum. She is sharp, ready to pounce, and will certainly fill any dead air with her extensively long sentences. She’s got this fast-talking, friendly manner of getting what she wants while tossing jabs here and there, if you catch them.

Q: Have you worked with any of the other company members?

AM: I was lucky enough to spend 2 years at York U with Hannah where we did our MFA together. And when I say together, I mean there were only 5 of us in the acting program, and we spent day and night, every single class, and rehearsals together. We even got to play sisters in Three Sisters as both of our thesis roles.

Q: Are you looking forward to spending the whole summer on the Island?

AM: This is my first time on PEI and I am just delighted to start the summer full of seafood and sandy beaches! I’ve made extensive lists of all the things I want to do while on the island but I am most excited to go on adventures and see things I’ve never seen before. I’ll be the one asking people where I should go on my days off. 

Q: How will you keep it fresh every night when you have such a long run?

AM: The wonderful thing about theatre is that it’s humans every night, and as long as I remain true and honest with where I’m at, it will be fresh and interesting and new. I really value the work my fellow actors do, and out of respect to them, I listen, and respond authentically to what they’re offering. To me, honouring the work stage management, direction, lights, sound, front of house, and all the folks working to put me there onstage keeps me motivated. I also like to dedicate each night to a new person in the audience, whether I know them or not.

Robert Tsonos Artistic Director

Watermark Theatre

 

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

Off the Stage

A Chat With Actor Hannah Wayne-Phillips at the Watermark Theatre

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Q: How will you keep it fresh every night when you have such a long run?
HWP: The incredible thing about live theatre is, every night is different because every night we get a new scene partner- the audience. One of the wonderful things about working in an intimate space like Watermark is that as actors we can really be present with the audience and have an exchange with the audience. That relationship, or that exchange, is very different with different groups of people and that alone keeps the work fresh. Sometimes I also like to focus on one detail and see how it changes the action. So I might focus on how a certain memory from childhood, or a relationship with a character in the play, affects the character’s journey in the play.
Q: Are you looking forward to spending the whole summer on the island?
HWP: I am thrilled to be spending the summer on the island. I’m excited for many things about being in PEI this summer, but top of the list is getting to swim in the Atlantic Ocean everyday.
Q: Tell me about the characters you are playing this summer?
HWP: I am very excited about the two characters I will be playing this summer! In Boeing Boeing I’m playing Berthe, a Parisian maid, who already has me busting a gut at her bold and slightly cantankerous way of communicating with her boss. Amidst her boss’ chaotic lifestyle, Berthe applies her shrewd and exacting mind to holding the house together, and with great success (most of the time). Berthe runs a tight ship; she has a ubiquitous watch over her domain. I cannot wait to jump into the skin of this fiery, smart-as-a-whip, subversive, fretful, wonderfully dramatic Parisian.
I’m also playing Lenny in Crimes of the Heart. Lenny and her sisters have already captured my heart and imagination. Lenny is the sister who is the caregiver; she is reliable, and self-sacrificing. She’s very interesting to me, because at face value she appears meek, but just below the surface she has a depth of soul and an emotional life that is very intense and at times quite dark. When we meet Lenny at the beginning of the play her life is very hermitic. Yet, she yearns for a life that’s bigger, with more passion than she believes she is able to have. That internal tension and Lenny’s journey to becoming an active person is extraordinary to me. I am very excited to fall further in love with this wish-making, horse-riding, yearning, cautious, sensitive, intense, empathetic misfit.
Q: Have you worked with any of the other company members?
HWP: Yes! Alex Montagnese and I were in the same class for our MFA in Acting at York. We always hoped we would be able to share the stage again soon, and I’m thrilled that the opportunity has come again so quickly. Alex is a truly gifted artist and I can’t wait to jump into the ring with her and the entire cast this summer.

Robert Tsonos

Artistic Director
Watermark Theatre

 

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

A Family Affair

Married actors Madeleine Donohue and Geoffrey Pounsett drove from Toronto with their two small children in early June to North Rustico PEI to spend the summer performing at the Watermark Theatre. Madeleine is starring in “Dial M For Murder” as Margot Wendice, while Geoffrey tackles the roles of James Tyrone in “A Moon for the Misbegotten” and Max Halliday opposite his wife in “Dial M For Murder”.

