Tag Archives: Robert Tsonos

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.

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.

ABC’s of Play Reading

Watermark Theatre Announces Play Reading Series

A classic Canadian play performed in French, an American farce that later became the musical “Hello Dolly!”, and a European drama scandalous in its day, are the three plays included in this summer’s Watermark Theatre Play Reading Series.

The three plays and performance times are:

Une Lune D’eau Salée (Salt Water Moon) by David French – August 6th at 1:30PM

The Matchmaker by Thornton Wilder – August 12th at 7:30PM

Miss Julie by August Strindberg – August 20th at 1:30P

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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. “The series is a great way to test out a variety of different plays on our audience and helps us decide our future programming. It also allows me to try new actors that I am unfamiliar with for future casting consideration,” says Artistic Director Robert Tsonos.

Starring Jake McNeil, last season’s Romeo in “Romeo and Juliet”, and Suzanne Roberts Smith, David French’s Salt Water Moon, written in 1985, has had many productions on the Island over the years but this reading marks the first time it appears in French.

The Matchmaker by Thornton Wilder, written in 1955, is an all out farce and is the play that later became the hit musical “Hello Dolly!”. A number of local and Atlantic based actors are joining our acting company for this very special event. Cathy Grant, Sharlene MacLean, Don Allison, Donnie MacPhee, and Paul Whelan along with our company of six actors will perform in this madcap comedy.

Censored for its shocking content, Miss Julie by August Strindberg depicts a struggle across sex and class lines that reverberated through Europe when it was first written in 1888 and still packs a dramatic punch today. Starring members of the Watermark Acting Company, the play is a dramatic and thought provoking look at Europe at the end of the 19th century.

All tickets are $10.

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.

Who is Robert Tsonos?

Robert Tsonos, Artistic Director of the Watermark Theatre, has had a distinguished international directing career having worked in Japan, Hong Kong, England, and Venezuela; he was a member of the Watermark Theatre acting company for the past two seasons; and was the Director of the company’s national tour of Canada 300. Mr. Tsonos was the resident director at the Canadian Embassy Theatre in Tokyo from 2003 to 2006 and has been the Artistic Director of Sometimes Y Theatre for the past 17 years.

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Robert’s directing credits include Shakespeare’s Will and Old Times at the Hong Kong Arts Centre, Elisa’s Skin for TEATRELA in Caracas, The Goat at the Hong Kong Fringe Club, La Ronde for Temple University Japan,‘night, Mother at the Etcetera Theatre in London and the Dancehall Theatre in Manchester; Vigil, The Drawer Boy, and For The Pleasure Of Seeing Her Again at the Canadian Embassy Theatre; and A Doll’s House and Proof for Tokyo International Players.

Robert‘s theatre acting credits include An Ideal Husband, Romeo & Juliet, The Rainmaker and The Lion In Winter (Watermark Theatre); Macbeth (Shouson Theatre Hong Kong), The Domino Heart and Problem Child (Canadian Embassy Theatre, Tokyo), True West (Akasaka Playbox, Tokyo), The Qualities of Zero, Ines de Castro, Total Body Washout, and Romeo & Rosaline (Tarragon Theatre’s Extra Space), Othello (Persephone Theatre), The Grey Zone (Poor Alex Theatre) and Three Days of Rain (Sudbury Theatre Centre).

As a playwright, Robert‘s play It’s Time won the Uprising National Playwriting Competition, placed 2nd in the 84th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition, and was a finalist for the Herman Voaden Playwriting Competition. His play The Hum was produced in Hong Kong; was a finalist for The Herman Voaden National Playwriting Competition; and was published by Level 4 Press in “Regional Best 2012”. His play William & James has been produced in Toronto (Theatre Passe Muraille), New York, Montreal and Ottawa. His other plays include In His Name, Sharnoozle!, which toured international schools in Tokyo, the CBC Radio play Ice Age, as well as I Am Not The One, and Running – 3 short plays.

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.