Decision not to stage Anne at Charlottetown Festival 'was made for us'

·4 min read
Old Stock 'is one of the most important pieces of theatre we have done in years,' says artistic director Adam Brazier. (Stoo Metz - image credit)
Old Stock 'is one of the most important pieces of theatre we have done in years,' says artistic director Adam Brazier. (Stoo Metz - image credit)

The Charlottetown Festival will be back this year but Anne of Green Gables — The Musical will not be returning with it.

Prince Edward Island's premier theatre festival announced its 2021 lineup Thursday morning.

Anne of Green Gables — The Musical had a world record-setting run at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in downtown Charlottetown, lasting 55 consecutive years. That run was cut short in 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Festival artistic director Adam Brazier suggested last month that a large musical such as Anne would not be possible with limited capacity in the auditorium in the ongoing pandemic.

The festival will instead present three smaller-scale shows.

"All of the shows we're doing are from within the Atlantic bubble," said Brazier.

"That is the theme of our summer programming."

This year's line up includes:

  • Between Breaths, a play inspired by the true story of a Newfoundland man who rescued more than 500 whales trapped in fishing nets. It will run from June 3 to 19.

  • Dear Rita, a musical honouring the life of the Maritime singer-songwriter Rita MacNeil. It will run from June 19 to Aug. 6.

  • Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story, the true story of two Romanian refugees who meet at Pier 21 in Halifax while waiting to enter Canada. It will run from Aug. 12 to Sept. 4.

Between Breaths tells the story of a Newfoundland man who rescued more than 500 whales entangled in fishing gear.
Between Breaths tells the story of a Newfoundland man who rescued more than 500 whales entangled in fishing gear.(Confederation Centre of the Arts)

Brazier said public health protocols were at the centre of deciding what shows could be staged.

They had to be relatively short, 80 to 90 minutes, because people could not be leaving their seats for an intermission. And there was the fiscal reality that the capacity of the 1,100-seat auditorium would be reduced to 300.

In addition to those conditions, the audience is expected to be almost entirely from Atlantic Canada this summer, an audience that has likely already seen the musical.

"The decision was made for us and we embrace it. We really feel like this is an opportunity for us to stretch our wings and to tell some other stories."

Downtown Charlottetown Inc., a non-profit that works to enhance commerce and living in the downtown, thanked creative teams and management of both the Charlottetown Festival and The Guild for making theatre possible at all during the pandemic.

"We'll all miss Anne this year but as L.M. Montgomery said, 'Nothing is every really lost to us as long as we remember it,'" the organization said in a written news release.

In particular, Brazier said he is excited to bring Old Stock to Charlottetown.

"This is one of the most successful and I believe one of the most important pieces of Canadian theatre to be written in a very, very long time," he said.

The Confederation Centre Young Company will also be returning this summer to perform The Rising!

The Rising! revisits protest music and a time during which society stood up for civil and judicial rights, said the release.

It will be presented in the outdoor amphitheatre and run from July 9 to Aug. 21.

Safety protocols in place

Safety protocols will also be in place this summer, the release said. There is limited capacity, seating will be staggered, masks are mandatory and social distancing will be in place. The audience can also expect to order concession items online in advance.

Confederation Centre CEO Steve Bellamy said the centre has been working very closely with the Chief Public Health Office.

"We have really well-defined operational plans making sure patron safety and comfort is paramount," said Bellamy.

"Right from the moment people approach the building, to finding their seat, to being served in their seat, to after the show on the way out, people will be made safe and we'll be following all the protocols."

Tickets for the Charlottetown Festival are available for members starting Thursday and will go on sale to the public at noon on Saturday.

Until April 24, tickets for the first five performances of each mainstage show are being offered with a 25 per cent discount.

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