Category Archives: Profiles

The Man Who Educated Rita

Playwright Profile – Willy Russell – Educating Rita

Willy Russell’s career spans more than four decades; born in Liverpool in 1947, he left school at 15, became a women’s hairdresser, part-time singer/songwriter before returning to education and becoming a teacher. Two of Willy’s best-known plays have female protagonists, Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine. Both became successful films – Julie Walters and Pauline Collins who played the roles on stage received Oscar nominations as did Willy for the screenplay of Educating Rita.

His musical Blood Brothers played for 24 years becoming the 3rd longest running West End musical. Major foreign productions include a 2 year run on Broadway.

Willy continues to be one of the most celebrated and widely produced writers of his generation with works regularly being produced throughout the world.

Buy Your Tickets to Educating Rita Here: https://www.ticketwizard.ca/show/3217

or call 902-963-3963

One Man Army

By Ed Staskus

There has never been an overabundance of men who fight for a guerrilla group and three armies, one of them twice, during any single war. An army a day keeps most men busy enough. Leonas Lucauskas stayed busier than many other combatants during the titanic struggle that was World War II, serving in the Lithuanian, German, and American armed forces. He may not have had as many lives as a cat, but it was close enough.

“My father was born in 1916, in the Ukraine,” said Leo Lucas. “My grandfather Juozas and grandmother Stanislava were living in Poltava, insanely far from Marijampole, their home.” He meant the 700 miles was insanely far given the state of Russian roads and railroads. The Eastern Front, where millions of men were slaughtering each other at the time, was closer.

“He was a professor, teaching there during the war.” said Leo.

The school was the Poltava National Technical University. It was founded in 1818 by the wife of the governor-general of the province, the granddaughter of the last Ukrainian strongman before the Russian Empire absorbed the country in the 18th century. For hundreds of years Lithuanian and Polish freebooters had controlled vast tracts of the Ukraine and were a law unto themselves. They were no match for the Cossacks, however, who were later no match for the Russians.

The main building on campus was built in the early 1830s as the home of the Institute of Noble Maidens. It had an Empire-style look. When the institute became the technical university, women were forbidden to attend.

After the war the family, including Leonas’s older brother and sister, who were twins, went back to Lithuania. They settled near Iglauka, not far from Lake Yglos, His father taught school in Marijampole, 12 miles to the west, and they lived on a farm. His mother’s family were prosperous owners of acreage and property.

In 1924 the state-sponsored revolt in Klaipeda was signed sealed delivered, the country competed in the Summer Olympics for the first time, and his older brother suddenly unexpectedly died. The next year his mother was shot dead at a wedding.

It had been Russian Imperial policy to leave the country in a non-industrial state. The inheritance system that was exercised after the land reform of 1863 forbade the partition of land plots. There were many landowners at the reception. They stuck tight together socially friends neighbors families bound by the old time way.

“A group of Communist agitators, people who wanted other people’s land, came to the wedding, started a ruckus, started shooting guns, and my grandmother was accidentally shot and killed,” said Leo.

The Communist party of Lithuania was formed in 1918 and remained illegal until 1940. They were out for blood, though. There is only so much land to go around in small Baltic-like countries.

Years later, Leonas told his son the challenge of his life after his mother’s death was, would he take revenge when he grew up? They all lived in small towns, everybody knew everybody else, and everybody knew who the Communists were. Should he kill them when he grew up? He decided he wouldn’t.

When he grew up, he got married, had a daughter, was planning on going to school to study medicine, but then the Second World War happened. His father was shot and killed by fifth column Communists in his own home, Leonas joined the Lithuanian Army, and the Soviet Union invaded.

It was never a fair fight. In mid-June 1940 a half-million Red Army troops poured across the borders of Estonia and Latvia. Within a week the Baltics were overrun, one week before France fell to Nazi Germany. Josef Stalin blew his nose into his walrus mustache. Adolf Hitler did an awkward little jig grinning behind his square mustache.

