Memories, by Jean (Hume) MacDonald

My name is Jean Hume MacDonald.  On July 29th 2000 Brooklyn school had their first school reunion, and I started thinking of my Parents, sister, and all the school friends and Good times, memories of those years  when I attended school and lived in Brooklyn.

Jean and Preston in 1991

This is for my Grandchildren and Great-grandchildren.

 I  offer you my memories / So that you will know / Your Grandmother was a little girl / Not so long ago.

I was born on December 7, 1928 at Brooklyn, Kings Co. P.E.I. My mother was Annie Bears, born Jan. 1898. She was the daughter of James ‘Red Jim’ Bears and Katherine ‘Katie’ MacEachern. Red Jim was a shoe maker in Kilmuir.  My Grand-Mother Katie died young and left three girls – my Mother Annie, and her sisters Margaret and Jane were placed in different homes in Kilmuir and Brooklyn.  My Grandmother Katie died in 1905, and my Grand-father Red Jim died in 1915.

When my mother was young she would visit my father’s parents in Brooklyn. When the three girls got older they all left for the United States to find work, but my mother would always come back to Brooklyn and stay at my father’s parents farm on her vacation.  When she went back to the States they would write letters to each other. Soon love bloomed and she came home to Brooklyn to get married. Her sisters in Boston didn’t think very much of her decision to be a farmer’s wife. 

My Father was Earl Upton Hume, born Aug. 1898. He lived on a farm in Brooklyn with his parents and 14 brothers and sisters.  Dad’s Parents were George Hill Hume and Emily Compton Hume. They farmed and also had a tannery, where they made leather from skins of animals.    My parents were married in July 1926, and on June 3rd 1927 my sister Thelma was born. In the spring of 1928, my grandfather George Hume died. On Dec. 7th 1928, I was born. When I was six years old my grandmother Emily died.  

We had a lovely big farm house, large kitchen, dining room, parlor and bedrooms, lots of pretty dishes; it was a happy place to be living.  My sister Thelma and I loved each other, and had lots of good times together. In the parlor we had an Organ. We learned to play it and sing and we had lots of sing songs with our young school friends, sometimes grownups would come in the evenings for sing songs.  We had lots of sing songs in that parlor. The parlor was usually just used for special occasions. I remember most of the words from the old Hymn books we used. 

Our Aunt Margaret, who lived in Attleboro, Mass. was awfully good to us.  Every Christmas she would send us clothes and dolls. She loved to send us presents.  I can still feel the excitement of going to meet the mailman, Aeneas McGuigan, at the road. We would be watching for him to come driving his horse and wagon, or sleigh, and he would have the parcel from the States for us.  What excitement. My mother kept the clothes and dolls for us, for when we got married and have children, she would say.

Uncle Earnest and Aunt Marjorie in Cape Cod, 1976

My Aunt Margaret and Uncle Ernest had one child who died in childbirth, they never had any more. And my Aunt Jane died when she was forty, so I never got to know her as I would have liked to.   My Mother looked after my Grand-Parents, George and Emily, and also Thelma and me. She worked hard at farm life. We had lots of kerosene lamps back then, and at our big table in the kitchen, we would clean the lamp chimneys.  It was a big job , so Thelma and I would help. In every bedroom there was a commode, with a basin, water pitcher, towels, soap, face cloths, chamber pots, and covers. When we had guests, it was Thelma’s and my job to bring hot water to them to wash in their rooms.  My Mother would always attend to the chamber pots which she washed after being used by the guests. We had lots of guests that would stay over night.

We had a big dining room with a big table that would seat at least 10 people.  We had big chairs and a side board where we kept our pretty dishes. We would have our breakfast there sometimes when we had company.   Porridge, bread, eggs, cooked in their shell, and tea. We had really good times on the farm.

When battery radios came on the scene, Dad had the first one in Brooklyn.  People would come and sit around the big dining room table, waiting to hear a fight from Madison Square Gardens or singing from W.W.V.A. West Virginia.  Some nights when the weather was bad, all you would hear was static. It wasn’t very nice when people would walk miles to hear the radio. We could get the Lone Ranger and Tonto.  When we were going to school we would run home as soon as school was out, to hear Ma Perkins, and Pepper Young’s family, they were daytime serials. The batteries never lasted very long either.

