Category Archives: Profiles

Who is Robert Tsonos?

Robert Tsonos, Artistic Director of the Watermark Theatre, has had a distinguished international directing career having worked in Japan, Hong Kong, England, and Venezuela; he was a member of the Watermark Theatre acting company for the past two seasons; and was the Director of the company’s national tour of Canada 300. Mr. Tsonos was the resident director at the Canadian Embassy Theatre in Tokyo from 2003 to 2006 and has been the Artistic Director of Sometimes Y Theatre for the past 17 years.

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Robert’s directing credits include Shakespeare’s Will and Old Times at the Hong Kong Arts Centre, Elisa’s Skin for TEATRELA in Caracas, The Goat at the Hong Kong Fringe Club, La Ronde for Temple University Japan,‘night, Mother at the Etcetera Theatre in London and the Dancehall Theatre in Manchester; Vigil, The Drawer Boy, and For The Pleasure Of Seeing Her Again at the Canadian Embassy Theatre; and A Doll’s House and Proof for Tokyo International Players.

Robert‘s theatre acting credits include An Ideal Husband, Romeo & Juliet, The Rainmaker and The Lion In Winter (Watermark Theatre); Macbeth (Shouson Theatre Hong Kong), The Domino Heart and Problem Child (Canadian Embassy Theatre, Tokyo), True West (Akasaka Playbox, Tokyo), The Qualities of Zero, Ines de Castro, Total Body Washout, and Romeo & Rosaline (Tarragon Theatre’s Extra Space), Othello (Persephone Theatre), The Grey Zone (Poor Alex Theatre) and Three Days of Rain (Sudbury Theatre Centre).

As a playwright, Robert‘s play It’s Time won the Uprising National Playwriting Competition, placed 2nd in the 84th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition, and was a finalist for the Herman Voaden Playwriting Competition. His play The Hum was produced in Hong Kong; was a finalist for The Herman Voaden National Playwriting Competition; and was published by Level 4 Press in “Regional Best 2012”. His play William & James has been produced in Toronto (Theatre Passe Muraille), New York, Montreal and Ottawa. His other plays include In His Name, Sharnoozle!, which toured international schools in Tokyo, the CBC Radio play Ice Age, as well as I Am Not The One, and Running – 3 short plays.

Mr. Coward at the Watermark Theatre

Noel Peirce Coward, whose play “Blithe Spirit” is at the Watermark Theatre all summer, was born on December 16, 1899, receiving his first name because Christmas was just days away. From an early age, Noel was intelligent, temperamental, and an instinctive performer, making his first stage appearances in amateur concerts at age seven. He loved to sing and dance at any excuse and threw frightful tantrums if he was not summoned to perform for guests.

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With his mother’s encouragement, he launched his professional acting career at the age of 12, making his London debut as Prince Mussel in a children’s show called The Goldfish. He appeared in several West End productions, including the “lost boy” Slightly in two West End editions of Peter Pan.

In the early 1900s, England was a very class-conscious society. A boy actor born to poor parents would have been snubbed by the upper classes. However, Coward’s extraordinary determination and charm won him an entree into the chicest circles. His professional and social ambitions were insatiable.

I Leave It To You (1920) was Coward’s first full length play produced in the West End, with Noel playing a leading role – quite an accomplishment for a lad of 21. The brief run brought encouraging reviews, whetting Coward’s appetite for more.

The London production of his play The Young Idea (1923) was a mild success, with Noel playing one of the lead roles. That same year, producer Andre Charlot featured several of Coward’s songs in the hit revue London Calling. While all this was happening, Noel put the finishing touches on a daring drama that would change his career – and his life – forever.

He wrote, directed and starred in The Vortex (1924), a searing look at sexual vanity and drug abuse among the upper classes. When most producers refused to consider such a lurid project, the small Everyman Theatre in suburban London agreed to take it on.
On opening night, the audience was both shocked and fascinated by The Vortex. The combination of fiery acting and scandalous subject matter made The Vortex the talk of London. Other plays had depicted drug abuse, but not among the rich. Demand was such that the production soon moved to a larger West End theatre for an extended run, making Coward a sensation.

With the sudden success of The Vortex, Coward was in demand. Over the two years he starred in the London and New York productions, as well as an American tour. Coward also wrote the hilarious comedy Hay Fever (1925), which triumphed in London, and the hit West End revue On With The Dance (1925). He also turned out Fallen Angels (1925), Easy Virtue (1925), The Queen Was in the Parlour (1926) and The Rat Trap (1926). Most of these plays were at least partially successful, but he was working at a punishing pace.

Coward prospered through the worst of the Great Depression, enjoying a lifestyle most people could only dream about. A dedicated traveler, he went on a series of extended journeys to escape the pressures of show business. During one 1929 stay in Singapore, he finished the first draft of Private Lives (1930), which proved to be a highlight of his career. Coward co-starred with a then unknown Laurence Olivier, playing to packed houses in both London and New York.

Coward then wrote and directed Cavalcade (1931). Acclaimed on the London stage, the film version won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1933.

In 1942, he turned out a trio of hit plays, including the semi-autobiographical comedy Present Laughter (1942) and the cockney drama This Happy Breed (1942). His biggest wartime hit was Blithe Spirit (1942). The play proved one of Coward’s most popular successes, with character actress Margaret Rutherford winning stardom as the eccentric medium Madame Arcati. She repeated her role in a superb film version three years later.
The years following the war were difficult for Coward. Other than the London revue Sigh No More (1945), most of his new works met with commercial failure. Coward knew instinctively that his writing was better than ever, but it seemed that the public’s tastes had changed.

