Prince John (Alex Furber), right, appears with Prince Geoffrey (Jonathan Widdifield) in a scene from The Lion in Water. The show continues at The Watermark Theatre in North Rustico until Aug. 30
For Alex Furber, life has gone full circle.
The Toronto-based actor has returned to The Watermark Theatre in North Rustico this summer to play Prince John in The Lion in Winter and Jimmy in The Rainmaker.
When he was there last, in 2008, it was not as an actor, but as a student at the conservatory, which The Watermark runs in conjunction with its summer season of plays.
In the years between, Furber went on to graduate from the National Theatre School and to star as Albert in the Toronto production of The Warhorse, a role for which he received critical acclaim.
In a review in the National Post, Robert Cushman says this about his performance: “Alex Furber, a newcomer whose Albert carries all before him....”
A review in The Globe and Mail by J. Kelly Niestruck is also very positive. He writes: “As Joey’s human co-star, Furber is fantastic.”
With his return to The Watermark, Furber joins two other conservatory grads, Rebecca Parent and Laurie Campbell (What to Wear to the Birth of a Nation) as a member of the Watermark Company.
And, in addition to his work on stage this summer, Furber is instructing young people in the same conservatory where he learned part of his craft.
“To be back teaching here and acting in their season this summer has been an incredibly fulfilling experience. I can’t thank Duncan (McIntosh) and all the folks at Watermark enough,” says Furber during an interview.
At the conservatory, organized by McIntosh, artistic director, and led by professional actors Brian Bisson and Leah Pritchard, 11 students began their first set of warm-ups on July 21 and penned and presented their own show on July 25.
While some students took the one-week program, the nine who stayed on finished their two weeks of study with a performance of the harrowing conclusion of the courtroom scene of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible on Aug. 1.
Along with Furber, Bisson and Pritchard, other members of the Watermark company, all professional actors, have served as instructors.
Jonathan Widdifield taught the rudiments of safe stage combat and John Dartt did a section on scene study and characterization.
Another member of the company, Robert Tsonos, will be teaching scene study for the stage at an advanced acting program for older students to be held at the Watermark the week of Aug. 25-29.
Now in its 10th year, the conservatory has a rich history.
“Our theatre began from the acting conservatory,” says McIntosh, who founded the program in 2004 when he left his position as artistic director at the Confederation Centre of the Arts.
“The first conservatory was at UPEI. I wanted to spend the summer on the Island.
“So, the acting training came first. Respect for acting and studying and providing good acting always been at the centre of what we do at the Watermark and (the reason) why the conservatory is still held every year.”
Besides being educational, the week-long training session is fun.
It ended, after the simple graduation, with a session of Woosh, a fast-moving game that teaches concentration, on the theatre’s front lawn.
Will any of these young people who filled the ranks of this year’s conservatory go on to the National Theatre School and the acclaim that Furber has enjoyed? Or become “leading ladies” at the theatre, like Parent and Campbell have become?
Only time will tell, says McIntosh.
“But, over a two-week period in the summer of 2014, they acquired fundamental skill sets which might make that kind of future possible.”