Inman pulls plug on 1864: The Musical, leaving status of money a thorny question
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Confederation Centre of the Arts, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
There are only two logical conclusions to the current controversy revolving around P.E.I. 2014’s funding to the Confederation Centre of the Arts. The centre must return the money, or get P.E.I. 2014’s blessing to divert the cash to a production other than a salute to our sesquicentennial celebrations.
Most Islanders were left scratching their heads last week when the centre held a news conference to announce its lineup for 2014. The return of Anne of Green Gables — The Musical to the main stage for its record-setting 50th year of charming countless theatre-goers was a no-brainer.
The return of Canada ROCKS! was a surprise since there was no public mention of the musical revue until last Friday morning. People were expecting details about a new mainstage production saluting the 150th anniversary of the meeting of the Fathers of Confederation in Charlottetown.
But there was nary a word until questions started being asked about what happened to the money. A May 28, 2013, news release provided details about projects receiving P.E.I. 2014 Fund large grants. Topping the list was a theatrical production at the Charlottetown Festival to be staged July 5 to August 30, 2014. The $240,000 was to fund a “new, locally written theatrical production.”
The timing of the news conference was unusual in itself. Such an announcement is usually held later in the fall in conjunction with the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I. The final show of the season for Anne of Green Gables was staged last Wednesday. Two days later, the centre was announcing its lineup for next year.
This week, P.E.I. 2014 says the funds were granted to two shows —1864: The Musical and Canada ROCKS! In that case, then a minimum $120,000 should be returned. Other applications for P.E.I. 2014 funding would then get a second look. The Charlottetown Legion, for example, had applied for funding and was turned down, as were many other deserving applicants across the province because money had run out.
Confederation Centre CEO Jessie Inman says the decision was only made recently to pull the plug on 1864: The Musical. She cited financial concerns and risks involved. Close to $1 million is needed for a full musical like Evangeline which played to big crowds and enthusiastic reviews this summer.
Ms. Inman’s comments suggest the centre believes the new 1864 musical needs additional work and development, with more workshops and readings to gauge audience reaction. If the production makes the grade, it could still be staged, for Canada’s 150th birthday, for example. No one is faulting her for pulling the plug, based on those legitimate concerns.
Unfortunately the playwrights did not accept the centre’s proposal to continue work on their play and music. They both expressed shock and disappointment but one hopes they may change their minds and continue their work in collaboration with the centre.
Peter Bevan-Baker, one of the playwrights, believes the $240,000 grant to the Confederation Centre was specifically earmarked for his show. He made a convincing argument.
Sigh. And we were so looking forward to the new musical . . . of hearing Sr. John A. Macdonald delivering a soliloquy on a foggy Charlottetown pier on how to convince those independent-minded Islanders to join the new confederation. Or seeing the delegate Fathers, always considered a dour and serious bunch, in a new light as men who could party, carouse and nation build at the same time in the bars, pubs and stately homes of Charlottetown. It could have been so much fun.