P.E.I. - Calgary connection

Sally Cole
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Many Maritimers involved in the "Little Prince-The Musical" at Theatre Calgary this season

Growing up, Colleen Smith was exposed to the arts from an early age.

Her parents would take her to see “Anne of Green Gables - The Musical” at the Charlottetown Festival every summer.

“For me, the Confederation Centre was a place of inspiration. I saw people were making careers out of working in the arts,” says the native of Kinkora, P.E.I., who also took piano lessons for 12 years.

After graduating from Kinkora Regional High School, she went to Mount Allison University to study music, where the emphasis was placed on musical performance.

“Growing up in a small village, if you wanted to do something you could, and no one would stand in your way. And it was the same way at Mount Allison. If you wanted to conduct the annual musical you could.”

These experiences built her confidence and helped her realize the opportunities in the arts world.

“I felt like there was nothing stopping me,” says Smith, the new executive director of Theatre Calgary who is feeling very much at home this season.

That’s because many of the cast members in “The Little Prince - The Musical” are also from the Maritimes. The show runs at the theatre until Feb. 28.

“It’s fantastic. It doesn’t happen that often there are so many of us that have that close connection, so it’s quite special.”

Based on the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and adapted by Nicholas Lloyd Webber and James D. Reid, “The Little Prince - The Musical” is the story of a pilot who crashes his plane in the Sahara Desert and discovers, to his amazement, that he shares this wasteland with a little prince who has left his asteroid to explore planets in the solar system, including Earth. The prince tells the pilot of his love for a beautiful rose back on his planet and the little fox he tamed. He also tells of the other planets he visited ruled by such misguided grown-ups as a businessman, a geographer, a king, a drunk and a vain man.

P.E.I. resident Adam Brazier plays the pilot.

“Why are there so many people from the East Coast in the show? It’s the good luck of Martimers and Theatre Calgary,” says Brazier, adding one of the great joys of being an artistic director at the Charlottetown Festival is having an off-season.

“An off-season allows me to be creative and to build connections and network across the country and, on behalf of myself and the Charlottetown Festival, I am excited to explore partnerships with Theatre Calgary and look for co-production opportunities for both of us. So it’s been really productive in terms of that.”

Performing in the musical is also “fun.”

“Any opportunity to live and create in a world that is as abstract and as absurd but also as poignant and sophisticated as ‘The Little Prince’ is a real occasion for joy and to be happy,” says Brazier in a telephone interview.

Andrew McAllister is also feeling very much at home in the Theatre Calgary production. Originally from Quispamsis, N.B., he has performed at the Charlottetown Festival for the past five seasons.

“It’s wonderful to see so many familiar faces, especially Adam Brazier. I started working with him right after college. We did ‘Evangeline’ together. And now he’s back on stage. It’s refreshing,” says McAllister, who plays the Vain Man, Rose Bud and is an ensemble member.

Smith also finds it refreshing that Maritimers are at Theatre Calgary this season. (Kevin Forestall and Lisa MacKay are from Rothesay, N.B.) She ponders whether, like her, early exposure to the arts may have influenced their lives. Or perhaps, it was growing up immersed in Maritime culture.

“My father was a potato farmer. They are at the mercy of the elements. And, if you are susceptible to the elements and your core business is fundamentally at risk, every year, you have to find a way to make life light and make the best of what you have.”

So entertainment becomes an important lifeline.

“For us, it was the ability to tell stories and to have that wicked sense of humour that is absolutely critical (to survival).”






Five fast facts

- Who: Colleen Smith.

- Who: Family: The daughter of Elmer and Paula Smith of Kinkora.

- Current job: Executive director, Theatre Calgary.

- Previous positions: Director of operations at the Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall, managing director with Factory Theatre (Toronto), director of finance and education at Tafelmusik Baroque orchestra and chamber choir and the program manager for Learning Through the Arts at the Royal Conservatory of Music.

- Getting in touch: Go to https://www.theatre




Organizations: Martimers and Theatre Calgary, Confederation Centre, Kinkora Regional High School Mount Allison University Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall Factory Theatre Toronto Tafelmusik Baroque orchestra Royal Conservatory of Music.

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Kinkora, P.E.I. Green Gables Sahara Desert East Coast Quispamsis Rose Bud Rothesay

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