Category Archives: Reviews

Nowhere to Hide

By Ed Staskus

   Corporal JT Markunas was stationed in Charlottetown with the Queens RCMP detachment. He was a grade above constable, but still pulled service in a police pursuit vehicle. He rented a small two-bedroom farmhouse in Milton, where he had planted a root garden. His parents were pleased when they saw the photograph of beets, turnips, and carrots that he mailed them. He was in his police car in Cavendish, across the street from the Rainbow Valley amusement park. JT was from Sudbury, Ontario and Prince Edward Island was his third assignment since joining the force. His first assignment had been at Fort Resolution in the Northwest Territories. He missed Sudbury, but he didn’t miss Fort Resolution.

   When he was a child, the Canadian Pacific hauled ore on tracks behind their house. When the train wailed, he wailed right back. When he was a boy American astronauts practiced out in the city’s hinterland, where the landscape resembled the moon. When he grew up, he trained for the RCMP at a boot camp in Regina. He was surprised to see gals at the camp, the first women allowed into the force. They kissed the Bible and signed their names, like all the recruits, and wore the traditional red serge when on parade, but they also wore skirts and high heels and carried a hand clutch. 

   JT was sitting in his white Ford Interceptor, watching for speeders, of whom he hadn’t seen any that morning. He was thinking about his second cup of coffee but was waiting until he started yawning. He thought it was going to happen soon. When it did, he would 10-99 the control room and take a break from doing nothing.

   Cavendish was Anne’s Land. It was where “Anne of Green Gables” was set. He hadn’t read the book, but doubted it had anything to do with what he could see in all directions. The amusement park was named after Lucy Maud Montgomery’s 1919 book “Rainbow Valley.” It was waterslides, swan boats, a sea monster, monorail, roller coasters, animatronics, castles and suspension bridges, and a flying saucer gift shop. 

   The paratrooper might have been everyone’s favorite ride.

   Earl Davison was looking for a roller coaster when he found it.  He was in Pennsylvania hunting for a bargain at a park turning its lights off.  The coaster seemed to fit the bill at first sight.

   “It’s a terrific ride, but you’ll need to have a good maintenance team to keep ’er running,” the Pennsylvania man said.

   When Earl hemmed and hawed, the man suggested his paratrooper ride instead. “It’s the best piece of equipment I have. I will sell you that paratrooper ride for $25,000 and we’ll load it for you.” By the end of the next day Earl had written a check and the ride was loaded ready to go for the long drive back to PEI.

   Earl Davison thought up Rainbow Valley in 1965, buying and clearing an abandoned apple orchard and filling in a swamp, turning it into ponds. “We borrowed $7,500.00,” he said. “It seemed like an awful lot of money at the time.” When they opened in 1969 admission was 50 cents. Children under 5 got in free. Ten years later, he bought his partners out and expanded the park. Most of the attractions were designed and fabricated by him and his crew.

   “We add something new every year,” said Earl. “That’s a rule.” The other rule-of-thumb was moms and dads with smiles plastered all over the faces of their children. “Some of the memories you hear twenty years later are from people whose parents aren’t with them anymore. But they remember their visits to Rainbow Valley and those experiences last a lifetime.”

   When his two-way radio came to life, instructing him to go to Murphy’s Cove to check on a report of a suspicious death, JT hesitated, thinking he should get a coffee first, but quickly decided against it. Suspicious deaths were far and few between. Homicides happened on Prince Edward Island about once every ten years. This might be his only chance to work on one. When he drove off it was fast with flashing lights but no siren. He reported that the cove was less than ten minutes away. 

   Conor Murphy saw the patrol car pull off the road onto the shoulder and tramped down the slope to it. Some people called the RCMP Scarlet Guardians. Most people in Conor’s neck of the woods called them Gravel Road Cops, after the GRC on their car doors, the French acronym for Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Conor didn’t call them anything. He had been on the force once and didn’t mess with what they might or might not be.

  JT put his cap on and joining Conor walked up to where Bernie Doiron was waiting beside the tractor. When he saw the arm handcuffed to the briefcase, he told Conor and Bernie to not touch anything and walked back to his patrol car. He wasn’t sure what code to call in so called in a 10-64, requesting an ambulance, and asked for the commander on duty. He described what he had found and was told to sit tight.

   “Yes sir,” he said.

   It wouldn’t be long before an ambulance and many more cars showed up. They couldn’t miss his car, but he turned the lights on top of it back on just in case and backtracked to the tractor.

