Watermark Adds Matinee Performances of ‘Blithe Spirit’

Watermark Theatre is pleased to announce that two more performances of Blithe Spirit by Noel Coward will be added to the summer schedule.

Wed August 17th at 1:30PM
Sat August 27th at 1:30PM

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Tickets for Blithe Spirit are selling so well that the company has decided to add two matinee performances to meet the high demand for this much loved comedy.

Directed by Alan Kinsella and starring Gracie Finley, Daniel Briere, Bryde MacLean, Suzanne Roberts Smith, Leah Pritchard, and Joshua Browne, the production has received universally positive reviews since opening earlier this summer.

“‘Blithe Spirit’ best comedy on P.E.I. Come to Watermark Theatre’s production to enjoy fun, fun and more fun” – The Guardian

“(Gracie) Finley was clearly enjoying herself, and so were we—she was flat-out wonderful.” – The Buzz

“If you’re looking for some cerebral comedy with a splash of slapstick, Blithe Spirit is the show for you.” – ONRPEI.COM

Researching his new novel, Charles Condomine invites the implausible medium Madame Arcati to his house for a séance. Arcati unwittingly summons the ghost of Charles’ dead wife Elvira who soon makes a play to reclaim her husband, much to the chagrin of Charles’ new wife Ruth. One husband, two feuding wives and a whisper of mischief in the air – Noel Coward at his comedic best!

Photo Credit: Bryde MacLean and Gracie Finley. Photographer was Mike Viau.

 

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Blithe Spirit Transcends Time and Space

Director Alan Kinsella could help a cucumber sandwich achieve its fullest theatrical potential. I know this because I played witness to the managerial marvel at the Watermark Theatre in North Rustico Friday night. What he was able to do with a misbehaving wooden table during a séance was pretty impressive as well. With such direction, it is no small wonder the cast and crew of Blithe Spirit by Noel Coward pulled off a transcendent performance on opening night, July 15th.

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The show was written in 1941 but the set, lights, and music were done in such a way the show could have been set in any decade. The play is no doubt British but, with some imagination and talent, it could take place in any village or city. That’s the joy of life, death and jealousy. The themes transcend both time and space.

Watermark stalwart Gracie Finley set the standard in her exuberant portrayal of Madame Arcati, a vivacious medium who unwittingly turns Mr. and Mrs. Condomimes’ lives upside down by granting Mrs. Condomine the Former, Elvira, a visit of indeterminate length. Mr. Charles Condomime is at first rattled by the sojourn of the free-spirited spectre and quickly becomes comfortable with the idea of being an ‘astral polygamist’. Charles is played marvellously by Daniel Briere who has a wide repertoire of facial expressions, reminiscent of Rowan Atkinson of Black Adder fame. Briere and Suzanne Roberts Smith (Elvira) play off each other nicely and make the relationship between Charles and Elvira quite believable and, oddly, not creepy.

Enter Ruth, Mrs. Condomime the Current, played by PEI native Bryde MacLean. Understandably, Ruth is not happy with the new living arrangement but she keeps a stiff upper lip. For a little while, anyway. MacLean’s portrayal of Ruth was fun to watch. It was exquisitely executed and made more visually arresting by MacLean’s resemblance to Anne Hathaway. Her presence was made ever more magnetic with the outfits put together by costume designer Kathryn Sherwin. MacLean’s absence for part of the show was very remarkable as I was excited to see what she would be wearing next.

Joshua Browne makes the most of his time on stage, as Dr. Bradman, who takes Madame Arcati’s jabs like a champ. I’m anxious to see Browne play Tom in The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams on July 16th.

Leah Pritchard returns to the Watermark this year to work double duty in this piece; first as Edith, the ready-to-serve maid who may be more than she appears and, second, as Dr. Bradman’s chatty better half. I very much look forward to Pritchard’s portrayal of Laura in The Glass Menagerie. With Pritchard’s easy beauty, light complexion and nuanced performances, Laura may be the role she was born to play.

Robert Tsonos had a very successful first opening night as the new artistic director. Tsonos is no stranger to the Watermark stage and seems very eager to take on new responsibilities. In addition to his artistic director duties, of which I’m sure there are many, Tsonos will be directing The Glass Menagerie. Tsonos is making great strides in making the Watermark a community-integrated space. The theatre acts as a fine gallery for local artisans, serves local beer, and hosts a mentorship theatre program and teenage conservatory to foster the next generation of theatrical professionals.

