A Priest from away

Published on January 15, 2016

NORTH MILTON - It can sometimes be tough to find your way, especially if you're in P.E.I. and "from away."

At least, that's the case in the play "Some Neighbours: Episode 3 - A Priest From Away" being held in Milton Community Hall this month.

The comedic play follows an Anglican priest who moves to P.E.I. and bears a striking resemblance to Dean Martin.

Ken Williams, who wrote and directed the play with David Hooper, said it largely revolves around meetings with the quirky neighbours intertwined with the priest'spredicament.

What follows is a series of humorous mishaps and confusion.

"It could be any community we just happened to use Milton. There's a priest whose asked to come in and the poor soul looks a lot like Dean Martin, so instead of seeing him as the new clergyman they see him as Dean Martin," said Williams. "People remind him that he's from away, he can't find members of his congregation and he can't find the church. He's having a lot of trouble."

One funny storyline involves a recently-widowed Martin fan who takes an interest in the priest.

"She figures her prayers have been answered when this man shows up," said Williams. "So we have all these conflicts within the play, a little bit of music and some comedy."

While the play is light-hearted, it has a serious purpose.

Shari MacDonald, community administrator for Miltonvale Park, says the play is being funded by a $9,300 New Horizons for Seniors grant from the federal government.

The two-part project also involved implementing exercise classes for seniors last spring.

The group started rehearsing for the play in late September as the newly-formed "Miltonvale Park Players".

"It's been quite a time commitment but they've been enjoying it," said MacDonald."It's all about keeping seniors engaged within the community and promoting volunteerism."

Apart from keeping them engaged, Williams says that the grant has also given seniors a new opportunity.

"A lot of them have done stage work but they've never really acted before. The grant really has almost given some seniors a new focus to their lives."

Phil Hooper, who plays the priest, says he hasn't acted since his 20s. However, retirement gave him an opportunity to try the art again, although he admits remembering it as being a little easier in his youth.

"I think we'll have it down by the time the curtain rises," joked Hooper, who is also the brother of co-writer David Hooper. "It's a lot easier to memorize lines when you're in your 20s than in your 60s... but it's been interesting and it's good to test yourself."

Hooper is a member of more than 20 volunteer actors and actresses testing their skills in the play.

With the heavy theme of neighbours, Williams is quick to point out that many involved are in fact neighbours and relatives.

That includes several married couples, siblings, mother-children combos and cousins.

Some even portray themselves onstage, he said.

"There are a lot of relatives in this play and, to me, that's a P.E.I. thing.

"We're having a lot of fun with that aspect."

MacDonald says proceeds from the play will go towards seniors programming in the area.

"We'll have a little bankroll for next year's play and we'll also tape it (the play) and show it in seniors homes in the area."

Williams adds he hopes audience members will have as much fun as the actors involved.

"And I guess there is a little bit of a message in so much that we have this new person, he's from away and he's trying to find his way," he says.

"In the end, there's someone whose willing to do that for him."


At a glance

 What: "Some Neighbours: Episode 3 - A Priest from Away."

 Who: The Miltonvale Park Players is a new group consisting of more than 20 local actors from the area. Many have little or previous acting experience.

Plot: How does a big city priest settle into the P.E.I. way of life? The play shows a day-in-the-life of the the new priest as he meets the many quirky neighbours while trying to find his way to the church.

 When and where: Thursday, Jan. 21, Friday, Jan. 22, 7:30 p.m.,  and Saturday, Jan. 23 at 2 p.m. Milton Community Hall, located at 7 New Glasgow Road (Route 224) at the intersection of Rustico Road in North Milton

 Behind the scenes: The play was funded with a New Horizons for Seniors grant. It encourages keeping seniors engaged within the community. "Some Neighbours" is the group's first play and will help raise funds to continue seniors programming in the community.

 Details: Tickets are $10 per person and includes a light lunch. They can be purchased in advance by emailing admin@miltonvalepark.com or calling 902-368-3090.