Searching for the Surfside

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“Whenever we leave home, to Ontario or New Brunswick, I always say we are crossing into another world, into a strange world, into Canada,” said Marie Bachand. “I always ask Louie did you bring our passports?” She always asks in French because her partner Louie Painchaund doesn’t speak English.

It was a cumulus cloud high sky day when they went to Prince Edward Island. They didn’t have their passports. Who wants to look like their passport picture on a sunny summer day, anyway?

They live in Saint-Gregorie in Quebec, a community of the city of Becancour, on the south side of the St. Lawrence River. Their house dates to the 1780s, built by refugee Acadians after the French and Indian War. “They came down the St Lawrence River, four hundred families. It was a rough time. They stopped, said OK, looks good, and settled here.”

It is about six hundred miles to Prince Edward Island, up the St. Lawrence, down New Brunswick, and across the Confederation Bridge to PEI. The first time they went they were touring the Maritimes. The island was a spur of the moment runaround. They drove across the Northumberland Straights on the nine-mile-long bridge to the other side.

“We thought we could run over and visit PEI in one or two days,” Marie said. “It’s so small.”

Even though it is pint-sized, the smallest of the ten Canadian provinces at just a little more than two thousand square miles, compared to Quebec’s almost six hundred thousand square miles, it goes over big.

Ten years later, even after Andy’s Surfside Inn is no more, they still go to Prince Edward Island two weeks in the summer, staying at the Coastline Cottages up the hill across the street, riding their bikes all over the place, still finding substantial fresh things to rack up on the to-do list.

The inn was on the ocean side of North Rustico, near the entrance to the harbor, a white clapboard two-story house with a dozen windows, two dormers and three porches on the side facing the water. A broad lawn slopes down to the cliffs. It wasn’t always the Surfside Inn and isn’t the Surfside Inn anymore, having since taken up where it left off, back to being a home.

“The first house was bigger,” said Kelly Doyle.

Kelly’s grandparents, Mike and Loretta Doyle, were visiting and playing cards at a neighbor’s house one winter night in 1929. Their friends lived about a mile away. At the end of the evening, going home in their horse-drawn sled, they crested a frozen hill. A red glow lit up the sky and flared across the flat cove below them.

The house was being swallowed up by fire. The pitch-dark night was blazing. They had left seven children behind in the care of the eldest.

“It was a flue fire,” said Kelly. “It burnt down because of the stove.”

By the time the Doyle’s raced their sled down to the house, and finding all the children safe and sound outside, there wasn’t much they could do. There were no neighbors nearby to help and there was no fire department. Mike Doyle was able to drag some furniture from the first floor out the front door and saved as many fox furs as he could.

The house was rebuilt the next year and finished the following year.

“The foxes my grandfather saved built the new house.” Kelly’s grandfather was a fox farmer. What he sold the pelts for paid for the work of the itinerant immigrant tradesmen who built the house.

Furry garments are made of furry animal hides. Even though it has lately fallen on hard times, fur is one of the oldest forms of clothing. Once we started globe-trotting out of Africa, to where everywhere else was colder, we started wearing furs. Ever since, people have worn beaver racoon sable rabbit coyote wolf chinchilla opossum mink and foxes.

Mountain men wore the bears they shot and killed.

In the 1880s foxes were bred for the first time, accomplished on Prince Edward Island by locals Charlie Dalton and Robert Oulton. Theirs was the original fur farm in 1884. Within several years the rush was on. But the rush didn’t really and truly mushroom until after a pelt sale a few years later when their harvest of 25 skins brought them nearly $35 thousand dollars. It was a boat load of a barn door of money, bearing in mind that the average island farm worker those days made less than $30 dollars a month.

In 1926 nearly nine hundred live silver foxes were shipped from Summerside to the United States. It was the most valuable shipment in the history of Prince Edward Island up to that time and is still called the ‘Million Dollar Train’. Andy Doyle was born the same year, spunky and healthy, although nobody ever called him the ‘Million Dollar Baby’.