My Father had a car.  My Mother would get us dressed up and on Sunday afternoon we would go for a drive, we would be dressed up in clothes Aunt Margaret sent us.  One Sunday a drive was planned, so we got all dressed up, and Thelma and I went into the garage and got into a pan of oil. We were sure dirty, and got a spanking that day I remember. 

We had a big orchard, with lots of nice apples, two of which were yellow transparent, and a winter apple called king. I can remember going to the cellar in the evenings to get a bowl of apples to eat.   Sometimes my Father would ask us to pick wild mustard, a yellow weed that grew in the grain fields. If it was left it would choke out the grain that was trying to grow. Anyway, we got paid 10 cents for this task, then we would walk to McGowans [3 miles] store to buy candy.

It was my sister Thelma’s and my job to gather the eggs . Every morning we would feed the hens, we’d talk to them and they would cluck cluck back to us.  We had geese too, and a real cross gander who thought he owned the yard. If we would be walking through the yard he would chase us. We would have to jump into a driving wagon to get away from him, and stay there until he left, or our Mother would chase him with a broom.   We had a nice dog called Teddy, who was very smart. It was our job to bring the cows home too, we’d tell Teddy to go get the cows, and he would go to the field, and get the cow with the bell on started and the rest would follow. We’d wait at the gate to open and close it. Teddy would always bring the cows home.

Jean and Thelma in 1938

Another time when we were little, we decided to go for a ride on the pig’s back.  There were about 20 pigs in this large pen, and Dad heard the pigs squealing. Another spanking. They were more scared for us than mad.  

We would pick wild strawberries, and raspberries, and one day in the summer, Dad would take us in the car, and we would go to Mt. Vernon to pick wild blueberries. Mom would pack a lunch.  Back then we would can our own pork, beef and chicken. Boy, would those sandwiches taste good! We would pick buckets of berries, and then we would help make the jam for the winter.

Another job we had was picking potatoes. I think we got a dollar or two a day  Oh those frosty mornings in mid October. Back then, school was let out for two weeks in the fall for potato picking. School started the middle of August for this purpose. In “potato vacation” we would rise early, put on the oldest clothes we owned, and head for the potato field. Back and forth the tractor went, digging one row at a time, as the “beater” at the end of the digger, threw the potatoes into our path. Bent over, we moved along, grabbing handfuls of potatoes, as our baskets became heavier and heavier to pull along.

At some places, the wife of the farmer would come out to the field at mid morning with hot biscuits and cookies. Then at noon, we’d go to the house for a hot dinner of meat, mashed potatoes, turnip, and gravy – it tasted so good! Then back to the field to work some more. We would have aching backs, and caked on dirt, hangnails, all associated with potato picking vacation. 

But on pay day, how excited we’d be, searching through the Eaton’s catalogue, or go to the ‘Metropolitan’ store in Charlottetown, where we could get 3 outfits for twenty dollars.

After potato picking, we would go back to school, proud of our accomplishments. Today, when I drive past a farm and see those new-fangled machines, it takes me back to another time, spent on your knees, with a big potato basket by your side, waiting to be filled.

We would attend the Church of Scotland that was at the crossroads about half a mile away.  We would usually walk, and after church in the summertime, we would eat together under our big horse chestnut tree. The minister who preached then was Rev. Harvey Bishop.  He died in Charlottetown, in the year 2008. He was born in 1909. Thelma and I used to attend Sunday school too, at Caledonia, which was about 5 miles away. We did a lot of walking back then, to school and Church and Sunday school.

We would sing all the new songs we heard on the radio. This was back in 1938 and early forties. When we would sing, the walk didn’t seem so long. Another day Thelma, our cousin Sadie, and I went to Caledonia with our horse and wagon.  Louise Stewart was making a coat for Sadie and needed a fitting for her new coat. Coming home, we decided to give the horse a drink of water. We drove down this path to the brook, with the three of us sitting in the wagon. When we reached the brook, one wheel went into a hole and the three of us tumbled out into the stream. We were all soaking wet, and the horse was scared.  The shaft of the wagon was broken, so it ended up we had to push the wagon up the hills all the way home to Brooklyn. We still remember that trip to Caledonia.