   “Who found this?” he asked, pointing at the arm. 

   “I did,” said Bernie.

   “Is it the same as you found it?” JT asked. “Did you or move or disturb anything?”

   “No, we left it alone,” Bernie said. 

   “And you are?” JT asked Conor.

   “I’m across the street in the green house,” Conor said. “These are my fields. Bernie came down and got me when he found this. A fox has been at the arm.”

   “I see that,” JT said, even though he didn’t know what had happened to the arm. He didn’t jump to conclusions. It was flayed and gruesome, whatever it was. He wasn’t repulsed by it. He was being objective. The final quality that made him a good policeman was that he was patient. He waited patiently with Conor and Bernie for the rest of the team to show up. None of the three men said a word.

   JT looked at the land all around him getting ready for the growing season. There was no growing season where he grew up. His father worked the nickel mines in Sudbury his working life, never missing a day. He had been an explosives man and made it through his last year last week last shift unscathed. He had always known there was no one to tap him on the shoulder if he made a mistake.

   His mother raised four children. She dealt with powder burns every day. They were among the few post-war Lithuanians still left in Sudbury. The rest of them had worked like dogs and scrimped and saved, leaving the first chance they got. His parents put their scrimping and saving into a house on the shores of Lake Ramsey and stayed to see Sudbury transition from open pits and wood fire roasting to business as usual less ruinous to the land they lived on.

   An ambulance from a funeral home in Kensington was the first to arrive, followed within minutes by two more RCMP cars. A pumper from the North Rustico Fire Department rolled to a stop, but there wasn’t anything for the volunteer firemen to do. They thought about helping direct traffic, but there was hardly any traffic to speak of. The summer season was still a month-and-a-half away. They waited, suspecting they were going to be the ones asked to unearth the remains. They brought shovels up from their truck.

   The coroner showed up, but bided his time, waiting for a commissioned officer to show up. When he did there were two of them, one an inspector and the other one a superintendent. They talked to JT briefly, and then the fire department. The firemen measured out a ten-foot by ten-foot perimeter with the arm in the center, pounded stakes into the ground, demarcated the space with yellow police tape, and slowly began to dig. 

   They had not gotten far when the arm fell over. It had been chopped off above the elbow. One of the firemen carried the arm and briefcase to a gray tarp and covered it with a sheet of thick translucent plastic.

   “Has anybody got a dog nearby?” the inspector asked.

   Most of the firemen farmed in one way or another. Most of them had dogs. One of them who lived less than two miles away on Route 6 had a Bassett Hound. When he came back with his dog, he led him to the grave. The Bassett sniffed the perimeter of the grave and jumped into it, digging at the dirt with his short legs, barking, and looking up at his master. The fireman clapped his hands and the dog jumped out of the grave.

   “There’s something there” he said. “Probably the rest of him.”

   They started digging again carefully and methodically. When they found the rest of him three feet deep and twenty minutes later it was a woman. She was wearing acid wash jeans and an oversized tangerine sweatshirt. She was covered in dirt and blood. One of her shoes had come off. What they could see of her face was ruined by burrowing insects. She was still decomposing inside her clothes.

   The coroner stepped up to the edge of the grave with the two men who had come in the ambulance.

   “Be careful, she’s going to want to fall apart as soon as you start shifting her weight,” he said. 

   The two men were joined by two of the firemen. When all four were in the shallow grave they slowly moved the corpse into a mortuary bag, zipped it up, and using the handles on the bag lifted it up to two RCMP constables and two more of the firemen. They carried the bag slowly down the hill, the dog following them, placing it on a gurney and inside the ambulance.

   The constables went back up the hill to join the rest of the RCMP team, who were getting ready to sift through the grave looking for evidence. They would scour the ground in all directions, to the tree line and the road. JT Markunas had gotten his Minolta 7000 out of the trunk and was taking photographs. When he was done, he joined them. They spread out and with heads bowed started looking for anything and everything.

   The ambulance was ready to go when Conor came down to the side of the park road, stopped beside it and tapped on the driver’s side window. When it rolled down, he pointed up the slope.

   “Don’t forget the arm,” he said.

Excerpted from the crime thriller “Red Road.”