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“In the play I have an affair with my husband’s character, Max, while my stage husband- played by Artistic Director Robert Tsonos- seethes in the background”, says Madeleine, “Despite the spooky subject matter I’m having SO much fun playing Margot, and the whole creative team’s done a terrific job”. “We’ve never worked together before”, says Geoffrey. “The opportunity has arisen a couple of times, but each time one of us was already committed to something else. In the past, one of us has usually stayed in Toronto with the kids while the other is away for work. This was the perfect opportunity to finally share the stage while also having a great summer experience together as a family.”

The two met in the summer of 2008, when they each appeared in both the Fringe and Summerworks Festivals. Madeleine had written her very first play, and Geoffrey was appearing in Erin Shield’s “If We Were Birds”, which continued on to a successful run at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre . “The Fringe/Summerworks scene is pretty social, so we bumped into each other often. Eventually we discovered that we lived a block away from each other” recalls Madeleine. “Our colleagues were pretty encouraging; we had both attended the same theatre school so we had a lot of friends in common, though we’d never met.  I’d just ended a relationship, and my girlfriends wasted no time in “suggesting” that I check out this Geoffrey guy. Thank goodness for pushy friends!”

Having performed at both the Neptune Theatre (A Few Good Men, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) and the Charlottetown Festival (Fire, Anne of Green Gables), Geoffrey was eager to return to an east coast stage this summer. His work has taken him across the country, including multiple seasons at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Theatre Calgary and the NAC, as well as a villainous turn in the Canadian production of the international hit “War Horse”.  He is also a noted director of new Canadian plays, including two Governor-General’s Award nominees, and a classical theatre instructor at George Brown Theatre School in Toronto.

Madeleine has appeared in 9 Shakespeare productions, including five tours with Ontario’s Driftwood Theatre Group. She has also performed in four shows with Theatre Gargantua, a physical theatre company in Toronto.  She has worked extensively in children’s theatre, touring North America with Roseneath Theatre and Metaphysical Theatre. With her company Down n’ Out Productions, Madeleine produced five productions at Toronto’s Campbell House Museum, including a play she wrote about the war of 1812 which went on to tour the province. Her most recent children’s plays were commissioned by the Royal Ontario Museum.

Madeleine also loves teaching theatre to kids and teens. “With both of us working in theatre, scheduling is probably the biggest challenge we face as parents, whether in Toronto or elsewhere”, says Geoffrey.  “We’re very lucky to have a reliable network of friends in the city, as well as the world’s most committed grandparents. Our kids have spent quite a few hours in audition waiting rooms and theatre greenrooms, or hanging in parks with friends while we audition. They’re pretty familiar with the transit system already” Madeleine adds “I did two shows when they were tiny babies, and both times the companies were incredibly supportive when it came to scheduling issues, or providing space for babysitters or nursing, etc. And we love that our kids are already passionate theatregoers! So far, puppets are a MAJOR hit.”

Geoffrey reports “the kids are loving the island. They just went to their first Ceilidh and have now decided that they’re step-dancers. I’d worked here twice before (at the Charlottetown festival) but it’s Madeleine’s first time on the island, so we jumped at the opportunity to drive east. The kids are at the perfect age; at 3 and 4 they don’t mind being whisked away from friends and activities for a few months.”

“I don’t think they want to go back!” adds Madeleine. “I don’t blame them. We’re living in York, and they have so much space to run around. And they’re fascinated by the fishing boats in North Rustico. It’s been a magical summer so far.”

Both plays, “Dial M For Murder” and “A Moon For The Misbegotten” run to September 1st. Tickets can be purchased via the company’s website http://www.watermarktheatre.com or by calling 902-963-3963.

For more information, or to further interview Madeleine or Geoffrey, please contact Andrea Surich at 902-963-3963 or generalmanager@watermarktheatre.com

Watermark Theatre is a proud member of the PTN (Professional Theatre Network of PEI)

Discovering Your Roots

Actor Discovers His Roots In Hunter River

Actor Paul Cowling is performing this summer at Watermark Theatre in North Rustico. This is his first time on the Island, but he has roots that go quite a ways back. “My mother’s family came to the Hunter River area from Scotland sometime in the mid-1800s, around 1839,” Cowling says. “My great-great grandfather, Farquhar Beaton, and his wife Flora, settled in that area. A land lease shows he was given 100 acres on the Old Princetown Road. He had 8 children, one of whom was Malcolm, who was my great-grandfather. Malcolm in turn had 22 children, most of whom were also born in Hunter River. My grandfather, Bentley, was among them.”