We had an out door toilet called an outhouse – a whitewashed little building with two seats, and hinged covers, also Eatons catalogue, no soft toilet paper back then. 

One day, Dad and Mom took the driving wagon to the store, and Thelma and I decided to bake a cake. The cake called for a half cup of cornstarch, all we could find was the hard pieces that you boiled up back then to starch men’s shirts, doilies and other things.  So we put in a half cup of the cornstarch pieces. The cake looked good for supper, so, when Dad took a piece of cake he said it felt like he got a mouthful of stones. We all laughed over our baking experience. 

When Thelma and I started to school, we walked across the fields to our one room school house where the teacher taught the ten grades.  In the middle of the room, there was a large wood stove. In the winter time we would heat up our cocoa, with our peanut butter sandwiches.  It tasted really good. The boys would bring in a bucket of water from the pump. We had a “tinny” – a tin mug with a long handle on it to get a drink of water, and of course, outdoor toilets with the Eaton’s catalogue.

Two people sat together at a desk.  I can still remember the posters on the wall, one which read:  If you cough or sneeze or sniff, be sure to use your handkerchief. And the big maps of the world.  If you thought about the year 2008 back then, it seemed so far far away, and now, here we are, in the year 2008.

There were great days and years in Brooklyn school, but the best was practicing for our Christmas concert.  All the people of the community would help with the readings and singing. Shirley Bears, Thelma and I would always sing Silent Night.  And, of course, Santa would always show up with his bag of goodies. Santa’s goodies were an apple, orange, & hard mixture candies donated by the Women’s Institute.

As School was over for the Christmas holidays, the next thing was to get our Christmas tree. We would go to the woods with Dad and cut one, and put our lovely tree in the Parlor. It was decorated with red and green rope, beautiful ornaments, and silver tinsel.   Thelma and I never slept very much on Christmas Eve, but at some point, Santa sneaked in and left gifts for all – just like he said on “sleepy time express”.

The gifts were so pretty in red and green tissue paper, and always Presents of dolls, and clothes from Aunt Margaret from USA. Christmas dinner was sometimes at Aunt Marjorie MacKinnon’s, (Dad’s Sister) – chicken, vegetables, plum pudding, home made fudge. In the afternoon, Arthur, Sadie, Thelma & I would coast on the hill, and sometimes we would skate on the ponds. Those were great times in Brooklyn, powerful smells and feelings that lasted over the years.

Dad (Earle) & Mom (Annie)

We had real bad snow storms back then. We would get a blizzard pretty quick.  Then our Fathers would come to school with the horse and box sleigh to get us. We would snuggle up in the sleigh with the buffalo rug over us, and be home before we knew it, safe and sound.  We had great friends in Brooklyn school. Blanch Hume and I walked to Montague, (about 6 miles) and we would say, the faster we walk the faster we get there. Sadie would spend nights at our house, then we would go to Bruce Yeo’s theatre in Montague to see a show.  It would cost 25 cents then, and a nickel for a chocolate bar.

One day, Donald Campbell, aged 5, came running into the schoolroom all out of breath. The teacher asked him what was wrong. He said “Fire! Fire!” The teacher asked him where, and he said “Earl Hume’s house.”

So we all ran to the top of the hill and saw the flames everywhere. We all ran across the fields to help. My mother was home alone.  Dad and the hired man were in the woods cutting wood. The mailman, Aeneas McGuigan, was driving by on his route when he saw the flames, so he helped my mother. I don’t know where they got the strength, but they carried out the organ and writing desk, and some smaller things. Just the two of them. Aeneas was not a big man, and he only had one arm. Mom was a small woman, barely over 5 foot tall,  I have the organ and a desk that they saved. The desk is now over 100 years old.

Up the road, at Simon Campbell’s, a bunch of men were sawing wood. When the engine quit, one man looked up and saw the smoke. They all ran down the road to help, but the house burned to the ground. Luckily no one was hurt or burned.

It was a sad time for us. The dolls and clothes Aunt Margaret sent us were all gone. We fixed up a building we had on the property and made it into a home. With our organ saved, we still had lots of evening sing songs over the years.  