By the 1930s the fox farm industry was strong as a bull, raking in multi-millions of dollars. There were hundreds of thousands of foxes being farmed and skinned coast to coast throughout Canada and the United States.

“The furs my grandfather was able to rescue from the fire were worth five thousand. In the end the new house cost five thousand,” said Kelly.

“We stayed at a country inn, at the information center at the bridge they said it was nice, but it was a little room, yuk,” said Marie. She picked up the official PEI tourist book. Where to stay next? She thumbed through the book. She put her finger on Andy’s Surfside Inn. “I say to Louie, what’s that, the north shore? We had already decided to stay three or four more days. We went looking for it.”

Gavan Andrew “Andy” Doyle was 81 years old in 2007 when Marie and Louie went driving up and down the north shore looking for his eponymous inn. Andy had been born in the white house that was the inn. Years later, grown-up a young man, pushing off after World War Two, he landed in Montreal, married, brought up three stepchildren, and years later, when his wife Vivienne died, went back to Prince Edward Island.

His mother died shortly after and he inherited the house on Doyle’s Cove. “My aunt, his sister in Montreal, always had a soft spot for Gavan. She helped him get the place up and running. She bought a bunch of nice furniture for him,” said Kelly Doyle. It was the late 80s. Andy Doyle resurrected the Surfside Inn that had been his mother’s brainchild in the late 40’s.

“When my grandfather died in 1948, my grandmother wanted to make some money with the house and started taking in tourists,” said Kelly. “There was a white picket fence, she had ducks and geese and sheep in a big barnyard, and she kept a garden.” It was a large working garden. “She fed the bed and breakfasts herself.”

As her six girls and two boys grew up and left home, she converted their rooms to guest rooms.

“She filled those rooms all through the 50s and 60s,” said Kelly. “PEI wasn’t like the rest of the world back then. Tourists found the way of life interesting, honest and down-to-earth. There wasn’t much entertainment, but there was always lots to do. They just liked the place.”

When Marie telephoned the Surfside Inn, a Japanese woman answered the call.

“Andy always had Japanese girls, three girls, housekeepers for the season who were exchange students who wanted to learn English. They shared a small bedroom over the kitchen. She told us, yes, we have a room.”

Louie and Marie drove up and down Route 6 between Cavendish and North Rustico searching for the Surfside Inn. When they couldn’t find it, they finally stopped at a National Parks kiosk and got directions. It was in the park, although on private land, Doyle’s Land on Doyle’s Cove. They drove down the Gulf Shore Parkway, past Cape Turner and Orby Head, and down to the coastal inlet.

When they got there, there wasn’t a room. There were four rooms that shared a bath. They were all taken. What Marie and Louie didn’t know was that there was a fifth room on the ground floor, which was Andy’s bedroom with a private bath.

“When we are full, he gives you that room,” explained the young woman.

“We’ll take that,” said Marie. “Where does Andy go to sleep?”

“He sleeps in the boat.”

The Japanese girls did the heavy lifting in return for being able to learn English. “I don’t know where they learned it, but it wasn’t from Andy,” said Marie. “He never talked to them.”

Outside the house was a castaway wooden lobster boat. The hull and forward cabin were worthy enough, although it needed some planks and rib work. it looked like it still had some spirit to it, like it could still make a living at sea.

“It smelled bad, all old stuff papers tools junk a small bed,” said Marie. “It should have been burned long ago.”

The Surfside Inn had a kitchen with several refrigerators. “We thought it was just for breakfast, but we saw other people storing food and making supper.” They started shopping at Doiron’s Fish Market on the harbor road. One suppertime Andy saw them coming into the kitchen with lobsters.

“Let me fix those for you,” he said.

“Oh, my God,” said Marie, “he was good. Tack, tack, tack, all done.”

They started bringing their own wine from home, though.

“I don’t like PEI Liquor wines. We brought Italian and French whites and rose for the fish.”

Coming back from Doiron’s one day, putting away fresh cod wrapped in Kraft paper, Marie noticed small buckets of frozen milk in the freezer.

“There was a Muslim couple staying at Andy’s, the guy was always in the living room, but she was wrapped up, always going to the bedroom. She didn’t talk. At breakfast, no words. She looked at her iPad, that’s all.”

