A fresh look on P.E.I.

By Sally Cole, The Guardian
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Marlane O’Brien holds a copy of “My Name Is...Stories from the Quilt,” a book by Margie Carmichael. It’s the inspiration for “Stories From the Quilt”, a new play by The Athena Women’s Theatre Company that she's also holding in her hand.

Guardian features writer Sally Cole gets caught up with some P.E.I. stories and characters from the past

When reporters write stories they often capture a moment in time.

And readers may be left wondering what happens next.

Today, here are some answers in these updated stories.


Page to stage

Good things continue to happen for a new musical, “Stories From the Quilt.” A project of the Athena Women’s Theatre Company, it was workshopped last summer at the Charlottetown Festival.

“I had five of the best actors in Canada reading it. They were amazing,” says spokesperson Marlane O’Brien, adding the cast list included Natasha Greenblatt, Charlotte Moore, Bruce Dow, Jan Smith and Jay Davis.

“We concentrated mostly on the script rather than the music which, hopefully, will be coming this year.”

The leap from the page to the stage was a positive one.

“It was really moving. And we really, really got far along. In fact, when (artistic director) Adam Brazier saw it, he said, ‘I figured this would be a way for you to figure out what you want to do but you already know what you want to do and it’s really heading in a good direction,’ “ says O’Brien, adding the festival has expressed an interest in doing a second workshop this summer.

“It’s a beautiful piece and I’m on the right track with it, definitely,” says O’Brien, who won a Maud Whitmore scholarship to put together a soundscape for the work.

Based on “My Name Is...Stories from the Quilt,” a book by Margie Carmichael, it brings to life the stories of Tansie, Anna, Flora and Olivia, ordinary women with extraordinary strengths and gifts as well as three of the poems set to music by Carmichael.


Reaching out to mothers

After the story about the Island Mothers Helping Mothers Facebook group was in “The Guardian” last January, Emily Alene Heaney’s telephone started to ring.

And it continued as 1,500 volunteers signed up to help.

“It was overwhelming. We’re so pleased with everyone’s interest,” says the Summerside resident, noting that group membership has risen to 3,300.

The group provides supplies and emotional support to mothers in need. Currently operating without government funding, it is run by two volunteers who accept donations, respond to people’s requests for clothing and food and match volunteers with mothers in need through a Facebook page.

Inspired to start the group after someone reached out to her and provided everything she needed for her newborn son, William, several years ago,  Heaney now co-ordinates the group with Sarah Stewart Clark. By both putting in 40 or more hours a week  they have taken on new projects such as co-ordinating 41 Christmas dinners for families and helping 300 families buy Christmas presents.

As the program grows, more needs are noted.

“The thing we’re finding out now is that families need to get to the IWK and support is hit or miss.”

In response, members are donating gas cards and bridge passes. They are also providing money for prescriptions for antibiotics for children as well as for medications for mothers dealing with postpartum depression.

As they look forward to the 2016, they are seeking another kind of help.

“We’re seeking assistance to become a registered, non-profit organization and would greatly welcome anyone who could help make this a reality.”


Next steps

Jamie MacKay continues to create.

After launching “Our Universe at War: The Fall of Thaelus” on the Internet and on Vimeo on May 4 the Beach Point resident received many positive reviews. The eight-part animated sci-fi web series is about “the fate of a galaxy which rests on the choice of one man.”

“Many people saw my work and I appreciated their kind words. It has encouraged me to continue with this project,” says MacKay, who is currently working on a new script.

“It will serve as a sequel and tell what happened after the Fall of Thaelus. I’m involved in the preparation of the artwork, right now, with some new 3-D software. I’ve posted it on Facebook so people can see the sketches that I’m considering for the various characters,” says MacKay.

But, as he prepares to takes his next steps, he realizes he’s at a crossroads.

“I’m trying to decide which direction to take,” says the Beach Point resident, who is torn between creating a web comic or a video, based on the story.

“So I have to decide whether to make the comic or am I going to try to animate it, as well. We’ll let you know how it works out.”


A writing life

By last December, Susan Rodgers had completed four books in “The Drifters” series and was working on a fifth, “Whispers of Home”.

“I finished writing that book. Then, I had another story arc occur to me and I ended up writing books six, seven and eight over the winter. After eight books I thought that was it,” says the Summerside resident.

So Rodgers took a break to write a screenplay over the summer months.

“Then, I kind of came up with another Drifter story arc . . . And so I’ve finished book 11 after writing nine, 10 and 11 this fall.”

While it’s hard to imagine that there are even more adventures for actors Jessie Wheeler and Josh Sawyer and their friends on and off a movie set, Rodgers says there’s an abundant supply.

“The characters are so deeply ingrained in my soul. And their lives just continue to unfold in front of me. They’re like friends in another town.”

And she enjoys telling their stories.

“It’s such a joy ... It’s where I want to be and what I want to be doing so it makes it easy,” says Rodgers who juggles her passion with writing books for clients and her part-time work at the Harbourfront Theatre box office.

And, as she looks toward 2016, she has her fingers crossed.

“I think this is going to be a good year. I’m feeling a good vibe. After flying out the door in Summerside, the books are catching on in Charlottetown, where Indigo has taken an interest in her work.”






Getting in touch

- Contact Susan Rodgers by emailing fatcat@pei.sympatico.ca.

- Emily Alene Heaney may be reached by emailing islandmothershelpingmothers@gmail.com.

- Marlane O’Brien may be reached at marlanecha@gmail.com.

- Jamie MacKay may be reached through Facebook or http://www.ouruniverseatwar.net/

Organizations: The Drifters, Harbourfront Theatre

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Summerside, Athena Women Canada Beach Point

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