A P.E.I. show of their own

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Sally Cole
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Graduates of Holland College's School of Performing Arts take the stage in their own production, Ladies & GentlemAn of the Island, this summer at The Guild in Charlottetown

Sarah MacPhee is making her own break this summer.

After performing in the Historical Reenactment at Province House, for the past three years, as well as appearing in student productions, she is getting to do something that she’s always dreamed of — write and perform in her own show.

“It’s cool to be part of a production that’s already written. But, it’s another thing to build the show from the ground up,” says MacPhee, one of four graduates from Holland College’s School of Performing Arts (SPPA) that have teamed up to create and produce Ladies & GentlemAn of the Island. Starring Jacob Durdan, Kristena McCormack, Kaitlyn Post and MacPhee, the new comedy show plays Thursday and Friday nights at The Guild in Charlottetown until the end of August.

“We all have talent. We all have similar aspirations. By pooling our resources, we make a really great team,” says MacPhee.

Audience members quickly became aware of that as the young artists took to the stage this past Friday.

Whether they were performing P.E.I. State of Mind, a rap song that points out the special attributes of Canada’s smallest province, Dr. Tarry and the Jibbs, a hilarious sketch about family therapy, or a musical tribute to a favourite Canadian coffee shop, they demonstrated their creativity and collaboration.

For example, in Tim’s - The Musical, each one performed a solo number, incorporating melodies

like I Dreamed A Dream, from Les Misérables, and Good Morning Baltimore, from Hairspray, into the score, but with different lyrics.

“For the finale, You Can’t Beat Tim’s, we came together and wrote a couple of lines. It was a lot of fun,” says Durdan.

The sketches are woven together with videos and interpretive dance numbers inspired by P.E.I.’s favourite red-haired orphan. Aptly named The Slate, Egg and Spoon, Raspberry Cordial, The Apology, Matthew’s Death and Anne Arrives in Avonlea, they provide the through-line for the show.

“Anne of Green Gables is such a hot commodity. Everyone knows Anne. And even if they haven’t seen the musical, they still get the jokes,” says McCormack, adding interpretive dance provides the perfect mode of expression.

“You can take any topic and put it into interpretive dance and, all of a sudden, it’s entertaining. So we thought, Anne of Green Gables is so self-explanatory that it worked with everything we did.”

An important, yet invisible member of the team is Jan Rudd, director and head writer. Working alongside the young actors during the creative process and sitting in the audience during show nights, she looks for ways to develop improv ideas they came up with, turning them into full-size sketches.

Take, for instance, Library Lady’s Story Time, a humorous sketch created and performed by Post about a librarian who, after stating that she’s “sick to death” about telling children’s stories, tells the startling story of her life.

“Kaitlyn’s piece started as an improv about a funeral. Then I said, ‘now you’re the library lady.’ So she started talking and I asked her to do an accent and then, all of a sudden, this other person emerged and Kaitlyn settled into her character,” says Rudd, who quickly pressed the button on her iPod to record the creative moment.

The result?

“In the show, she performs almost verbatim what she did that day. We just worked the beginning and the end to tie it together,” says Rudd, an alumna of Charlottetown Festival’s Drill Queens Comedy and an acting teacher.

The troupe members appreciate her creative input.

“Talent is a fraction of what it takes to put together a show. And yes we are talented but Jan has all this incredible experience of creating shows, in the past. And she has just been incredible,” says McCormack.

What’s next?

Durdan is optimistic.

“We don’t know what the fall might bring but we definitely plan on working together in the near future, for sure. So it’s not the last time you’ll hear from us.”

Post agrees.

“We have found something very rare. We all work so well together. And we’ve all become kind of a big family.”

ASKING FOR SUPPORT

Just the facts

What: Ladies & GentlemAn of the Island.

Funding: Supported only by friends and family, the troupe is running a fundraising campaign through Indiegogo, a crowd funding site. For details, go to www.indiegogo.com/projects/ladies-and-gentleman-of-the-island/x/8272555.

For more information: Go to http://www.theguildpei.com.

 

 

Organizations: Holland College, School of Performing Arts, The Guild

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Green Gables, P.E.I. Canada Avonlea

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