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Cowling says that his mother’s family were all close, so he met many of his grandfather’s siblings while he was growing up. “The Beatons were, and still are, very close to each other. They are also very good musicians, and play fiddle, guitar, mandolin, and banjo. When my great grandfather moved his family to Saskatchewan, he became well-known for his musicianship, winning “old time fiddle” contests around the region. This love and ability to play music was passed on to all of his children, and growing up I remember many, many kitchen parties that would go on long into the night. So, I hope to have a chance to go to the ceilidhs on the island, to listen to the music and relive those childhood memories.”

Paul is also a musician, learning the guitar in his early teens. “The Beatons all played by ear, and I was lucky enough to inherit whatever gene that was myself. Sadly, I contracted Lyme Disease several years ago, and it’s affected my hand. So, I haven’t been able to play since. I’m starting a new treatment in the fall, and I’m hopeful I’ll be able to play again soon. My mother always said that the Beatons have music in their blood, and I do miss not being able to pick up the guitar from time to time.”

Though he’s been busy with rehearsing two shows, Cowling has had some time to explore the island. “It’s so beautiful here,” Cowling says. “More so than I could have imagined. I had a very limited idea of what the area was like. People talk about how red the soil is, but until you see it, in the fields or on the beaches, you really can’t begin to describe it. I’ve taken quite a few photos of it since I’ve been here. Also, it goes without saying that the people I’ve met on the island have been very friendly and welcoming.”

Once he is out of rehearsal, and the shows at Watermark are up and running, Paul plans to make the trip out to Hunter River. “I want to see the area that marked the beginning of the Beaton journey in Canada, and where Farquhar Beaton and his wife, and any of his children, are laid to rest. I want to pay my respects, and in some way thank him for coming to Canada and starting a life and a family that eventually led to my being here on the island. Also, to thank him for passing down, in whatever way, the love of music and talent for entertaining that resulted in my becoming an actor.”

Asked for a few final thoughts about his experience here in PEI so far, Cowling has this to say: “I feel like I’ve been given a gift. Here I am, in the home of my ancestors, working on two fantastic shows with an enormously talented and wonderful group of individuals. The island itself is breathtakingly beautiful, the people are lovely and kind, and the whole area is alive with amazing music and musicians. I can’t think of a better place to spend the summer. Who knows, maybe I’ll get a chance to do it again someday.”

Paul Cowling is performing in two shows at the Watermark Theatre this summer; “Dial M For Murder”, and “A Moon For The Misbegotten”. Both shows run all summer to September 1st. Tickets can be purchased via the company’s website http://www.watermarktheatre.com or by calling 902-963-3963.

For more information, or to further interview Paul Cowling, please contact Andrea Surich at 902-963-3963 or generalmanager@watermarktheatre.com

Watermark Theatre is a proud member of the PTN (Professional Theatre Network of PEI)

Married to the Theatre

Actor Ian Deakin, who has two featured roles this summer with the Watermark Theatre, has been a professional actor in this country for 45 years. He has also been with his wife, costume designer Bonnie Deakin, for those same 45 years. Ian has had a long and prolific career by any standard and his relationship with Bonnie has endured while navigating the often rewarding but difficult world of Canadian theatre.

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Ian plays Victor Velasco in Barefoot in the Park and Sir George Crofts in Mrs. Warren’s Profession on stage at the Watermark until September 2nd. Bonnie designed the costumes for both plays at the Watermark this summer while also working as Head of Wardrobe at The Confederation Centre.

A busy schedule for them both but at least they’re on the Island together. Both artists have traversed the country chasing work their entire careers. “Dashing across the country from job to job is really no different now than it was 45 years ago”, says Ian, “the world has changed, and we have both grown richer as artists because of it. Longevity is possibly the only mark of true success for a working actor or designer in this country, as fame is often fleeting. Fortunately we will go on as long as there is someone willing to take a chance on either of us. Retirement is merely another signpost to observe as we head off to the next contract in another part of the country. In the theatre we’re all wastrels and vagabonds and thieves!”