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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Settle Down Settlers

September 30th, 2021 marks the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, formerly known as Orange Shirt Day. This is a day for all Canadians to reflect upon our cruel history of forcibly removing Indigenous children from their homes to attend Indian Residential Schools and Indian Day Schools, for the purpose of assimilation. It’s a somber day to honour victims and survivors of the horrific crimes committed in the Residential School system in what is now called Canada, leading to the recent recovery of over 6,000 bodies of stolen Indigenous children. The federal government and provincial governments have both recognized this day as a statutory holiday. Non-Indigenous Canadians are being encouraged to spend time educating themselves about our colonial history and reflecting on how Indigenous and Non-Indigenous peoples can take action toward reconciliation and decolonization. It’s important to recognize how much further we have to go as a society. Just one example is how P.E.I. is only 1 of 3 provinces that has formally acknowledged this day as a provincial holiday. One way that we at The Kings Playhouse are taking action is by keeping our doors open on September 30th and encouraging members of our community to attend Settle Down, Settlers! a (he)art exhibition by two-spirit, non-binary, Inuk artist, Julie Bull. The exhibition runs from Tomorrow, September 29th until November 6th, 2021. Take a journey through their works of art and poetry, grab some free resources, and take the time to deeply reflect. Slow down. Pay attention. Actions speak louder than words.More info about this event, Orange Shirt Day, the Truth and Reconcilliation Comission’s Calls To Action, and suggested ways to recognize the day can be found here: https://linktr.ee/kingsplayhouse

Theatre PEI

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Bending the Rules

Introducing OLD STOCK: A Wildly Popular, Genre-Bending Spectacle

-The third installment in this year’s CIBC Charlottetown Festival opens August 12-

Making its Island premiere this August is the internationally-acclaimed, OLD STOCK: A Refugee Love Story, presented by Nova Scotia’s 2b Theatre Company.Opening August 12 on the Mainstage at Confederation Centre of the Arts, this life-affirming musical tells the true story of two Romanian refugees meeting at Halifax’s Pier 21, as they await entry into Canada.

“We are thrilled to bring OLD STOCK to Charlottetown,” glows Adam Brazier, artistic director of performing arts. “This is one of the most important pieces of theatre we have done in years. It has received rave reviews everywhere from New York to the U.K. and all across Canada. This story is funny and dark and beautifully realized. This is a must-see.”

Starring East Coast sensation Ben Caplan, the music-theatre hybrid explores how to love and find a shared humanity after facing the horrors of war. It’s about refugees who get out before it’s too late, and those who get out after it’s too late. OLD STOCK’s rousing music blends Yiddish Klezmer with modern folk stylings, creating a wistful and energetic tone. 

“Richly humorous, wildly entertaining, and deeply moving” was how The Globe and Mail described this Maritime-made production, while Herald Scotland dubbed it “irresistible…a thing of raw, unmissable beauty.” OLD STOCK is written by Hannah Moscovitch with direction by Christian Barry and songs by Ben Caplan and Barry.

Sponsored by HonibeOLD STOCK plays seven times weekly until September 6.

On August 26, a special ‘relaxed performance’ of OLD STOCK will be offered. Sponsored by The Gray Group, the relaxed performance is a specific performance night where the show is adapted to better suit people who might require a more relaxed sensory experience and environment when attending the theatre. For more information, please contact Rosie Shaw at rshaw@confederationcentre.com.

To reserve tickets visit confederationcentre.com/whats-on/, or call the box office at 1-800-565-0278.

Theatre PEI

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Winning at Cards

“Oh boy, cards! The paper rectangles old people think are fun!” 

—Luz Noceda, The Owl House

Often the odd man out in my extended family, I differ from much of them perhaps most markedly in my persistent indifference to card games. Cards actually rather fascinate me as objects, as iconography, as metaphor; I just seldom enjoy most card games much, despite growing up amidst an intergenerational school of card sharks. 

So Luz Noceda’s cheerfully careless remark above has some resonance for me, especially the younger me of yore. Card games were things the older folks in my life always enjoyed, though I never fully saw the appeal; but you don’t have to be old or a card player or both to appreciate Watermark Theatre’s superb production of The Gin Game, which makes about 90 minutes of old people playing cards weirdly compelling. 

A big part of that is the Pulitzer-winning, Tony-nominated script penned by Donald L. Coburn back in 1976, which spawned several successful Broadway runs. Called “virtually plotless” by the New York Times, this two-person, two-act play depicts a series of gin rummy games played by two troubled residents of a shabby seniors home, Weller Martin (portrayed here by Richard Clarkin) and Fonsia Dorsey (Gracie Finley). 