Bottom line: If you’re looking for some cerebral comedy with a splash of slapstick, Blithe Spirit is the show for you. It’s playing now until August 27th at 7:30 p.m. on selected dates with one matinee on August 10th starting at 1:30 p.m.

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

Watermark Theatre on Verge of Summer Season

The sets are being built, costumes designed, music composed and the lights are being focused as Watermark Theatre prepares for their 2016 summer season. There is definitely an excitement in the air this summer as the company embarks on several new initiatives and two famous plays that are sure to please local audiences and visitors alike.

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Everyone is waiting with anticipation for the announcement of which plays are to be included in the new Play Reading Series in August, the new Watermark Mentorship Program has a series of design and backstage interns already hard at work preparing for the season, but of course it is the plays of Tennessee Williams and Noel Coward that has everyone eagerly awaiting the start of the season.

The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams is one of those beautifully written, honest, and heartbreaking plays that come around once a decade, if not once a century”, says director and new Artistic Director Robert Tsonos. “The cast and I are mining the script for any clues into the minds of these very human and flawed characters. The play is about hope, about family, about dreams and aspirations. It’s based on Tennessee Williams’ own family and depicts his life growing up in St. Louis during the Depression. It’s a play that is sure to touch the heart and reach into the soul.”

Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit is his most famous play and thought by many critics to be the best constructed of his comic plays”, says director Alan Kinsella. “The cast and I have had so much fun bringing this fantasy-comedy to life with its larger than life characters and hilarious situations. The play was first produced in the spring of 1941 in London during the Blitz as an antidote for those troubled times. Years later the play still stands the test of time and is as relatable and funny to a modern audience as it was then.”

Blithe Spirit begins performances on June 28th and The Glass Menagerie on July 8th and both run until the end of August at the Watermark Theatre in North Rustico.

Mr. Coward at the Watermark Theatre

Noel Peirce Coward, whose play “Blithe Spirit” is at the Watermark Theatre all summer, was born on December 16, 1899, receiving his first name because Christmas was just days away. From an early age, Noel was intelligent, temperamental, and an instinctive performer, making his first stage appearances in amateur concerts at age seven. He loved to sing and dance at any excuse and threw frightful tantrums if he was not summoned to perform for guests.

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With his mother’s encouragement, he launched his professional acting career at the age of 12, making his London debut as Prince Mussel in a children’s show called The Goldfish. He appeared in several West End productions, including the “lost boy” Slightly in two West End editions of Peter Pan.

In the early 1900s, England was a very class-conscious society. A boy actor born to poor parents would have been snubbed by the upper classes. However, Coward’s extraordinary determination and charm won him an entree into the chicest circles. His professional and social ambitions were insatiable.

I Leave It To You (1920) was Coward’s first full length play produced in the West End, with Noel playing a leading role – quite an accomplishment for a lad of 21. The brief run brought encouraging reviews, whetting Coward’s appetite for more.

The London production of his play The Young Idea (1923) was a mild success, with Noel playing one of the lead roles. That same year, producer Andre Charlot featured several of Coward’s songs in the hit revue London Calling. While all this was happening, Noel put the finishing touches on a daring drama that would change his career – and his life – forever.

He wrote, directed and starred in The Vortex (1924), a searing look at sexual vanity and drug abuse among the upper classes. When most producers refused to consider such a lurid project, the small Everyman Theatre in suburban London agreed to take it on.
On opening night, the audience was both shocked and fascinated by The Vortex. The combination of fiery acting and scandalous subject matter made The Vortex the talk of London. Other plays had depicted drug abuse, but not among the rich. Demand was such that the production soon moved to a larger West End theatre for an extended run, making Coward a sensation.

With the sudden success of The Vortex, Coward was in demand. Over the two years he starred in the London and New York productions, as well as an American tour. Coward also wrote the hilarious comedy Hay Fever (1925), which triumphed in London, and the hit West End revue On With The Dance (1925). He also turned out Fallen Angels (1925), Easy Virtue (1925), The Queen Was in the Parlour (1926) and The Rat Trap (1926). Most of these plays were at least partially successful, but he was working at a punishing pace.

