A Prism For Your Soul

The Glass Menagerie is 1,000 points of light being refracted into a kaleidoscope of emotion. It will give you many feelings, big and small. You may have feelings that you don’t know where they come from and you possibly never will. The performances are so raw they will reach you on a cellular level instead of an emotional one. Basically, The Glass Menagerie may break your heart into a million tiny pieces lying on the floor of the Watermark Theatre. You may not be able to mend it until you’ve had a good cry in your car after the show.

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In Watermark Theatre’s 9th season Robert Tsonos, in his 1st year as Artistic Director, introduced this classic written by Tennessee Williams who wrote his first play as a teenager in 1935. Williams was a cutting edge playwright & most widely recognized for winning two Pulitzer Prizes, with “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1947) and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (1955). This play, I’m told, is partly autobiographical based on his college years in St. Louis providing him with a time & place for his first masterpiece.

Tsonos also took time to thank the interns that are part of the company this season as part of their Mentorship Program. We were talking with one of the stage hands during intermission who was grateful to get some hands-on experience through this program. Another example of how much this theatre continues to care about giving back to the next generation of talent. According to the program: This is a great set for learning. The theatre is small enough to be nurturing & large enough to have processes & policies in place to keep an intern safe.

In the early moments of the first act, Gracie Finley (raised in Charlottetown, trained in London, England, Ms. Finley is best known for playing Anne Shirley at the Charlottetown Festival from 1968 to 1974 and again in 1984 and 1985, being the first Islander to play Anne. She has had numerous roles at The Watermark including The Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, the Nurse in Romeo & Juliet, & Lady Markby in An Ideal Husband) pranced around the stage cleverly decorated with antique furniture (compliments to set designer William Layton who created a convincing depression era St. Louis atmosphere on this unique in-the-round stage) as she reminisced about her younger days of entertaining her multitudes of callers. In a most intense performance, she plays a mother who is extremely worried about the future for her daughter & feels as though something has got to give for better or worse. Finley in my opinion is the face of Watermark this year & gets my vote for MVP of this company.

Leah Pritchard (who has worked throughout the Atlantic provinces & helped lead Watermark Theatre’s youth theatre conservatory for the past two summers) plays Laura, a china doll of a woman who has a penchant for collection glass trinkets. In the grips of the shyness of her character often loses her composure. She displays convincingly that she lives with a disability & very low opinion of herself. I had high expectations of Pritchard’s portrayal of the sensitive, delicate Laura and I was not disappointed. Similarly, Gracie Finley did an outstanding job in her interpretation of the aged Southern Belle Amanda Wingfield. The play was the perfect vehicle for both performers and they pulled out all the stops.

Daniel Briere (who has spent the last 3 seasons at the Stratford Festival of Canada. Recent credits include Hamlet (Shakespeare Bash’d), Antony & Cleopatra, & Romeo & Juliet (Stratford Festival) makes an appearance as the much anticipated dinner guest, and Laura’s high school crush, Jim O’Connor. He is charismatic and dapper, and everything Laura deserves. The scene where Laura and Jim sit on the floor talking may be my favourite part of the show. This is where we see Laura turn into the ethereal, beautiful creature she has the potential to be. And the kiss was pretty spectacular as well.

Rounding off the cast of four, Joshua Browne’s (who has worked at IFT Theatre, Circlesnake Theatre, Theatre Gargantua & more) portrayal of Tom Wingfield is an excellent case study in how raw emotion can be conveyed just by standing still. I’m not sure what method Browne used to master the 1,000-yard stare Tom adopts, during critiques of his character by Amanda, who accused him of being as eloquent as an oyster, but it was effective. And universal. I felt scenes much like that one, between mother and son, were being played out in households all over the world in a million different languages. Often times getting poetic, the young low-wage warehouse worker spoke of magicians, late night travels, & a thirst for adventure. I must admit I was a little surprised to see him smoking on stage, but I later learned it was actually an e-cig, which is apparently acceptable indoors.

I’m not sure how much information to give about the much anticipated second half, for fear of spoilers, but it may not incorporate the ending audiences were hoping for. However, it could be the ending we needed in order to realize how invested we’ve become in the characters.

Robert Tsonos, who directed the play and is doing great so far as Duncan MacIntosh’s successor as Artistic Director for the Watermark Theatre this year did an amazing job in leading the cast and crew to create something, I hope, they will always be proud of. After the show, I think I heard Tsonos’s voice crack as he invited the audience to a reception. He seemed to be quite moved by the performance, and rightly so. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay at the reception for long. I had to go to my car and cry.

This, much like other classics over the years in Rustico, is not light theatre, although there are plenty of laughs scattered throughout the script. The lesson I took from this play is the harsh reality present early in the Twentieth Century still holds true today that if we can’t believe in ourselves we simply cannot expect anyone else to & I can totally relate to that scenario, as I’m sure many others in the audience probably could at some point in their lives. Bottom line: Great show all around. If it is not the ending audience members are hoping for, they can read A Pretty Trap by Tennessee Williams. That oughta cure what ails them!

