Finding Maud on P.E.I.

Sally
Sally Cole
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Actress Jennifer Carroll to perform a one-woman show about the Island author on June 27 at the Carrefour Theatre in Charlottetown

When you first see Jennifer Carroll standing next to a curtained window, wearing a blue tailored suit, straw hat and metal-rimmed glasses, it’s uncanny how much she resembles L.M. Montgomery.

But if you catch the actress in real life, casually dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, you realize the incredible transformation she has gone through to become the character.

“At first, a lot of my insight came from reading her journals, especially about her relationship with her father and living on Prince Edward Island,” says Carroll, who will do it all over again when she brings her one-woman show, Maud of Leaskdale, to the Carrefour Theatre in Charlottetown for a one-night only performance on June 27 at 8 p.m.

But, after performing the show for the past three years at the Historic Leaskdale Church in Uxbridge, Ont., her character is put on like her costume — in layers.

“I start by applying a base of makeup to age my skin. Then I add a few age spots and crow’s feet and lines around my mouth. It usually takes about a half hour,” says Carroll who, at 27, plays Montgomery from ages 30-46 during the show.

Then it’s time to take out her rollers, loosen the curls and create the period hair.

“Once my hair gets pulled back, tightened and rounded into that bun, it pulls me up. It creates that posture, because you have to hold your head a certain way.”

Next she dons a high neck shirt and a brooch before slipping on the wool skirt and jacket.

“It stiffens your body and by the time the hat goes on, it gives you a physicality that drops you into the role,” says Carroll, who does vocal warmups before the show.

“No matter how much time you spend on your hair and makeup, it’s the voice work, in the afternoon, that really authenticates how I feel about her. Having that grounded, deep, deep in my voice, is what brings her out in me.”

The show’s creator, Conrad Boyce, who spent hours poring over the journals to write the play, is excited about its P.E.I. debut with Carroll as the lead.

“Jennifer is so good in capturing the essence of Lucy Maud. Because she grew up in Uxbridge (near Leaskdale), she was familiar with Montgomery’s story from the beginning. A very powerful, professionally-trained actress, she’s on stage for 100 minutes, all by herself, every night.”

Although Carroll is comfortable with playing the character, she’s a little scared about bringing the show to P.E.I.

“When everybody thinks about Lucy Maud Montgomery, they think of Anne Shirley and those gauzy, soft images of Prince Edward Island. But the Maud we know, from the history of her time in Leaskdale, is so different.”

When Montgomery arrived at the Leaskdale manse in 1911, she had just come off her wedding tour. She was newly married to Rev. Ewan Macdonald.

Montgomery was also an acclaimed author, after publishing Anne of Green Gables three years before.

“But, in this well-to-do farmers’ town the people didn’t care at all whether she was famous or not. She was Mrs. MacDonald, a minister’s wife and that was the most important thing.”

 

 

Organizations: Carrefour Theatre, Historic Leaskdale Church

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, Leaskdale Uxbridge Green Gables

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