Sounds simple, and it is, but layers abound: both players are holding secrets—regrets, grudges, prejudices, delusions, ambitions, hopes and agendas—and it all comes out as their card games become increasingly combative, deeply personal and ultimately destructive. Turns out those paper rectangles were loaded. 

Director Robert Tsonos and company bring this darkly witty, impressively compact and occasionally disturbing tragicomedy to vivid life, crisply realizing all aspects of the production. This includes Pat Caron’s richly immersive light and sound design and Cory Sincennes’ lushly detailed, palpably decaying nursing home exterior set, which packs remarkable depth and levels into the small Watermark space, pretty much the perfect venue for a show this focused and intimate. 

None of that means much in a two-person play without two good actors inhabiting that space, breathing life into the story, and the Clarkin-Finley duo does that in spades. Both build distinctive, fully incarnated characters in terms of attitude, energy, physical presence and intention, such that we get a sense of who and what these characters are even when they’re not saying a word. 

They say lots of words, of course, and Finley and Clarkin adroitly navigate it all in sequences ranging from playful banter to profane shouting matches to anguished confessions; and yet some of their quieter moments are among the most indelibly memorable, like a solo-dancing Finley dreamily swaying to nearby music, or a broken Clarkin slowly hobbling away. 

It’s a short, simple play featuring a compact cast in a small space, but Watermark’s The Gin Game seems likely to loom large in this PEI theatrical summer as one of the smartest, most artfully crafted offerings of 2021.Sean McQuaidTheatreWatermark Theatre

SEAN MCQUAID

Mild-mannered Hansard reporter by day and oddball freelance writer by night, past Buzz editor Sean McQuaid has been a contributor since the ’90s and a theatre enthusiast for longer than that. He lives in Charlottetown with his wife, daughter, cats and untold thousands of comic books.

Theatre PEI

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Amp Up for Song and Dance


Confederation Centre Amphitheatre to Host Two Shows This Summer

-“The Voices of Resilience” and “Street Fusion” will host free noon-time and evening performances through August 21-

The amphitheatre at Confederation Centre of the Arts will come to life this summer with two free shows intended to entertain, educate, and promote inter-cultural understanding.

“Mi’kmaq Heritage Actors has been together since their first show in 2011, this year marks 10 years together as the only Indigenous Theatre Company in Atlantic Canada,” says Julie Pellissier-Lush, one of the show’s creators. “See the beautiful sights, listen for powerful drums, learn a few traditional words in Mi’kmaq, and join us for a fun event in partnership with the Confederation Centre of the Arts and L’nuey that will make your heart happy.”

Performances of The Voices of Resilience will take place at noon from July 21-23 and again from July 26-31.

“Culture is learned in patterns; it is the values, behaviors, and connections shared by people,” says Ward. “Culture is also a way of coping with the world we live in. It resides in the hearts of everyone. It’s the way we see each other and appreciate our differences. It is also the way we find common ground. This show displays how distinct cultures can come together and create and celebrate each other.”

Performances of Street Fusion will take place on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 5:30 pm, and on Saturdays at noon from August 4-21. 

“We are so blessed to be able to share these two unique and inspirational shows with audiences,” says Adam Brazier, Artistic Director of Performing Arts at the Centre. “The Centre is committed to promoting diversity, inclusiveness and inter-cultural understanding. These two shows will give audiences an opportunity to learn more about these cultures through performance and creativity.”

To reserve free tickets to these two shows, visit confederationcentre.com/whats-on/, or call the box office at 1-800-565-0278. The box office is open Monday to Saturday, 9am to 8pm.

Theatre PEI

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Watermark Updates a Cottager