Review by Kimberley Johnston and PL Holden. Used by permission. Originally posted on http://www.onrpei.ca.

Side By Side By Side

More than ten years ago Betty Jenkins, Mary Ploughman Jones, Linda Shaw Packard, and Mary Roscoe Robertson began their creative journey together. From their promising beginning as participants in the PEI Studio Tour, to the North Winds Exhibition and then six successful years operating Howes Hall Gallery they have evolved both as a group and individually.

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The title “Side by Each” at The Guild reflects the mutual evolution of individual artistic paths. This special relationship is easily identifiable in this new lyrical exhibition of mature, exciting work. The pieces complement and contrast one with the other and celebrate both a professional and personal cohesion.

Throughout the exhibition, the artists will be at The Guild Gallery to discuss their work and give on­site demonstrations. Contact The Guild at 902-620-3333 or follow social media for demonstration times.

Four Tellers Tell All

After a completely sold out season last year, The Four Tellers are back! All new stories and BIGGER laughs. David Weale, Alan Buchanan, Gary Evans and Dennis King gather around the kitchen table at the Harbourfront Theatre on July 30 and August 27 for two delightful evenings of off-the-cuff storytelling.

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These four master tellers will cover four distinct areas of PEI, talking politics, religion, liquor and language, and maybe even throwing in a local impression or two. Add a dash of live music and you’ve got one hell of a kitchen party.

Walk Right In, It’s Around the Back, Glenda’s Restaurant

The final production of the summer season has opened at The Charlottetown Festival — a hot new matinee show that offers a taste of the Island, literally and culturally. Starring P.E.I. actress and accomplished chef Glenda Landry, Glenda’s Kitchen is sponsored by CAA, and plays select dates in Studio 1 at Confederation Centre until August 26.

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Glenda Landry is a 45-year veteran of The Charlottetown Festival, having shone for many seasons in Avonlea as Diana and later Mrs. Pye, among others, and in Centre productions such as The Kitchen Witches and Wizard of Oz. The Island native has also moonlighted for years as a chef, having completed the apprenticeship program at the Culinary Institute and plied her second trade alongside Chef Emily Wells at The Dunes and at Sim’s in Charlottetown.

This summer she leads a talented kitchen party cast, including fellow Islanders and Festival veterans Charlotte Moore, Marlane O’Brien, and Hank Stinson, all backed by the 12-piece Charlottetown Festival Orchestra, as they cook up the best kind of seafood chowder — a bowl with a story behind it. Glenda’s Kitchen plays Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 1:30 p.m. and concludes with a steaming bowl of chowder with an Island biscuit for every audience member.

Offering a bounty of songs, stories, and soup, Glenda’s Kitchen is directed by Artistic Director Adam Brazier and co-written by Brazier and Stinson. Musical direction and arrangements are by Scott Christian, and stage management is from Al Gadowsky.

Boys Will Be Boys

I was a little early getting to Victoria Playhouse on Wednesday evening & ran into Pat Stunden Smith who in recent years has taken on more of a creative role along with her Executive Directing duties. She paid tribute to Norm Foster, most successful playwright in Canada, whose scripts are accessible & humourous. She described Director Ted Price (introduced to her by 2012s On Golden Pond lead Bill McFadyen) as a gift to the Theatre & along with his wife & Rehearsal Stage Manager Anne Laughlin represent a dying breed as far as work ethic & dedication. “You can see his sensibility to leave an audience feeling entertained & that they’ve learned something”. Production Stage Manager Kevin MacLeod was also on hand in the front of the Playhouse entrance to warn me to have some Kleenex on hand for the second act, to that I responded that “the only time I cry’s when I’m pluckin’ them noticeable hairs out my nose”.

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From the get go the The Melville Boys was rife with laughter! Out comes a rootin’ tootin’, beer-guzzlin’, gun-totin’, gettin’-away-from-it-allin’ Owen (Jeremie Saunders star of Kiss the Moon, Kiss the Sun, Gemini Award winning kids TV show Artzooka!, & co-creator & co-host of Sickboy Podcast as well as husband to Actress Bryde MacLean who stars in Watermark’s Blithe Spirit) bursts on to the stage with a mean John Wayne impersonation. As far as good, clean (sometimes getting a little on the naughty side, but definitely nothing R rated) high energy comedy goes, Jeremie Saunders has taken his game to a whole new level & might just be the front runner on PEI this year. His performance, especially in Act 1 is over-flowing with humor as he absolutely hauls laughter from the crowd as if he were nitrous oxide personified.

The more reserved of the Melville bros, Corey Turner (who has studied theatre at Studio 58 in Vancouver, UBC, & York University in Toronto has worked with Ted Price at Theatre Northwest & has been active in TV & film as well), plays Lee & he puts on some funny displays of self-deprecating dimwittedness & moments of embarrassment. He was the ultimate set-up man and wing-man for Saunders on this log-cabin get away but he had a serious challenge to face & showed a wide range of emotion as he reached out to the others about the fear he has been recently been forced to face.