Leonas took to the forest, joining a group of partisans, staying in the fight for the next year. It wasn’t any more dangerous than anything else in the dangerous times. He had been working in the fields when his father was killed. “They were killing landowners. My father’s luck was just the luck of being out working,” said Leo. They would have killed him all the next year if they had been able to track him down.

A year later Lithuania was invaded by two German army groups. Most Russian aircraft were destroyed on the ground. The Wehrmacht advanced rapidly, assisted by Lithuanians, who saw them as liberators. They helped by bringing their weapons to bear, controlling railroads, bridges, and warehouses. The Lithuanian Activist Front and Lithuanian Territorial Corps formed the native backbone of the anti-Soviet fighting.

Leonas Lucauskas was one of many who joined the German Army, being assigned to a Baltic Unit. Three years later he was having second thoughts. The Baltic Offensive of 1944 was in full swing, the Red Army on the march to “liberate the Soviet Baltic peoples.” An NCO by then, Leonas and his men were ordered to man the front line and hold it at all costs. It was costing them more lives every day.

“The rich Lithuanians were officers,” Leo said. They weren’t in the tranches getting their heads shot off. “The enlisted men were getting endlessly killed.”

A small airstrip was nearby for reconnaissance and resupply. Junker 52s were flying in and out with ammunition first aid food and hope in the grim hopelessness. Leonas and three other men from his unit were unloading one of the planes at a side door by means of a ramp, the front prop and wing-mounted engines roaring, when with hardly a word spoken between them, they made up their minds to steal it and fly to safety.

Two of the men rushed up the ramp and threw the two German pilots out the door, while the other man and Leonas kept watch, guns at the ready. He was the last one to scramble into the plane and was shot in the back of the foot just before he slammed the door shut.

“I was playing on the floor one day,” Leo said. It was the late 1960s. “My dad was relaxing, shoes and socks off, sitting on the sofa in the living room reading a newspaper. I saw a scar on his heel and asked him what it was. He said it was a bullet wound. He rolled up his pants and showed me three more on both legs.”

One of the Lithuanians returned the shooting with a MG15 machine gun set in the dustbin turret, while the other two men dragged Leonas to the cockpit. None of them had ever flown an airplane. He was the only one of them who had ever even driven a car.

How hard can it be? he thought. With bullets slamming into the corrugated aluminum fuselage he found out it wasn’t hard at all. He pushed on the throttle, got the Junker going as fast as he thought it would go, raised the nose, and “Iron Annie” lifted up into the air.

They quickly came up with a plan, planning to fly to Switzerland. They got as far as the neighborhood of the Poland to Germany border when they ran out of gas. The plane wasn’t the fastest, 165 MPH its top speed, and it could go about 600 miles on a tankful. When they went down, they were headed in the right direction. All they needed was another full tank.

It solved their landing problem, since Leonas had already told his countrymen he had no idea how to land the plane. The Junker hit the ground hard and every part of it broke into pieces. When Leonas came back to life he was in a field hospital. He never found out what happened to his comrades.

The doctors and military men asked him who he was and what happened. He answered them in German, in High German, not Low. “My father spoke Lithuanian, Polish, Russian, and German.” He was wearing the right uniform when found, was speaking like a householder, and they assumed he was one of them. Leonas bit his tongue about who he really was, thanking God for his good fortune.

After he got out of the hospital he was deemed not fit enough for combat and assigned to the motor pool. Soon after he drew a lucky number and was assigned to be the driver for a general. It was lucky enough until several months later, early one morning, in the middle of winter, when he got a wake-up call from one of his motor pool sidekicks.

“Don’t come to work today,” the man said.

“What does that mean?”

“Your general died late last night. One of the first people the Gestapo will want to talk to is you.”

He knew it was true. He knew what had happened to anybody and everybody involved in the attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler in mid-July. Nearly 5,000 people were executed. He would never be able to stand up to scrutiny.