Casting Update – Cottagers and Indians

A casting change to our production of Cottagers and Indians. The role of Arthur Copper will now be played by Gordon Patrick White.
Gordon has worked with various companies in the Atlantic provinces, as well as The Great Canadian Theatre Company in Ottawa (‘An Acre of Time’), Native Earth in Toronto (‘A Very Polite Genocide’), Magnus Theatre in Thunder Bay (‘Dead White Writer on the Floor’), and Theatre North West in Prince George BC (‘Where The Blood Mixes’). Other credits include Clov in ‘Endgame’ (Theatre NFLD and Labrador); ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ (Theatre New Brunswick); Puck in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ (Stephenville Festival); ‘Strange Humours’ (Eastern Front Theatre); Titus in ‘The Devil’s Diciple’ (Neptune Theatre); ‘Merlin'(Halifax Theatre for Young People); Kemp in ‘Vigil’ (Live Bait Theatre); and as twins Edger and Ledger in ‘Ivor Johnson’s Neighbours’ (Ship’s Company Theatre). He has appeared in three season at the Stratford Festival, in such roles as Simon in ‘Mother’s Daughter’, Paris in ‘Romeo and Juliet’, Black Dog in ‘Treasure Island’, Egeon in ‘The Comedy of Errors’ and Ezekiel Cheever in ‘ The Crucible’. Gordon appeared as Edger in ‘King Lear’ at the National Arts Centre, with August Schellenberg, directed by Peter Hinton. Tv and film credits include: Haven, Black Harbour, Mr. D, New Waterford Girl, Blackfly, Rollertown, Charlie Zone, and Picnicface.

Watermark Theatre’s Mandate
Located in North Rustico, PEI, on land that is the traditional unceded territory of the Mi’Kmaq, the Watermark Theatre is a professional theatre company that produces time-honoured plays, as well as contemporary plays that resonate with our times.
As a company we are led by the principles of inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility and commit to incorporating these core values in everything we do.
We prioritize environmental stewardship and sustainability.
The Watermark Theatre is dedicated to the development of the next generation of theatre artists and arts administrators through mentorship and professional training.
In all of our programming we strive for artistic excellence while endeavouring to inform, affect, and engage our audience and our community.

For more information please contact Lara Dias at 902-963-3963 or admin@watermarktheatre.com

Theatre PEI

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What’s Your Story?

Often referred to as “the Island’s biggest little theatre,” we are so proud of our intimate atmosphere while still seating over 500 guests. Our friendly and dedicated team works hard to make everyone feel at home in Our Theatre, Your Theatre! We want to hear what you love about Harbourfront Theatre – submit your story on our website at www.harbourfronttheatre.com/yourtheatre#YourTheatreYourStory#HarbourfrontTheatre#OurTheatreYourTheatre#Summerside#PrinceCounty#PEI#TheArts#25Years#NotForProfit#HarbourfrontIsHere

Theatre PEI

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Seeking Submissions for Our Theatre Festival

COMMUNITY THEATRE FESTIVAL ! Seeking Submissions- Deadline March 19, 2021

ACT is hosting the 2021 Community Theatre Festival, which will look a bit different than in past years. This is an excellent opportunity for groups or individuals to showcase their performances. This year, the festival will run over two days – Saturday April 24th and Sunday April 25th (exact times TBA). Productions may be up to 45 minutes in length. 

We welcome submissions in all genres: drama, comedy, improv, musical! Groups can present an excerpt, skit or short one act play. For more information and to submit a proposal, please email actproductionspei@gmail.com (photo: Bunty Albert)

The location will be at The Fox and Crow Pub at UPEI in the W.A. Murphy Building. Up to 50 people will be allowed as an audience, with covid protocols adhering to any CPHO directives in place at that time. There is a small stage area, which has one exit/entry to a hallway with green room/prep rooms available. The stage is small, so a maximum group size of 4-6 is recommended with minimal set pieces, though a couch/desk etc could be brought in through the loading dock. 

We are also looking for volunteers! Are you interested in getting involved in community theatre? We will need help planning and during the event to make sure everything runs smoothly- get in touch !

Theatre PEI

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Song Rise at the Guild

 

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Join us for a live-stream of Songrise with Tara MacLean and Friends. Hosted by Patrick Ledwell and featuring acts such as Kierrah Celeste, Dennis Ellsworth, and Andrew Waite. 
Song Rise is a circle of local songwriters, presented by The Guild. Like other song circles, there will be stories and tunes, but this will also be an interactive experience with an on live audience through live stream accessible all over the world. Four amazing songwriters each night will entertain a socially distanced live audience. It will be an intimate, passionate and powerful experience for those in attendance and those watching from home. Each group has been carefully curated for optimal chemistry.

All productions are being presented by The Guild with the permission of the Public Health Office of Prince Edward Island, and operates under its rules and guidelines. Within these guidelines, theatre seating has been limited to a maximum of 50 people. Chairs will be grouped with a maximum of 6 chairs per group, and each group is 6ft. from one another. It is possible that depending on the size of your party, you may be seated with other audience members within those 6 chairs. If you have any questions or concerns about this process, please speak with our box office agents by calling 902-620-3333, or emailing boxoffice@theguildpei.com.

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