Catch a River by the Tale

Catch a River by the Tale was the third iteration of The River Clyde Pageant in New Glasgow, PEI. The 2018 Pageant was directed by Ker Wells and I, in collaboration with over 140 incredible people – 60 performers, over 70 volunteers, and an 18-person creative team.

This year’s Pageant maintained the production process that has been in place since the first year but radically shifted the show’s structure, moving from a processional performance through the village of New Glasgow to a single-site production in an outdoor field of the Little Victory Microfarms. The new structure allowed us to explore the potential of using both land and water as stage, and create more lasting design elements on the site, including a Cantastoria frame, platforms embedded in the river for six water dancers, and a hanging installation of chime boxes created by composer and instrument-builder George Rahi.

The Pageant’s narrative, informed by the work of writers Mary Oliver, Annie Dillard and Virginia Lee Burton, took on a much more expansive, expressionistic focus. We sought to create space for attention and contemplation of the natural environment, and how we, as human beings, create a sense of identity and place through the act of telling stories. We were guided by Oliver’s proposal of attention as the beginning of devotion, and we used a three-act structure to guide the audience’s attention to the landscape, the water, and the transformations that emerge in the space where the water meets the land and thus, human activity.

Artistic & production support from Emily Wells, Jane Wells, Ian McFarlane, Marti Hopson, Travis Boudreau, Joanna Caplan, Evan Medd, Anne Paulus, George Rahi, Arnold Smith, Sebastian Poissant-Labelle, Sue Leblanc, Laura Astwood, Kathy Randels, Robin & Debi Stevenson, Tara Callaghan, Kyla Gardiner, Krissi Ewing, Afton Mondoux and many, many others.

Catch a River by the Tale received financial support from the Canada Council for the Arts, Canadian Heritage, the PEI Arts Grants program and Innovation PEI.

Photos by Robert Van Waarden. Video by Millefiore Clarkes.

Teach the children. We don’t matter so much, but the children do. Show them daisies and the pale hepatica. Teach them the taste of sassafras and wintergreen. The lives of the blue sailors, mallow, sunbursts, the moccasin flowers. And the frisky ones – inkberry, lamb’s quarters, blueberries. And the aromatic ones – rosemary, oregano. Give them peppermint to put in their pockets as they go to school. Give them the fields and the woods and the possibility of the world salvaged from the lords of profit. Stand them in the stream, head them upstream, rejoice as they learn to love this green space they live in, its sticks and leaves and then the silent, beautiful blossoms.

Attention is the beginning of devotion.”  

-Mary Oliver, Upstream

A Little Pageant Process Gallery

When it comes to making the River Clyde Pageant every summer, it often feels like we put our heads down and dive into creation work at the beginning of June and don’t come up for air until the end of July, when the first weekend of performances end.

There’s never enough time spent documenting the slow and complex magic of the process, simply because we can’t always remember to pull out our phones, nor is it very useful to extract ourselves from whatever project we’re working on, just to be the documenter.

But scattered in my phone are some real gems from the the making of this whale of a show. And since they don’t get much exposure beyond my iPhoto Library, I figured I could at least bring them into the world here. Click on through to see ’em up close.

 

The River Clyde Pageant

In the golden hour before sunset, on a summer evening in New Glasgow, a group of children run down to the River Clyde to go fishing. Arriving at the riverbank, they find no fish, but instead, a Singing Oysterman. The Oysterman teaches them a secret fish song, which draws out a colourful cast of wildlife creatures, who take the children on a magical journey along the river. This is the River Clyde Pageant.

 

Directed by Ker Wells and Megan Stewart, with support from Chef Emily Wells and the staff of The Mill restaurant, The River Clyde Pageant is created and performed by local artists and community members from New Glasgow, Charlottetown and across the island. It is inspired by the history, mythology and contemporary environmental issues associated with PEI rivers and waterways. It celebrates the spirit, strength and imagination of the local community.

The first performance of The River Clyde Pageant occurred July 29-31, 2016. Each performance concluded with a free community supper on the lawn of The Mill. The project was funded in part through the Canada Council’s Artists & Community Collaboration Program.

The Pageant has its own website! And a Facebook page where you can see lots of photos and regular updates from us.

In search of Island art environments

Island art environments - Alberton garden

I spent four weeks on PEI from mid-June to mid-July, a slight summer vacation in semi-warm weather. I only made it to the beach twice (in layers the first time) but I did take a couple day-long road trips up West, in search of Island art environments, continuing my research for The Builders. I don’t remember the last time I drove to places like Alberton, Tignish and North Cape, and I’d never done the coastal drives on that end of the Island either (at least not since I’ve been driving on my own). But, I had vague memories of visiting the Bottle Houses in Cap-Egmont as a kid, and the site had lodged itself into my consciousness when I first began to research art environments as a larger phenomenon in 2011. I’d also heard about Kerras Jeffrey’s Backroad Folk Art in Alma, since he had done design work for Young Folk and Row 142 a couple years ago. So with a car, a camera, lots of snacks and two days of clear skies, I set out on a PEI road trip with my mom, in search of art environments.

Continue…

Ears Pricked, Eyes Peeled

EPEP-P Callbeck1 (web)

The telephone rings, answer it! Listen carefully: the voice on the other line has something to say. Pay attention to your surroundings. Is anything out of the ordinary? Who builds the worlds that open up around you?

Theatre for the ears, eyes and imagination.

Ears Pricked Eyes Peeled is two-part installation and performance. It was first presented at Art in the Open in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island on August 23, 2014

Technical assistance and sound recording by Adam Gallant
Performers: Carmen Belanger, Sam Stewart, Russell Louder, and Jan Rudd as the voice on phone
Photos by Patrick Callbeck, Andy Reddin, Michael Wasnidge and Andrew Hoffman

The Island Fringe Festival


The Island Fringe Festival
, PEI’s first official Fringe, is a site-specific festival dedicated to showcasing alternative & independent performance by local, national, & international artists in unconventional venues in Charlottetown. The festival was founded by Sarah Segal-Lazar and I in 2012. The Island Fringe Festival takes place every summer in mid-August. For more info: www.islandfringe.com

Photos below from the 2012, 2013, 2014 Island Fringe Festivals. Photography by Michael Wasnidge and Andy Reddin.

One Great Thing
“How strange is it to sit just outside the floodlights in the dark, watching theatre in Kings Square? Strange enough that a passing minivan veers into the other lane on Weymouth, turns the wrong way down Kent. Instead of gawking, they should have stopped. They could have let the tricks of night and shadow run riot. They could have sat, entranced, as young Fringe Festival actors created a story with nothing more than a flashlight. They could have wandered home, feeling—for a moment—as if a big hand had scooped them up and taken them far away.”

– Ann Thurlow, The BUZZ, October 2012