His general was probably out carousing in their Tatra 87, slid on ice and smashed into a tree, but it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter whether he died in the arms of his mother or was assassinated. His goose was cooked if the Geheime Staatspolizei got him. The SS literally cooked people to death.

The Tatra 87 was the car of the year the last five years. Sleek futuristic BMW-engine fast and high-tech as could be, it was the vehicle of choice for German officers. Unfortunately for them, it was sloppy, handling like pudding, killing its drivers right and left. Leonas always kept it under 40 MPH. It was the vehicle of choice of the Americans, too, for their mortal enemy. They thought of it as a secret weapon, killing more high German officers than died fighting the Red Army.

He jumped to his feet, hurriedly dressed in his uniform, threw on a winter coat, and fled his room. Making his way to the motor pool, he found a truck with keys in the ignition and a full tank of gas. There were plenty to go around. Opel manufactured 95,000 of the 2-ton 4 x 4 Blitz Utility trucks during the war. He quickly signed it out, turned it over, and drove away unnoticed. He drove straight for the front. His plan was to break through the line and surrender to the Americans.

When you’re at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.

He didn’t get shot by either side and what went down is, he surrendered. He was relieved and confident that the war was over for him. But by the time the war was actually raising the white flag he was in his third army. At least he was finally on the winning side.

“My grandfather Juozas was a gigantic guy,” said Leo. “I’m six foot four. My father Leonas was five nine and maybe one forty pounds.” In the end, what counts is what you do.

Dwight Eisenhower was the Supreme Commander of what he called “the whole shebang” in Europe. He knew there was more to winning the war than armor. “What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog,” he said.

At the beginning of 1945 the Allied Expeditionary Force on the Western Front had 73 divisions ready to go. The Germans had 26 divisions. The Battle of the Bulge ended in an Allied victory. Adolf Hitler held a meeting with his top men, instructing them to hold the Americans and British off as long as possible. By that time, however, his top men were flat tires. He boarded a train and never went back to the Western Front again. At the end of January, he gave the last speech he was ever to give. It didn’t do any good.

After surrendering, Leonas spent time in a DP camp, until being recruited by the Americans. They were looking for men who spoke multiple languages and he fit the bill. He had been picking up bits and pieces of English. Russian and Polish are among the Top 10 hardest languages to learn. English is no slouch, either. He served as a Sergeant in a Baltic Unit. In 1946 and 1947 he was in Nuremberg, where war crime trials were being conducted. The evil men who propagated the National Socialist German Party either committed suicide, were executed, or locked up for a long time.

As the hard-fought civilization-saving decade of the 1940s wound itself down, Leonas Lucauskas emigrated to North America, finding work as a lumberjack near Sudbury, Ontario. “It was an indentured servant kind of job,” said Leo. More than two-thirds of the Canadian province is forest, in land area the equivalent of Fascist Germany and Fascist Italy combined. “He was never quite sure where he was.” He wasn’t, at least, a mike down in Sudbury’s nickel mines.

Making it in a company town is unlikely. Since there is no competition, housing costs and groceries bills can become exorbitant, and workers build up large debts they are required to pay off before leaving. It can be slavery by another name. Leonas determined to find another way, his own way.

He and several other men pooled their resources, found a broken-down car, scavenged parts from other wrecks, filled the tires with enough cotton to get them to roll, and hit the road. He ended up in St. Catherine’s, near Niagara Falls, and later, finding the opportunity to go to the United States in 1950, took it and settled down outside Buffalo, New York, where he stayed the rest of his life.

He got married again. His wife Louise taught school. They raised a family. He went to work as a butcher in the meat department of a grocery store for more than thirty years, rarely missing a day.

He built their house on three acres of land. One acre of it was devoted to a garden. Leo recalled, “I must have moved 5,000 wheelbarrows of manure as a child. Whenever our car parts factory friends went on strike, I delivered food to them in the morning before school.” His older sister Katherine still lives in the family home.