The two met in high school in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. “We were both in a production of Dr Helen Creighton’s The Broken Ring, says Bonnie, “we were good chums then, and fell in love years later, during a production of Cosi Fan Tutti”. Ian describes the proposal: “I was on my knees in formal dress in the green room of Halifax’s Neptune Theatre between the second and third act of The Matchmaker, I was playing August the waiter. I immediately dashed back on to the stage to await my answer.  The reply solidified both my personal and professional future.”

Bonnie talks about those first years together: “when we were first married, I followed Ian everywhere. We had a big steamer trunk, and those days were exciting and fun. It was a great way to stay together and learn about theatre and each other. We met, and worked with, so many of this country’s theatre greats.” Of course life has its ups and downs and relationships in this business aren’t always easy.

“After 10 years, when our son Robin came along”, Bonnie explains, “I stayed home, often taking freelance work that could be done from my kitchen. Feathers and trims and bits of materials would be in every room, but it meant that Robin was able to come home for lunch, and I could take him to school, and hockey, and lessons. Ian was always on the road it seemed. It was hard. There was no internet in those days and phone calls were expensive. His return home was always an adjustment. We had to keep reminding ourselves of what our intent was when we made our commitment to each other.”

Ian has worked from coast to coast and spent 13 seasons at the Stratford Festival in such productions as The Tempest, Julius Caesar, Henry V, Cymbeline and The Odyssey. He appeared on Broadway with Christopher Plummer in King Lear at the Lincoln Centre, and Off Broadway at City Centre in Much Ado About Nothing and The Miser. Bonnie worked for many years at the Grand Theatre in London, Ontario and has designed costumes in theatres across Canada, the U.S., Mexico, and El Salvador. She recently designed costumes for A Christmas Carol for Persephone Theatre in Saskatoon, and at The Confederation Centre she designed for Glenda’s Kitchen and The Voices of Canada.

Bonnie and Ian are especially grateful to have this summer together here on the Island. “For the last year and a half Ian has been the primary caregiver for our son Robin, who sustained a catastrophic brain injury in a car accident”, explains Bonnie. “Ian has been on the front line every day and I have been the breadwinner. This summer has been a golden opportunity for Robin to rediscover independent living, and for us to get reacquainted, and for Ian to perform in two great roles. It’s a rare thing for us to work on the same production, this has been a very positive experience.”

And how has their time been on the Island? “I’m delighted to be working with the Watermark this summer” says Ian, “my admiration for the amazingly gifted cast and crew, to be working with Bonnie again after many years, being here on PEI, and to be sharing with her the beauty of this Island”. Bonnie concurs, “I love this island. The people are warm and welcoming.  I have the kindest landlords who look after me, and now welcome Ian. There is music, art and theatre all around, always something to do, and the restaurants and seafood are wonderful.”

What is Young at Heart?

Young At Heart Musical Theatre For Seniors, Inc. is a not-for-profit, charitable organization, based in Prince Edward Island that provides professional and original musical theatre productions for senior citizens in long-term care and retirement facilities.

We are currently in our 10th year of operation and we are the only organization of its kind east of Ontario. We exist to enrich the lives of senior citizens who are generally isolated by giving them a vibrant and interactive experience that will brighten their spirits and potentially improve their health and well-being.

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The Atlantic region’s aging population solidifies our mandate to continue to provide vibrant and original Canadian musicals to those with little chance of seeing a show outside of their retirement and long-term care facilities. We have touched the lives of thousands of senior citizens in more than 30 facilities in PEI with several original Canadian musical shows.

Senior citizens, as many studies have shown, benefit greatly from both music and theatre. Some noted improvements included increased awareness and concentration, enhanced awareness and social interaction, improved memory and recall, better mobility and coordination, diminished pain and tension, improved recovery times and relaxations, and of course a happier outlook on life. Older adults that are exposed to music and theatre have shown improvements in anxiety, depression and loneliness levels which are three key factors in maintaining proper mental and physical health.

Our company, whose primary focus is on performing for long term care residents, touches on every one of those benefits, lifting their spirits, hearts and minds, and enriching seniors’ lives.