Coward prospered through the worst of the Great Depression, enjoying a lifestyle most people could only dream about. A dedicated traveler, he went on a series of extended journeys to escape the pressures of show business. During one 1929 stay in Singapore, he finished the first draft of Private Lives (1930), which proved to be a highlight of his career. Coward co-starred with a then unknown Laurence Olivier, playing to packed houses in both London and New York.

Coward then wrote and directed Cavalcade (1931). Acclaimed on the London stage, the film version won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1933.

In 1942, he turned out a trio of hit plays, including the semi-autobiographical comedy Present Laughter (1942) and the cockney drama This Happy Breed (1942). His biggest wartime hit was Blithe Spirit (1942). The play proved one of Coward’s most popular successes, with character actress Margaret Rutherford winning stardom as the eccentric medium Madame Arcati. She repeated her role in a superb film version three years later.
The years following the war were difficult for Coward. Other than the London revue Sigh No More (1945), most of his new works met with commercial failure. Coward knew instinctively that his writing was better than ever, but it seemed that the public’s tastes had changed.

A 1963 revival of Private Lives took London by storm, sparking renewed interest in Coward’s plays on both sides of the Atlantic. Revivals and TV productions of his works followed and continue to this day.

In January of 1973, Noel visited New York for a gala performance of the off-Broadway revue Oh Coward! He arrived with longtime friend Marlene Dietrich on his arm. Bent with age and illness, he remained the personification of elegance. Friends sensed that he was declining, but no one realized that his would be his last public appearance. In the early morning hours of Monday, March 26, 1973, Noel Coward suffered a stroke at his home in Jamaica.

Cead Mile Failte, in Other Words

Watermark Theatre is delighted to bid Céad Míle Fáilte – A Hundred Thousand Welcomes – to Irish Director Alan Kinsella, who will be staging Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit for the 2016 Watermark Summer Season.

Mr. Kinsella is a native of County Wexford, Ireland, who began his career as an actor at the famous Abbey Theatre in Dublin, and continued in Ireland as a director of plays such as “Dedalus Lounge”, “Decadence”, and “Angels in America”, as well as musicals such as “Victor/Victoria”, “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”, and “Singing in the Rain”.

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An accomplished director of the classical theatre, Mr. Kinsella has staged plays such as “Edward II”, “Henry IV”, “Major Barbara”, and “A Streetcar Named Desire.” In 2010, he made his Off‐Broadway debut, directing Stephen Berkoff’s “Lunch”. Above all, Mr. Kinsella has made himself a master of the works of Noel Coward, having directed Coward’s “Still Life”, “While We Were Dancing”, and “Ways and Means”, at the Civic Theatre in Dublin as well as the Coward musical reviews “Marvelous Party”, and “Noel and Cole”.

Mr. Kinsella settled in Canada in 2013 and over the past three years has directed more than 20 Canadian productions in Toronto including “The Woman in Black”, “Jesus Christ Superstar”, “Hair”, and “Anything Goes”.

In the hands of an experienced and able director – and one with such an extensive background in Coward’s works – the Watermark Theatre production of Blithe Spirit promises to deliver all the wit, dazzle and spark which marks the comedy of one of modern theatre’s great playwrights.

 

Gracie Finley Treads the Boards in Spirit and Menagerie

Watermark Theatre is thrilled to announce the first casting news for the 2016 Summer Season. Company member Gracie Finley is to play the pivotal role of Madame Arcati in “Blithe Spirit” and the iconic Amanda Wingfield in “The Glass Menagerie”.

Raised in Charlottetown with summers spent in Alberton, Ms. Finley is well known to PEI audiences. Her early career was like “A Star is Born” come to life. A local teenager who, the previous summer had been performing for children in the Charlottetown Festival’s “Circus Tent Theatre” is elevated to the role of Anne Shirley in “Anne of Green Gables: The Musical.” Ms. Finley became the musical’s second “Anne”, and had both the longest continuous run in the role – seven seasons ‐ and the longest total run of nine seasons.