Leonas hung from his heels in the garage to prove he could still do it. “My father was a strong man.” said Leo. Sometimes men are strong because it’s the only choice they have. Spinning your wheels doesn’t get it done. He smoked and drank with his friends at the local Italian and Polish social clubs. He was an affable strong man.

Once he was done, he never enlisted in any other man’s army ever again.

Ed Staskus edits Theatre PEI. He posts feature stories on Paperback Yoga http://www.paperbackyoga.com 147 Stanley Street http://www.147stanleystreet.com and Lithuanian Journal http://www.lithuanianjournal.com. To get the site’s monthly feature in your in-box click on “Follow.”

Theatre PEI

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The New Scrooge


Cameron MacDuffee is very happy to be making his Watermark Theatre debut. An islander by choice, Cameron moved here in 2015 from Ontario and couldn’t be happier about it. For over 25 years Cameron has worked as a professional actor, musician, playwright, producer and instructor across Canada and the United States. He has performed in most of the major regional theatres in Canada in over 70 professional productions, including four seasons at the Shaw Festival and seven seasons at the Charlottetown Festival (Kronborg, Mamma Mia, Jesus Christ Superstar, On The Road with Dutch Mason, Anne of Green Gables, Dear Johnny Deere, Evangeline, Ring of Fire). 


Cameron recently started a new company on PEI called Farmgate Theatre with his partner, musician Karen Graves. The company created and produced two shows in 2021: The Good Time Radio Variety Show at the Victoria Playhouse, and The Road to Belong presented at their 100 acre farm in Bonshaw.


Thank you for supporting live theatre. Wishing you a peaceful season.
A Christmas Carol runs from Dec 9th to 19th.
https://www.ticketwizard.ca/show/3055 

Theatre PEI

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The Gin Man

Actor Profile: Richard Clarkin 
Will play the role of Weller Martin in “The Gin Game”.
July 13th to 31st, 2021. 
For tickets www.ticketwizard.ca or call 902-963-3963.

An Award-Winning performer and graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada, Richard Clarkin has created a versatile catalogue of characters on both stage and screen. Clarkin’s acting career began in 1984 when he originated the role of “Jacob Mercer” in David French’s iconic play Salt Water Moon for Tarragon Theatre in Toronto. Most recently, also for Tarragon, Clarkin played “Menelaus” in Rick Robert’s adaptation of Orestes, a digital performance for the pandemic era, and a first of its kind for the theatre.


Clarkin has performed in large scale musicals such as Jukebox Hero and in the long running Disney/Mirvish hit production The Lion King, where he played the iconic role of “Scar”. Clarkin has fostered long associations with iconic theatre groups such as VideoCab and the Company Theatre in Toronto, as well as performing in leading roles for decorated companies across the country, including The Stratford Festival, Soulpepper Theatre, Necessary Angel, Grand Theatre, Atlantic Theatre Festival, Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Prairie Theatre Exchange, The Globe Theatre, Citadel, National Arts Centre and The Belfry. 


In 2018 Clarkin won the Canadian Screen Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Feature Film for his work in The Drawer Boy. Other notable screen roles include “Captain Gord Ogilvey” in the hit hockey comedy movies Goon and Goon II: Last of the Enforcers by director Michael Dowse, and recently the David Bowie biopic Stardust, and the soon to be released film Carmen opposite Natasha McElhone.


Clarkin’s extensive television credits include the recurring role of “Chief Inspector Davis” on Murdoch Mysteries for CBC, Burden of Truth (CBC), Rogue (Audience), Killjoys (Syfy), Republic of Doyle (CBC), Flashpoint (CBS/CTV) and a series regular role on the popular teen sitcom Naturally, Sadie for Disney Channel and Family Channel.


Clarkin divides his time between Toronto and PEI. His island roots run deep, owning an old Farmhouse in Savage Harbour, and his parents coming from farming communities in Kelly’s Cross and Watervale.

Theatre PEI

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Sixties Scoop Postcard

In this Postcard from the Island, artist and activist Patricia Bourque Photography

speaks about her craft, and her experience as a part of the Sixties Scoop.

