Money meant to assist two musicals now slated for only one
© Guardian photo by Jim Day
Jessie Inman, the CEO of the Confederation Centre of the Arts.
The largest fund granted under the $5-million P.E.I. 2014 Fund, $240,000 to the Confederation Centre of the Arts, is under review.
P.E.I. 2014 executive director Penny Walsh McGuire told The Guardian Wednesday the board of directors is reviewing an amendment made by the Confederation Centre in its semi-successful application for money.
The Centre had applied for $250,000 to help revamp the musical Canada Rocks and was also seeking $250,000 to help stage 1864: The Musical, which was to tell the story of the historic Charlottetown Conference. However, they were only granted $240,000 in total to put towards both projects.
Confederation Centre CEO Jessie Inman says the decision was made recently to pull the plug on 1864: The Musical.
“We decided that we could not take the financial risk of putting that up as a full production this year but what we proposed to the playwrights was that we would continue to develop it and do workshops and that we would do three professional readings on the main stage of the Homburg Theatre,’’ she says.
“But unfortunately they (playwrights) did not accept our proposal to continue.’’
Peter Bevan-Baker, who collaborated with Perry Williams to write the script and music for 1864: The Musical, says he is both disappointed and shocked that the proposed show is now dead in the water.
He believes the $240,000 grant to the Confederation Centre was, in fact, specifically earmarked for his show. He says he never heard in the past that the money was to be split between Canada Rocks and 1864:The Musical.
"There is something that does not add up there literally and metaphorically speaking,'' he says.
The P.E.I. 2014 website seems to add credence to Bevan-Baker's claim. The site notes $240,000 has been granted to help the Charlottetown Festival "celebrate the sesquicentennial of the 1864 Charlottetown Conference with a new, locally written theatrical production.'' There is mention of only one production, not two. Also, Canada Rocks is not a new musical. It played on the main stage of the Confederation Centre in 2005 and 2006.
Now Inman says the Centre is hoping to put the entire $240,000 grant towards Canada Rocks to ready the show for the 2014 Charlottetown Festival.
Walsh says the P.E.I. 2014 board will review the request. She expects the board to reach a decision in the next two to three weeks.
Walsh notes there was no specification made on how the money granted to the Confederation Centre would be split between the two proposed productions.
Inman says if the P.E.I. 2014 board decides to only grant a portion of the $240,000, or none at all to the Confederation Centre of the Arts, Canada Rocks wouldn’t get the treatment it needs to return the musical to the stage.
“Canada Rocks basically needs a rewrite,’’ she says. “It is quite old. The music has to be updated.’’
The review of the $240,000 funding grant has caught the attention of Opposition Leader Steven Myers. He is calling on Premier Robert Ghiz to impose measures that will ensure accountability for the 2014 celebration community grants.
“There shouldn’t be a question what the grants are used for,’’ Myers said in a statement.
“The premier himself made a decision to host this party and now he has the responsibility to know how and where these tax dollars are being spent. Clearly he is failing to do so.’’
McGuire says a thorough process was conducted to review all applications.
The fund was established to finance initiatives in 2014 to help mark the sesquicentennial of the historic 1864 Charlottetown Conference.
The fund offered three levels of funding: large grants from $25,001 to $250,000, medium grants from $2,015 to $25,000 and small grants up to $2,014. Groups, organizations and communities from across the province were able to apply to the P.E.I. 2014 Fund to help present projects and activities that commemorate P.E.I.’s unique role as the Birthplace of Confederation.
A total of 550 applications seeking $28 million in funding were submitted.
The successful applicants were determined by a three-step selection process that included an initial staff review; an adjudication by the 15-member P.E.I. 2014 Community Advisory Committee; and final decisions by the P.E.I. 2014 Board of Directors, based on recommendations from the Community Advisory Committee.
Inman did not feel that applying for $500,000 (almost half the entire large fund grants awarded to Queens County) from the P.E.I. 2014 Fund was unreasonable, noting that the Charlottetown Festival, which is a not-for-profit organization, indirectly contributes $22.1 million to the P.E.I. economy.
“It is not a cheap process to put on a Class A production on our main stage,’’ she says.
Inman cited by way of example Evangeline, the musical that played to rave reviews during the Charlottetown Festival this year. It cost $1.2 million to produce.