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Following her triumph as Anne, Ms. Finley went on to act in “Mary Queen of Scots”, “Jane Eyre”, “Sunshine Town”, “Private Turvey”, “Life Can be Like Wow, Joey…” all with The Charlottetown Festival as well as “Butterflies are Free” with Theatre New Brunswick, and “Rumpelstiltskin” with Neptune Theatre.

Ms. Finley took a break from acting in the mid 1980’s, but made a stellar return to the theatre at North Rustico’s Watermark in 2013, playing Alfie in “The Shore Field” and The Queen of Hearts in “Alice in Wonderland.” She followed these roles up with a magnificent characterization of Eleanor of Aquitaine in “The Lion in Winter” (2014), and portrayals of the coarse and earthy Nurse in “Romeo and Juliet,” and the garrulous Lady Markby in “An Ideal Husband” (2015).

The summer of 2016 may well present Ms. Finley with one of the finest challenges of her career. On the one hand, she will play the zany and bizarre Madame Arcati–the medium who manages to summon up the ghost of a dead wife – in Noel Coward’s comedy Blithe Spirit, and on the other hand, in Tennessee William’s The Glass Menagerie, she will tackle one of the most powerful roles in theatre, Amanda Wingfield, the aging faded southern belle, abandoned by her husband in 1930’s St. Louis, longing for the comforts of her youth, and alienating her son and daughter in the process.

The Watermark is thrilled that, with the return of Gracie Finley, these strong female characters will be in very capable hands. The teenager of “Anne” is now the mature woman of “Eleanor” and she will bring that maturity together with all her other considerable skills to the Watermark stage in this coming summer of 2016.

Watermark Theatre Announces 2016 Season

The Watermark Theatre’s Artistic Director Robert Tsonos, and General Manager Andrea Surich are proud to announce the 2016 Summer Season.

The season will include the American modern classic The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, and the Noel Coward comedy Blithe Spirit. A new initiative, The Watermark Play Reading Series, will be presented throughout the month of August, and our popular music series Classic Music Reignited rounds out the programming for the summer.

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The Glass Menagerie became an instant and enduring hit when it appeared on Broadway in 1945, winning the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best American Play and brought Tennessee Williams, until then an obscure young playwright, to prominence. In a cramped St Louis apartment in 1945 the regrets, hopes and frustrations of an abandoned family are revealed with the truth, humour, and compassion for which Tennessee Williams is renowned. Celebrated as one the greatest plays of the English‐speaking world!

In Blithe Spirit, while researching his new novel, Charles Condomine invites the implausible medium Madame Arcati to his house for a séance. Arcati unwittingly summons the ghost of Charles’ dead wife Elvira who soon makes a play to reclaim her husband, much to the chagrin of Charles’ new wife Ruth. One husband, two feuding wives and a whisper of mischief in the air – Noel Coward at his comedic best!

A Play Reading is as simple as it sounds. Actors, with scripts in hand, using minimal movement on stage, act out plays for an audience. Plays by Arthur Miller, Eugene Ionesco, Lillian Hellman, Eugene O’Neill, Henrik Ibsen, George Bernard Shaw, Dario Fo, Clare Boothe Luce, and Harold Pinter are only a few of the possible playwrights featured in the series. Classic Canadian plays will also be included in this series. Plays by David French, Sharon Pollock, Michel Tremblay, John Murrell, and Judith Thompson.

In addition to the great plays of the English‐speaking world, we will also present play readings in French from the masters of French theatre as well as some French‐Canadian classics. Plays by Moliere, Marivaux, Michel Marc Bouchard, Jean‐Paul Sartre, Jean Cocteau, Jean Racine and Gratien Gélinas, to name a few.

Classic Music Reignited is our popular music series curated by Rob Oakie. Island musical artists interpret classic composers in a way that you have never heard before. Last summer we celebrated the music of Edith Piaf, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and The Rat Pack trio of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Junior and Dean Martin. Our 2016 lineup will be announced soon.

Season Tickets are now on sale at early bird rates of $99 for 4 tickets and $124 for 6 tickets. For more information please contact Andrea Surich at 902‐963‐3963 or generalmanager@watermarktheatre.com

The Watermark Theatre is at 57 Church Hill Ave in North Rustico, across the street from the Church of Stella Maris.