Confederation Centre of the Arts is proud to be delivering ‘Postcards from the Island,’ a weekly online series featuring a rich depth of creative pioneers in quintessential Prince Edward Island locales.

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

Hamlet All Around the Musical

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Longtime Centre member, Grant Honeyman, recently told us this full-circle story about his parallel journey with ‘Kronborg: The Hamlet Rock Musical,’ and we had to share.

“I was an usher at the Centre in 1974 when ‘Kronborg’ opened. I was the front of house manager in 1975 when they were in rehearsals for Broadway (and I sat in the back a lot of mornings and afternoons watching those rehearsals).

Then came Adam [Brazier]’s brilliant concert revival at Indian River in 2017 with Mary Francis [Moore] directing, and Craig Fair’s splendid reorchestrations. I got to speak to Cliff Jones for the first time in more than 40 years. And see so many of the people who were involved with the show in 74-75. My partner Stephen (not really a musical fan) was totally enraptured with it. Then I managed to get two tickets for the restaging during the Theatre Conference a few days later in the Homburg Theatre.

Last Festival season [when Kronborg took the Centre’s Mainstage for a three-week run], Stephen took in the show five times. It was six for me. Loved the reworking of it, the updated and improved music, the simplicity of the set and costumes, Mary Francis’ excellent direction and the outstanding performances of the cast.

When I woke up [on February 10th], Stephen said to me ”you know ‘Hamlet – The Rock Musical’ opens next week in Los Angeles.”

Soooo…Los Angeles seemed the (il)logical(?) thing to do. So off we went!”

Grant sent us these wonderful photos from their trip to LA’s El Portal Theatre last month for the 3rd evening of Hamlet – The Rock Musical’s week-long run. Truly full-circle!

Thank you, Grant & Stephen!

🎭⚔️KRONBORG HISTORY⚔️🎭

Created by Cliff Jones, Kronborg—The Hamlet Rock Musical first debuted at The Charlottetown Festival in 1974. The rock musical went on to take the nation by storm in the 1970’s and later became the first Canadian musical to play on Broadway; with a month-long engagement as ‘Rockabye Hamlet’ (1976), and later a 14-month run in L.A. in the early ‘80s as ‘Something’s Rockin in Denmark.’

Kronborg was given a new lease on life in 2017, when it was turned into a sold-out concert performance at the Historic St. Mary’s Church in Indian River, P.E.I.

In 2019, 45 years since it was first produced, Kronborg returned for a Mainstage run at Confederation Centre, reimagined and reorchestrated by Director Mary Francis Moore and Musical Director Craig Fair.

Following this run, David Carver Music acquired the world-wide touring rights to the acclaimed musical, with plans to bring it to stages throughout Canada, Australia, the U.K., and the U.S.

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

What is the Confed Centre?

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Confederation Centre of the Arts has an important official role as the national memorial to the 1864 Charlottetown Conference where delegates first proposed a national union.  A realistic replica of the original Confederation Chamber is located in the Centre’s Upper Foyer. The actual chamber in Province House next door is currently closed for conservation work, but the first-rate film and interpretation at Confederation Centre’s “Story of Confederation” provide a full and entertaining explanation of nation building Canadian style. For more on Confederation, visitors take in a street-side photo, game of croquet, or walking tour with the Confederation Players, who are easily recognized by their warm wool suits and charming gowns – really the only folks around town wearing top hats and carrying fluttering fans. As well, Confederation Centre’s Young Company performs lively lunch-time shows, interpreting inspiring Canadian stories through song and dance.

The Centre’s mandate to “inspire Canadians, through heritage and the arts, to celebrate the origins and evolution of Canada as a nation” is well fulfilled through the rich programming on our stages, in our galleries, and with the full explanation of the “conception of Canada” as provided by the Confederation Chamber and Players. In addition, since 2006, the Confederation Centre has presented The Symons Medal to 17 high-profile Canadians who have delivered thought-provoking lectures on the current state and future prospects of Confederation.

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