The Kings Players make their 2014 debut at the P.E.I. Community Theatre Festival on March 29
Sitting at the table with their hands outstretched, four actors wait for Madame Arcati, played by Julie Haddow, to conduct her seance.
When it appears that she has made contact with the spirit world, the table begins to move slowly up and down.
Immediately, the cast members start to laugh because it’s the first time they’ve run their lines using the special effects.
“This is so much fun,” says Kendall Robbins, who plays Mrs. Bradman, when the table finally settles back down and Elvira, the ghost (Julie Pellissier-Lush) appears.
It’s a rehearsal for the seance scene in Blithe Spirit, the Kings Players’ entry in the 2014 P.E.I. Community Theatre Festival, being held later this month.
“It’s the first time that we’ve been part of the festival. Last year we planned to be in it. However, at the last minute, we had to pull out because of illness. So we’re very excited to be part of this year’s event,” says Haddow, the theatre’s executive director.
Besides being thrilled about being included, she’s enthusiastic about the script.
“Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit is a fantastic play and the more that we’ve been doing it the more excited we’ve become. That’s because we’re going to perform it in its entirety at the Kings Playhouse this summer, with different actors.
“So it’s great that we’ll be able to give people a teaser.”
The play revolves around the socialite and novelist Charles Condomine, played by Ian Byne, who invites eccentric medium and clairvoyant, Madame Arcati, played by Haddow, to his house to conduct a séance, hoping to gather material for his next book. His plan backfires when the ghost of his annoying and temperamental first wife, Elvira, played by Pellissier-Lush, haunts him after the séance. She makes continual attempts to disrupt Charles’ marriage to his second wife, Ruth, played by Ruth Beck, who cannot see or hear the ghost.
Blithe Spirit is one of the plays that will be presented during the festival, taking place March 29 at the Carrefour Theatre in Charlottetown, 1-5 p.m.
It joins a multi-media enactment of the poem, Desiderata, presented by the Rag Tag Players, a group of youngsters at Murphy’s Community Centre, along with a comic monologue and improv performance by students of L’Ecole François-Buote. In addition, The Raft: An Interlude, a comedic story of stranding by Canadian humorist Stephen Leacock, will be presented by A.C.T. (A Community Theatre), and the Harbourfront Players will stage two adult playlets from Neil Simon’s California Suite: Visitors From Chicago and Visitor from Philadelphia.
“This year’s performers offer a delightful assortment of works, with plenty of good comedy,” says Rob Thomson, publicity chair, noting the festival is P.E.I.’s way of marking the 54th annual celebration of World Theatre Day.
“That’s the day when thespians all around the globe show their respect for the vital force which live performance has been in virtually all societies stretching down through the centuries.”
The festival is an annual event for amateur, for-the-fun-of-it groups, and over the years it has been a lively success with audiences.
“Hundreds of people come for a full afternoon or a drop in-for a while. Each acting group puts on a short play, a half-hour or less, and there’s a good mix of types,” says Thomson.
And Robbins can’t wait to be one of them.
“People should come and check out our show because it’s going to be amazing. It will also give them a little taste of what’s going to happen this summer.”
Sally Cole is a features writer with The Guardian. She welcomes comments about her column as well as suggestions for future columns from readers. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 629-6000, ext. 6054.