The 2 ladies of the cast steal the show by times as well. Star in the making, Loretta (Holland College SOPA grad, Rebecca Griffin, who reunites with Saunders for the first time since another Norm Foster gem Kiss the Moon, Kiss the Sun in 2014) shows off her acting chops as she re-enacts a car commercial in a very over the top manner. Her sister, the self-proclaimed original nice girl, Mary (Helen Killorn, whose recent favourite credits include: Love & Marriage & The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at King’s Playhouse) was cute as a button as she lamented on her baking skills & put on the funniest display of torrential bawling I’ve ever seen. I’m pretty sure the rest of the audience would totally agree that her crying scene was something to remember. I was most impressed with the line one of the sisters (I believe it was Griffin, but I could be wrong) declared, “It wouldn’t be a dream if it wasn’t out of reach”, which to me was such a statement of what drives people to make the impossible a reality in our on-going collective evolution.

I loved the set designed by W. Scott MacConnell featured the interior of a cozy, 2 level cabin in the woods so realistic with its water view out the window & plenty of room for the cast of 4 to roam for some impressive comedic pairings. Seamless lighting cues (compliments of David Nicholson who according to the program holds the philosophy, “Every show is another opportunity to create living, breathing magic”. And dedicates his work at the Playhouse , with gratitude, to the memory of Erskine Smith) made the look of this production do justice to it’s splendid acting.

Without getting into a spoiler scenario, the script in the second set gets down into the harsh realities of impermanence & how hard it is to make a relationship work after the honeymoon stage has come & gone. We’re talking about a proven formula that Norm Foster & many other great playwrights can’t resist. It works well & has been used time and again in theatre as well as Hollywood. Like I’ve pointed out in past reviews from other shows across the Island, I personally would’ve enjoyed more laughter at the forefront again (I’m more of a comedy junkie who doesn’t have as much of a thirst for tears & heartache), although I admit, it might’ve been at the detriment of emotional impact & time constraints.

As I walked past the back door when I left I heard many excited audience members raving to the cast about how much they loved the performance, which must’ve meant so much after the hard work getting a show like that ready would’ve taken. It’s lots of fun onstage in that scenic little village of Victoria by The Sea & I think it’s pretty safe to say in this 35th season, performances like these should keep PEI’s Longest Running Little Theatre going for many years to come!

Review by PL Holden. Used by permission. Originally posted on http://www.onrpei.ca.

Raise Your Voice

Through lively song, stories, and dance, the 2016 Confederation Centre Young Company is proud to present The Voices of Canada until Saturday, August 20.

This high-energy celebration weaves song, dance, and legend into a stunning kaleidoscope of movement and colour, offered by donation, six days a week at Confederation Centre. The Voices of Canada is sponsored by TD Bank and this year’s musical includes song selections from Stan Rogers, Gordon Lightfoot, Serena Ryder, The Trews, Great Big Sea, The Guess Who, and more.

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The 2016 creative team for the Young Company includes Writer/Director Adam Brazier, Musical Director and Arranger Scott Christian, Choreographer Kerry Gage, Set Designer Cory Sincennes, Costume Designer Bonnie Deakin, and Company and Stage Manager Seren Lannon.

First established at the Centre in 1993, the Young Company is theatre training program for emerging performers from across Canada. The summer program includes vocal, dance, and acting training as well professional development towards auditioning, best practices, workshopping new theatre, and much more.

Ugly Duckling Looking Good

The Watermark Theatre in North Rustico will host Cat’s Pajamas Theatre Company’s production of “The Ugly Duckling” on August 3rd and 5th at 11:00AM.

The Cat’s Pajamas is a theatre for young audiences company created by Rebecca Griffin, a Holland College Theatre Performance alumni (2014). To this date, the company has produced three shows at The Guild theatre in Charlottetown. With the help of actors Kaitlyn Post and Jacob Durdan, and director Sarah MacPhee (all Holland College alumni as well), The Cat’s Pajamas Theatre Company is slowly, but surely moving up.

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The Ugly Duckling is an adaptation of the classic tale written by Pamela Campbell and Nancy Beck. This quick production is jam-packed full of music, comedy, and a plethora of barnyard characters. Sure to be fun for all!

Kaitlyn Post is originally from Sussex, New Brunswick. You can also find her performing in Feast Dinner Theatre’s production of Scandalous at The Rodd Charlottetown. Becca Griffin is a mainland native, but an islander at heart. She’s worked with various theatres across the Island, especially the Victoria Playhouse, appearing in a few of their Norm Foster pieces. Hailing from Saint John, New Brunswick, Jacob Durdan has performed in many Island productions, including Cinderella: A Fairly Tale, Aladdin: Another Fairly Tall Tale, and Ladies and a Gent.

The Watermark Theatre is thrilled to be able to host this classic family show and help support a local theatre company.

August 3rd at 11:00AM
August 5th at 11:00AM

All tickets are $10.