A 1963 revival of Private Lives took London by storm, sparking renewed interest in Coward’s plays on both sides of the Atlantic. Revivals and TV productions of his works followed and continue to this day.

In January of 1973, Noel visited New York for a gala performance of the off-Broadway revue Oh Coward! He arrived with longtime friend Marlene Dietrich on his arm. Bent with age and illness, he remained the personification of elegance. Friends sensed that he was declining, but no one realized that his would be his last public appearance. In the early morning hours of Monday, March 26, 1973, Noel Coward suffered a stroke at his home in Jamaica.

Mr. Williams at the Watermark Theatre

Tennessee Williams wrote “The Glass Menagerie” – on this summer at the Watermark Theatre! Thomas Lanier “Tennessee” Williams III was an American playwright and author of many stage classics. Along with Eugene O’Neill and Arthur Miller he is considered among the three foremost playwrights in 20th-century American drama.

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Tennessee was born on March 26, 1911, in Columbus, Mississippi, the second of Cornelius and Edwina Williams’ three children. Williams described his childhood in Mississippi as pleasant and happy. But life changed for him when his family moved to St. Louis, Missouri. The carefree nature of his boyhood was stripped in his new urban home, and as a result Williams turned inward and started to write.

His parent’s marriage certainly didn’t help. Often strained, the Williams home could be a tense place to live. “It was just a wrong marriage,” Williams later wrote. The family situation, however, did offer fuel for the playwright’s art. His mother became the model for the foolish but strong Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie, while his father represented the aggressive, driving Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

When he was 28, Williams moved to New Orleans, where he changed his name (he landed on Tennessee because his father hailed from there) and revamped his lifestyle, soaking up the city life that would inspire his work, most notably the later play, A Streetcar Named Desire.

In 1940 Williams’ play, Battle of Angels, debuted in Boston. It quickly flopped, but the hardworking Williams revised it and brought it back as Orpheus Descending, which later was made into the movie, The Fugitive Kind, starring Marlon Brando and Anna Magnani.
Other work followed, including a gig writing scripts for MGM. But Williams’ mind was never far from the stage. On March 31, 1945, a play he’d been working for some years, The Glass Menagerie, opened on Broadway.

Critics and audiences alike lauded the play, about a declassed Southern family living in a tenement, forever changing Williams’ life and fortunes. Two years later, A Streetcar Named Desire opened, surpassing his previous success and cementing his status as one of the country’s best playwrights. The play also earned Williams a Drama Critics’ Award and his first Pulitzer Prize.

His subsequent work brought more praise. The hits from this period included Camino Real, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Sweet Bird of Youth.

The 1960s were a difficult time for Williams. His work received poor reviews and increasingly the playwright turned to alcohol and drugs as coping mechanisms. In 1969 his brother hospitalized him. Upon his release, Williams got right back to work. He churned out several new plays as well as Memoirs in 1975, which told the story of his life and his afflictions.

But he never fully escaped his demons. Surrounded by bottles of wine and pills, Williams died in a New York City hotel room on February 25, 1983.

Setting the Stage

Watermark Theatre’s Board of Directors announced that it would be naming its stage for newly retired founder and artistic director, Duncan McIntosh. McIntosh, whose contribution to dramatic arts in Prince Edward Island and throughout Canada is well‐known, retired this past summer after bringing the Watermark into its most successful season to date.

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Past chair of the Watermark Board of Directors, Mary Crane, commented at a recent celebration in honour of Duncan: “During my time as Chair of the Board, I came to truly respect the talent and passion Duncan brought to every aspect of writing, directing and theatre development. No challenge defeated him and every season was a triumph.”

“Duncan’s respect for the people with whom he engages is admirable and much appreciated,” remarked Lois O’Neill, current Board Chair. “His energy, creative mind and nature, and his determination to build an exceptional classical theatre in our province are inspiring. We are fortunate, indeed, to have had him to lead us to this point. Naming our stage in his honour is tangible recognition of his exceptional gifts, all devoted to nurturing this Theatre since its opening in 2008. At that time, it was to honour the 100th Anniversary of the publication of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables; since then, he has held true to presenting professional and classical theatre on Prince Edward Island.”

Mr. McIntosh’s visionary perception of Canadian theatre led to the creation of ReIgnite Inc., a unique Watermark endeavour focused on the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation talks that took place on PEI. Its production of ‘Canada 300’ presented nine short original plays in twenty‐one venues across Canada from February to April, 2015.

Each play, grounded in an historical or current facet of Canada, contemplated the future unfolding of Canadian society. Following every performance, audience members discussed the plays and their own wishes for Canada in the next 150 years. The process continued as part of last summer’s Watermark season where it was well received.

In September, this year’s Palmer Conference at UPEI further explored considerations for Canada in the next 150 years. There were thought‐provoking presentations, panel discussions, and opportunities to engage in discussion with delegates from each of the twenty‐ one communities in which ‘Canada 300’ played last winter. From examination of First Nations concerns and immigration, to discussion about what Canadians should consider if we are to thrive as a nation, this year’s Palmer Conference was the brainchild of Mr. McIntosh.

David Bulger, an actor in several Watermark productions, observed that McIntosh is a master at building enthusiasm and collegial atmosphere within a theatre company. “Watermark was the best place I had ever worked at in my many years, and that it was owing to Duncan’s ability to create a positive working and learning environment”, he said.

The Duncan McIntosh Stage will be a reminder for future casts, crews and audiences of Mr. McIntosh’s remarkable legacy. Without a doubt, his artistic vision will continue to touch others for years to come.