The mother was expressing her breast milk and storing it. She kept it in the back of the freezer, the coldest part of fridges. One day all the milk was gone.

“We never saw the baby, though, maybe it was somewhere else, with a grandma.”

“Tourists in the 50s and 60s weren’t from Monkton or Toronto,” said Kelly. “Some were from the States, but a lot of them were from Europe. We lived next door and ran around the yard, having fun, meeting people. In 1970 my grandmother got a little bit ill and couldn’t keep it going. She lived alone for seven years until my dad moved her into the senior citizen’s home in North Rustico.”

The white house was empty for about ten years, for most of the 80s. It came back to life as the rooms filled up. In summertime it was never vacant.

“You could see the sea right in front of you,” said Marie. “We sat on the porch every day. It was a special place. After a week we would say, let’s stay another day, then another day. Other people, too, were crazy about this place.”

One day Andy asked Louie to help him take an old heavy bicycle out of the lobster boat. “You’re a big guy, you can do it,” said Andy.

When the bike was on the ground Andy straddled it and pedaled to the downhill on the all-purpose path. “He was going down the hill, but Louie told me there were no brakes. Stop! Stop! I yelled but he yelled back, I’ve been riding this bike for thirty years!”

Whenever Andy pulled his four-door sedan out to run errands or go to the grocery, Marie and Louie kept their distance. “I don’t think there were any brakes on his car, either,” she said.

He seemed to own only three short-sleeve shirts. “I have three nice ones,” he said. “I got them for a dollar each at the Salvation Army.” One was yellow, one green and one blue. The blue shirt was his favorite. He dried all his laundry on an outside clothesline, in the sun and ocean breeze.

“All the guests, they were from Canada, the United States, Italy, England, all over. A Chinese couple had a four-year-old who had been born in Quebec, so they named him Denis. Whenever we saw a Chinese child after that we always called the child Denis Wong. There was a couple from Boston, they lived in the harbor on a boat there. He was 80 and she was in her 70s.”

“I didn’t come with my boat. I came with my girlfriend,” he said.

“There is no age,” said Marie. Until you find out your grade school class is running the town city province country.

Aging and its consequences usually happen step-by-step, sometimes without warning. One minute you’re only as old as you feel and the next minute you don’t feel good. It’s like going on a cruise. It can be smooth sailing or a shipwreck. Once you’re on board, though, there’s not much you can do about it.

“There were always many guests, but suddenly a few years ago Andy started getting mixed up. He forgot reservations, there were two Japanese girls instead of three, it wasn’t the same.” What it takes to make an inn work wasn’t getting done. By 2016 it was far more vacant than occupied and Marie and Louie were staying at Kelly Doyle’s Coastline Cottages up the hill across the street.

“Andy introduced us to him,” Marie said.

Like Dorothy said at the end of ‘The Marvelous Land of Oz’, “Everything has to come to an end, sometime.”

In 2018 Andy Doyle moved to the Garden Home in Charlottetown and his nephew Erik Brown took the house over, renovating it and transforming it into his home. In November Andy died. He was 92. It was the end of the Surfside Inn.

“On the ocean was wonderful,” said Marie. “Once we found it, Louie and I loved the Surfside.”

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

A Concrete Bed (This Sat & Sun 9 AM On the Dot)

February 23, 2020 at 9:00am

A Series of Poems from Homeless Men on PEI Presented by The Gallery @ The Guild, February 19 – March 1.

What started as a reflective writing practice for the men experiencing homelessness while living at PEI\’s only men\’s shelter – The Salvation Army Bedford MacDonald House – has become a beautiful heartfelt glimpse into their world. The poems will be accompanied by a series of artistic pieces from Island artist Jen Coughlin.

“We are very honoured to present this incredible body of work and very pleased to partner with The Salvation Army Bedford MacDonald House on this project” Says Alanna Jankov CEO of The Guild.