We were getting older, and sometimes boys would walk us home from a party.  One night, Shirley Bears, Thelma and I were sitting in a car at the gate. Shirley had this friend, Duncan MacPherson who owned the car. I can’t remember who else was in the car, but they were two boys, anyway. Dad came walking out to the driveway, opened the car door, and said,  “You girls get out of that car and get in the house this minute”, which we did. When we got in the house, Mom and Dad kept lecturing us about sitting in cars with boys. At one point, there was a lull in the conversation, and I said, “We will now take up the collection.” And everyone laughed. No more was said, but we still laugh about it.

A bunch of us from school, boys and girls, would go swimming after school, at the local swimming hole. One day we were there after school, the people living close by had planted a vegetable garden on the side of the hill near the swimming hole.  I asked my friends if they would like a carrot or two, and they all said yes. So I went to get them. It was then the people saw me and started hollering, “She’s steeling our carrots!” I started running back and when I reached the swimming hole I walked right across the water, I was going so fast. Years later, at a get together, they all remembered the day ‘Jean walked on the water’. (just like Jesus).

In the summer we would all go on the back of a truck to the exhibition in Charlottetown (old home week now).  I remember my first chocolate dip. My neighbor, Alex Beaton, bought it for me.  

In 1939 the King and Queen came to Charlottetown, so we all piled on the back of the truck to go to Charlottetown to see them. That was King George the sixth, and Queen Mother Elizabeth.

One summer my Aunt Margaret and her husband Ernest came to the farm for a visit.  He had a nice car and took Thelma and me to Montague for our very first ice cream sundae.  It was at Mabons drug store. We were pretty proud to be sitting in there eating ice cream. 

I remember two men in particular who used to visit us sometimes, one was a little man called Herby Beaton.  He would go around the country, carrying two boxes tied with string, and had a wooden handle at the top of each. He would sell spools of thread, soap, spices, gum ,candy, etc.  So we always liked to see him coming if we had money for gum or candy. One day he came, and some girls were visiting us. So Blanch and I got him to have his picture taken with us. He was very protective of his boxes.  He let us hold them to get his picture with us. Blanche, Herby, Jean,

Blanche, Relta, Herbie Beaton, Jean, Shirleyh

Another man was Philip Bears, a preacher of sorts, and he would usually stay a few days.  He wrote poetry, so one day I gave him my autograph book to write in. He picked out a yellow colored page and wrote: 

Upon this little book I’ll write/ A line with a borrowed pen/ Before the year is past and gone/ I’ll try it once again/ I never wrote  a note before/ Upon a yellow page./ But there is always a first time/ For us in every age.

In January, 1947, my Mother died.  Maybe it was hard for her on the farm with the animals, as she had asthma.  She was a tiny woman and had red hair. We missed her very much. 

I worked at McGowan’s grocery store in Kilmuir. Back then you had to weigh sugar, count eggs, pump molasses, pump gas, and get what the customer wanted off the shelves.  They had no plastic shopping bags back then. At the counter there were 3 different width’s of paper on rolls. You would tear off some paper, depending on the size of the order, place the purchases on the paper, wrap it up, and tie it up with a string that came down from a large spool that was attached above.

If a customer wanted molasses, they would take their own jug from home. A 90 gallon “puncheon” was in the basement with a pump up to the store.  In the back part of the store there would be kerosene and naptha gas in barrels fitted with pumps where you would fill the customer’s can. Cheese came only in round blocks about 16 inches by 4 inches high, which was placed in a special glass case with a large cleaver/knife, so we could cut off a piece for the customer. It was sold by the weight.

If a customer wanted some rope, big bales, or bundles of rope were stored in the basement, there would be a hole in the floor where the rope would be ‘threaded’ up to the store. The rope would be measured to whatever length the customer wanted. If a car pulled up to the gas pumps outside, the clerk would have to go out and attend to that also. Bobby Whiteway, who lived a mile from us in Brooklyn, worked at McGowan’s too. So every day he’d pick me up with his horse and wagon, since he would be going by our place anyway.

In 1947 I started going with Preston MacDonald. He lived about a mile from us, but in a different district. He owned a truck at that time, hauling gravel, pit props, and general trucking. We would go to a movie in Montague once a week; sometimes we would come to Charlottetown for a movie.

I remember one time a movie called “A Man Called Peter” was playing in Charlottetown so we decided to come in and see it.

