Category Archives: Profiles

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.

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From Art to the Arts, and Musicals, Too

The massive complex in the heart of Charlottetown might seem a tiny bit intimidating on first glance – imposing architecture, a full city block, four large sandstone cubes. But once you’ve stepped onto the property of Confederation Centre of the Arts, you soon sense the people-friendly atmosphere that permeates this cultural centre that is officially Canada’s memorial to the founding fathers. Visitors enjoy ice cream and a live brass quintet, families crowd into the amphitheatre for a rousing (and free) noontime show by a corps of young “triple threats,” and culture buffs study public works of art.

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Venture inside and the fun continues. Newly opened in 2015 is “The Story of Confederation,” a startlingly realistic replica (also free) of the original Confederation Chamber, where the 1864 Charlottetown Conference discussions led to the creation of a country. The original chamber in Province House next door is currently closed for conservation work, but the first-rate film and interpretation provide a full and entertaining explanation of nation building Canadian style. For more on Confederation, visitors take in a vignette or walking tour with the Confederation Players, easily recognized by their warm wool suits and charming gowns – really the only folks around town wearing top hats and carrying fluttering fans.

Stepping across the pavilion and into Confederation Centre Art Gallery, you find yourself in a completely new setting, surrounded by contemporary art exhibits and historical artifacts. The exhibits extend from the four upstairs galleries into the lower concourse of the complex, and the classic Brutalist-style architecture of the 1964 building protects the treasure trove of culture within, but a pleasant surprise in the partly underground hallways is the beautiful light-filled, marble-clad space called Memorial Hall, where the founding of Canada is officially commemorated.

It’s not possible to leave Confederation Centre without taking in some live theatre. The Charlottetown Festival is noted for its first-class Canadian musicals, most famously for Guinness-record setting Anne of Green Gables – The Musical™, in 2016 running alongside the blockbuster Mamma Mia! and Soulpepper’s latest success Spoon River. With tickets in hand, fully inspired by visual art and historical anecdotes, it seems a perfect moment to settle at a table in Mavor’s courtyard – the finest outdoor dining in the city – with dinner and a drink before the show.

A Watermark on the Coast

The artists and staff of the Watermark Theatre on the coast of North Rustico believe our province is a better place to live in and visit because it has a fine classical theatre company. Programs for students, seniors, summer residents, visitors and residents enrich and support our lives. They give us access to some of the greatest thinkers in history, thrilling art work and stories from our own rich history.

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We believe that this excellent art work should be available at a low price so that everyone who wants to enjoy it can. To provide this access, community members volunteer time and donate money, staff and management work for minimum wage or honorariums, volunteer time and donate money; professional artists from across Canada provide top class work for minimum wages.

The Watermark Theatre produces the finest professional classical theatre in P.E.I. You’ll find the greatest works of English, American, and European Literature on our intimate thrust stage in North Rustico, all at incredibly affordable prices.

Summerside Showtime

Harbourfront Theatre opened its doors in 1996, the result of more than a decade of tireless effort on the part of a group of Summerside citizens with a vision to create a state of the art, multi purpose performing arts facility in Prince County. The theatre, along with the Eptek Art & Culture Centre and the Summerside Visitor Information Centre, is housed in The Wyatt Centre, aptly named after one of the facility’s major contributors, Dr. Wanda Wyatt.

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Harbourfront Theatre is owned by Regional Cultural Events Centre Inc., a registered non-profit organization managed by a board of directors, general manager, and director of operations, and boasts a friendly, knowledgeable, professional staff and a dedicated core of over 90 volunteers.

Its mission is “to provide a continuous live entertainment service to the Prince Edward Island community and its visitors, featuring both local and touring productions, while being a significant driving force within the community to encourage and nurture the development and appreciation of the performing arts.”

The facility is ideally suited to a myriad of uses, including plays, concerts, opera, ballet, comedy & magic shows, conferences, seminars, receptions, business mixers, trade shows and public forums. Beautifully appointed and state of the art equipped, the Harbourfront Theatre represents the best of both worlds – large enough to host renowned touring acts, yet small enough so that every one of its 527 seats captures a uniquely intimate performer/audience experience.

The Little Theatre That Could, and Does.

The Victoria Playhouse Inc., located in the beautiful village of Victoria by the Sea, Prince Edward Island, was formed in 1981, when residents voted to encourage the production of live theatre in their community hall. It was recognized the presence of the theatre contributed to the quality of life and the social and economic vitality of the community.

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The Victoria Playhouse Inc. is a registered not-for-profit organization and is managed by a five-member Board of Directors, an Artistic Programming Committee and a Managing Director. The company has produced thirty-four seasons of live theatre and performance events emphasizing contemporary Canadian plays and music. On average the Playhouse presents over eighty performances a year and during the peak season (July through September) operates seven days a week.

The historic Victoria Hall, located at the exact centre of the village is home to the Victoria Playhouse Inc. The building was constructed between 1912-1915 and is widely known for its intimate interior, excellent acoustics and air conditioning! In 2007 the Hall was designated a ‘Historic Place’ on the Canadian Register of Historic Places. The Hall has been the heart of the community for nearly one hundred years and continues to bring people together, from near and far, to share in the magic of live performance.

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.