Jennifer Coughlin is a multidisciplinary artist who has been creating art from the moment she could hold a pencil.
After sustaining a spinal cord injury at the age of ten, Jennifer worked hard to regain the ability to draw again despite her disability. Creating art is one of the few areas in her life where she is totally independent and it gives her a sense of freedom she otherwise would not have.
Jennifer’s passion for creating is closely matched by her willingness to help others and, in her free time, she is a tenacious advocate for people with disabilities

The Salvation Army Bedford MacDonald House provides emergency shelter services for men ages 18 and older. Supports and Services at Bedford McDonald House go beyond meeting immediate needs. Emergency shelters often serve as the “front door” to a broader system of support. The Salvation Army staff use their extensive knowledge and strong agency partnerships to assist residents to connect with the resources and services they need to find stable housing and contribute and participate in community. Stable housing is a goal for all persons residing in shelter.

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

 

Riding the Rita Rodeo

The Charlottetown Festival and The Savoy Theatre Announce Dear Rita is Coming Home

World Premiere production will play June to September on P.E.I., then head to Cape Breton

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Rita MacNeil is coming home. Today, The Charlottetown Festival, in association with The Savoy Theatre, is pleased to announce that the new musical celebration Dear Rita will make its Nova Scotia premiere in October 2020.

Sponsored by Key Murray Law, Dear Rita is a musical toast to Cape Breton superstar Rita MacNeil. Celebrating the life, tenacity, and music of the late singer, the production is being written by Cape Breton’s own Lindsay Kyte with creative new imaginings of Rita’s songs from P.E.I.’s Mike Ross.

“We are so excited to be sharing this work with The Savoy Theatre,” states Adam Brazier, artistic director of The Charlottetown Festival. “Rita’s home and heart were in Cape Breton and the Savoy was one of her favourite theatres. It is so very appropriate for this production to be shared on Cape Breton Island.”

 Playing at The Mack, a part of Confederation Centre, from June 25 to September 25, the show’s 2020 season will now include an exclusive, one-week run in Glace Bay at the Savoy. The 760-seat Victorian theatre is Cape Breton’s premium entertainment and cultural showplace, and will play host to Dear Rita from October 1 to 4. Tickets for both theatres are on sale now.

“Rita MacNeil’s connection to The Savoy Theatre was very strong, and so we are beyond thrilled to be able to present Dear Rita on our stage, where Rita spent countless hours,” says Pam Leader, executive director of the Savoy. “We are also extremely grateful for the opportunity to co-develop this project with Confederation Centre. Rita’s incredible journey and her vast catalogue of songs deserve to be shared with anyone who will listen.”

Developed closely with Rita’s son Wade Langham, Dear Rita features traditional and new, re-imagined arrangements of Rita’s songs. Director Mary Francis Moore, Kyte, and Ross will weave Rita’s lyrics and music into new perspectives, inviting her spirit into the room and letting her songs live on through the audience’s own experiences.

The cast includes actor-musicians who both sing and play instruments, channeling MacNeil’s stories and spirit through their own identities as oppose to a literal depictio of the Canadian icon herself. A full company casting announcement will be made in late February, during a week-long workshop in Toronto for this exciting new production.

For more on the historic Savoy Theatre, visit their website. Confederation Centre wishes to acknowledge the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Government of P.E.I., and the City of Charlottetown for their continued support. The title sponsor of The Charlottetown Festival is CIBC.

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

Baby Shark Comes Alive

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Frost: Live Family Stage

| Homburg Theatre

From South Korea to Charlottetown’s Confederation Centre or the Arts, we have the pleasure to bring to town a global phenomenon,
the YouTube 5th most-viewed video of ALL TIMES : the one and only Baby Shark mini show.

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

Through the Gardener’s Universe

CCAG set to unveil carrer retrospective ‘Victor Cicansky: The Gardener’s Universe’ on January 25

 

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Opening January 25 at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery (CCAG) is a retrospective exhibition focusing on the ceramic and bronze works of Regina-based artist, Victor Cicansky. Curated by Timothy Long and Julia Krueger, and organized by the MacKenzie Art Gallery (Calgary), The Gardener’s Universe brings together over 100 works that present a richly layered picture of Cicansky’s career, one that has been firmly rooted in his garden.