Some of our friends wanted to see it too, so we took them on the back of the truck. At that time, Polio, a crippling disease, was in some communities. We had to drive through one of those districts to get to town.  So Preston told them the only way he would take them was if they would hold their noses going through that area. Sure enough, when we looked out the back window, everyone was holding their nose. I’m happy to say, no one caught polio that night. But we did know some friends who died from it or were left crippled. It was a scary time for everyone.  Then a man called Jonas Salk discovered a vaccine for it.  

On March 17, 1948, Preston and I were married.

I wore a blue dress, and carried red roses. My sister Thelma, and Preston’s brother Gordon stood with us. We had a wedding supper and dance at my Aunt Marjorie’s in Brooklyn for our wedding guests. We lived in lower Montague after that, on the 3rd floor, outdoor toilets, no running water – just running up and down 2 flights of stairs with it. 

On Jan 17, 1949, Earl was born. On Oct. 7th 1950 David was born. By this time Preston was driving a bus for SMT.  We had moved to Georgetown, where we lived for 12 years. On Jan.5th 1954, Johnny was born, and Kenny arrived April 2, 1958. In 1962 we moved to Charlottetown, where Preston worked for Imperial Oil. Then on Sept. 19th, 1965, Robert was born.  

My Dad died in 1975. My Dad was a kind man who would give you the shirt off his back.  I don’t remember ever hearing him say anything mean about anyone. He was a nice singer too, and I’m glad to have a few songs on tape that he sang.  He used to say, “You best learn to live your life in your heart. Be careful what you put in your heart. If you fill it with revenge and hate there will be no room left for love, laughter, and tears, and your heart will rot.”

My Sister Thelma died in April 1998.  Things have certainly changed since I was a little girl, now we have computers, E-mail and www.

We have 8 grandchildren, and 7 great grandchildren.

On March 17 1998, we had our 50th anniversary at Park Royal United Church with family and friends. On our 60th, in 2008, we just had family at home.

A History of OffStage Theatre

From 1991 to 1995, OffStage Theatre was a bare-bones, smaller-than-small independent theatre company in Charlottetown. Its King (and Fool) was David Moses. I was his Number One, I guess, and learned a whole heck of a lot during this time. Most all of it from David. Others named in this history more or less came and went, but it was mostly David and me who ended up sweeping the floors the most. Whatever I have become in Charlottetown’s theatre scene, it was borne out of these years. I am eternally grateful to have had the experience.

For awhile, Off Stage had a nice head of steam going, but steam doesn’t pay the bills. A constantly leaking roof in our first home became more and more of an issue, as did malfunctioning theatre equipment, a total lack of storage and no dressing rooms to speak of; it all conspired to drag us down. Fortunately, we had to energy of youth and the passion of artists, and through both were able to ignore the obvious glaring financial discrepancies involved in paying rent with four-dollar ticket prices.

It was exciting, trying to live up to the company’s mandate of creating and producing original works of theatre. I am proud of everything we created. It was awesome, too, to bring in other theatre artists from across the Island and Canada, like Andy Jones of Codco, and see their processes.


Energy and enthusiasm is wonderful, but working at it for less than no money isn’t feasible, and that takes its toll eventually. It was a great run. And I’m still trying to make bank on some of the things we ended up creating.

Here, then, is a just-the-facts-ma’am history of OffStage Theatre. Personal remembrances and anecdotes are likely to follow. But for now, just the cold, unemotional dates and details.

The Pre-History of Off-Stage Theatre

1989

The seeds likely were sown a few years before 1989, as many of the principles got to know each other through the UPEI Theatre Society in the mid-1980s.

But it was 1989 when it started. During that summer, feeling the need to develop their theatre skills, Rob MacDonald, Linda Wigmore, Donna Wigmore, Peter Ewart, Dianne Campbell, Nancy McLure, and Jane Wells approached David Moses to teach acting classes. David was a theatre-guy, a good friend, mentor, and had directed theatre and taught acting before. He was, at the time, on summer break from the National Theatre School of Canada, where he was studying direction and acting. David agreed.

When David returned to school in Montreal in the fall, many of the people in the acting class maintained their interest in theatre by writing, performing, and directing plays around Charlottetown.

1990

In April, after leaving the National Theatre School and returning to Charlottetown, David contacted members of the original acting class, and other interested individuals, expressing an interest in forming a theatre company that would produce original plays and develop the skills of the company members. The focus would be on process as well as product. All involved agreed this is good, a name was agreed upon, and in April 1990, in a small apartment on Queen Street, OffStage Theatre was born.

Billy & Biff vs. Dracula, by Nick Grant

In true independent theatre style, through various fund-raisers and flea markets, OffStage raised a whopping $500 for their first production, Billy & Biff vs. Dracula.

The play, by PEI writer Nick Grant (living in Montreal at the time), was work-shopped over the telephone and through the mail. The original script, gender-blind casting (in the role of Dracula), and unusual sets made for an exciting first production.

It was presented to the public for three nights in August 1990 at the Duffy Amphitheatre, UPEI. OffStage Theatre was off and running.

The people involved in OffStage Theatre’s first production
A Review of Billy & Biff vs. Dracula. Let’s call it “mixed”.

In the fall of 1990, OffStage Theatre was commissioned by the Festival of the Arts committee to produce an original new play for children for the Fall Festival.

The Pied-Piper of Hamelin

OffStage created and performed their version of the fairytale classic The Pied Piper of Hamelin.

As would become common for most original OffStage productions, “Piper” was created by the actors and director during rehearsals. The actual writing of the script was done by David Moses and Rob MacDonald after each rehearsal.

Piper was well-received by audiences.

After “Piper”, OffStage was successfully incorporated as a non-profit company. The hope was this would help with funding, grants and sponsorships, etc.

Late in 1990, OffStage Theatre Company moved into a 2nd-floor studio and office space it shared with the Charlottetown Ballet Theatre, 134 Richmond Street.

1991

Children’s Theatre Series

OffStage was awarded a grant from the PEI Council of the Arts, to produce a series of three plays for children. From November 1990 to January 1991, the Company produced revised versions of The Pied Piper of Hamelin, The Three Little Pigs, and created a new play, The Clown Show. The overwhelming response from day-cares and kindergartens (children and adults) showed a sincere need for such productions for young Islanders.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin (Redux)

Whereas the original Off Stage PIPER was darker, scarier, and moodier, this revised version of the play was totally re-written by David Moses and Rob MacDonald, and concentrated more on slap-stick and farcical comedy.

Puppet rat (barely visible) attempts to steal Baker’s (Rob MacDonald) cupcake
Baker (Rob MacDonald) complains to the Burgermeister (Donna Wigmore) about the rat problem.
The Tailor (Dianne Campbell) has her own rat problems
It’s up to the Pied Piper (David Moses) to get rid of the rats
Actors talking to the kids after the show

The Three Little Pigs

The Three Little Pigs remained truer to its original incarnation, which was written by Moses and MacDonald in 1989 for the West Prince Arts Council for summer performances at Mill River Park. It was revised and updated to make it longer, and new songs were added.

Roddy Weatherbie, David Moses, Rob MacDonald and Mark Stevenson (as wolf)

The Clown Show

Roddy Weatherbie, Rob MacDonald, Linda Wigmore, Dianne Campbell and Peter Ewart

The Clown Show was a series of sketches created mostly by the actors improvisational work in rehearsals. Again Moses and MacDonald worked together to complete a final script.

A lovely review of one of OffStage Theatre’s clown shows

The Kelly Murder

In the Spring of 1991, OffStage Theatre produced The Kelly Murder, a docu-drama concerning the murder of a black youth in Charlottetown in the late 1800s. Written by Artistic Director David Moses, the play was cast with 28 actors, professional and amateur, from across the Island. It played to sold-out houses at The MacKenzie Theatre, and won a PEI Heritage Award.

Another Clown Show

Peter Ewart, David Moses, Dianne Campbell, Rob MacDonald, Jeana MacIsaac, Linda Wigmore

OffStage Theatre was asked to present their Clown Show for a Confederation Centre fund-raising fair. Rather than present the same play they already produced, OffStage created an almost entirely all-new show. This new show also received overwhelming support by all who saw it.