Victor Cicansky: The Gardener’s Universe promises to engage visitors of all ages and will display in the Upper West Gallery at the CCAG until April 26, 2020. As part of a series of Art Talks, Evan Furness, visual arts educator, will introduce the Cicansky exhibition on February 20 from noon to 12:30 p.m. These talks are offered free-of-charge at the Gallery and all are welcome.

For over 50 years, ideas for sculptures in ceramics and bronze have grown out of Cicansky’s intimate relationship with the plants and trees of his backyard. His approach embraces both the immigrant knowledge of his Romanian-Canadian family and more contemporary concerns around urban ecology and environmental sustainability. Grounded in local realities, his work speaks to the wider world of the joys and trials of supporting life in an urban prairie space.

Drawn from 39 public and private collections in Canada and the U.S., the selections embody the energy of Cicansky’s varied production. Challenging craft expectations of pottery and furniture, Cicansky engages the language of making to celebrate “hand smarts,” as his blacksmith father called them. From the subversive experimentation of his student days in California, to the recognition of his prairie immigrant roots, to his celebration of shovel-to-plate gardening — Cicansky has unearthed a politics of place using humour, play, and provocation.

The work of Victor Cicansky asserts that history and locality are vital sources for healthy creative expression, just as gardens are essential for the health of our bodies and the planet. This exhibition celebrates a “garden universe” — as Regina writer Trevor Herriot calls it — and marks Cicansky’s lasting contributions to Canadian art and craft history.

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

Call for Submissions at the Watermark

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Call For Submissions – New Plays in Development by PEI Playwrights
Watermark Theatre in association with PARC (Playwrights Atlantic Resource Centre) is calling for submissions of new non-musical plays from PEI playwrights to be included in Watermark’s 2020 Play Reading Series during the month of August 2020 at the theatre in North Rustico, PEI.

Plays must:
– be written by playwrights who currently reside in PEI or were born or previously lived in PEI but currently reside elsewhere
– be unpublished and must not have had a professional production (previous workshop or Fringe productions are fine)
– be non-musicals
– have a cast size of 8 or less
– be submitted in English (although portions of the play may be in another language)

Plays can be of any topic or genre the playwright chooses. Each playwright may submit no more than two scripts. Plays that were submitted in previous years are ineligible.

Please send submissions of plays along with a playwright biography, short synopsis of the play, brief description of development history (how long you have been working on it, draft number, further work you think it needs), and contact information by e-mail to artisticdirector@watermarktheatre.com

Deadline for submissions is March 6th, 2020.

Playwrights of the plays selected will be notified by March 30th, 2020.

For more information please contact Andrea Surich at 902‐963‐3963 or generalmanager@watermarktheatre.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

Getting Centre’d

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Built as a living monument to Confederation, the Centre is Canada’s hub for learning, through the lens of the arts, about how this nation was formed and how our identity continues to evolve. Generations of visitors have had their lives enhanced through the Centre’s visual and performing arts, education, heritage, and community engagement programs.

BECOME A MEMBER 
Get Centre’d at the $1,000 level before December 31 and receive a named seat in the Homburg Theatre!


We need your help:

The Centre is a registered Canadian charity and a non-profit organization. Revenues from sales in our theatre, restaurant, and gift shop are simply not enough to cover the annual cost of operating Confederation Centre of the Arts, which is between $13-15 million.

The Centre depends on YOUR SUPPORT through membership, donations, and special events to raise 12-15% of our operating costs, or at least $1.5 million each year.

We have created a membership program designed to enhance the experience of those who give. We put your donations to work at the Centre, and then ensure that you are the first to enjoy its benefits.

As you can see, the Centre could not operate without the generosity of its donors and sponsors!

The Centre depends on YOUR SUPPORT through membership, donations, and special events to raise 12-15% of our operating costs, or a minimum of $1.5-2.5 million each year.

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PEI Theatre is the Guild, Harbourfront Theatre,
Confederation Centre for the Arts,
Watermark Theatre, and the Victoria Playhouse