David Moses and Linda Wigmore clowning around
Peter Ewart and Rob MacDonald
Jeana MacIsaac getting hugs and Dianne Campbell watching on
Rob MacDonald entertaining some audience members

First Summer Season

In the spring of 1991, while sharing a second-floor loft office on Richmond Street, OffStage began rehearsals for its first full summer season. The PEI Council of the Arts awarded a grant of $3600 for the project. And The Canada Council Explorations Program awarded $12,000. Most of this money would go towards construction and renovation of their new theatre space in the old Seaman’s Building on King Street (where City Cinema currently resides).

David Moses invited National Theatre School friends, actors Rick Roberts and Marjorie Campbell, along with actor/puppeteer Mike Peterson to be part of the summer’s cast.

Delays in renovations caused a delay in their planned opening date. However, on July 19, 1991, OffStage Theatre Company premiered its first summer season productions.

The Kelly Murder (Redux)

The Kelly Murder was reworked, and remounted with a cast of six actors playing 40 characters.

The Entertainers

The Entertainers, an experimental piece written by Rick Roberts, starring David Moses and the puppetry of Mike Peterson, played at lunchtimes.

Man (David Moses) and Dog (Mike Peterson)

Annekenstein

As planned, these shows were replaced in August by Annekenstein, created by Rob MacDonald, written by Rob MacDonald and the cast.

The Prompter

The Prompter, written by David Moses, starring Mae Ames and Marjorie Campbell, was presented during lunchtime.

The overall response to OffStage Theatre’s first summer season was very positive, and the comedy revue Annekenstein was declared the show of the summer.

American Tourist kids (Mike Peterson and Marjorie Campbell)
American Tourists Harold and Gloria (David Moses and Rob MacDonald)
A blurry box office agent (Rick Roberts) gets a kiss from Gloria (Rob MacDonald)

Once word got out that a play was being produced that made fun of the Island-icon Anne of Green Gables, the shows sold-out and continued to do so for the remainder of its three week run.

Big laughs coming from the audience

Thrilled by the appeal of Annekenstein, the company was also proud that all the shows presented that summer were original works, all positively appreciated, and three of the four were created by Island playwrights.

Stage Manager Donna Martin working in OffStage Theatre’s high-tech tech booth
Rob MacDonald writing the funny in the OffStage Theatre office/dressing room

In order to be able to put on their first productions in their new home, invaluable assistance and support was provided by the Confederation Centre Theatre Department, Theatre PEI, Colonel Grey High School, and in particular Errol Robertson, Rick Warren, Ron Irving and Paul Druet. These organizations and individuals donated equipment, expertise, set pieces and moral support.

In the fall, Off Stage offered its first semester of Acting Classes.

Off Stage was asked to create a humorous show about AIDS and AIDS Awareness for the PEI Dept. of Health and Social Services. Despite the heavy subject matter, Rob MacDonald and David Moses wrote a script based on rehearsal improvisations, and it was performed as part of an AIDS Symposium. The audience was appreciative and welcomed a lighter take on the issue.

Off Stage hosted a three day workshop in Clown work. The workshop was led by nationally acclaimed clown teacher, Leah Cherniak, from Theatre Colombus in Toronto.

Off Stage hosted workshops in Theatre Improvisation which led to weekly presentations of Theatre Sports. These would continue throughout the winter.

As winter began, plans to mount another season of children’s plays proved unsuccessful due to insufficient funding. Off Stage was able to present two new clown shows developed out of the workshop given in the fall. One show toured Island Schools in all three counties. The other, A Clown’s Christmas was presented at OffStage Theatre during the holidays. A short film, THE FALL, was also produced, made through the Island Media Arts Co-op based on a sketch developed during this period.

1992

Theatre Sports Improv

Theatre Sports continued every Friday night.

As a co-production with the UPEI Theatre Society, Off Stage Theatre and UPEI student cast-members created an original production entitled Life On Earth.

Island Smoke

Off Stage presented a Theatre Bandwagon production of Island Smoke, written by Greg Dunham.

Annekenstein II and Island Smoke (Redux)

On July 1, 1992 Off Stage Theatre commenced its second season of summer productions in its theatre in Old Charlottetown. Rehearsals for the two plays Annekenstein II and a remount of Island Smoke began June 1st with a company of seven actors and a stage manager/technician.

A $10,000 grant for the summer season came from the Canada Council Explorations Program. Off Stage Theatre also received $5,000 from the PEI Council of the Arts.

Darrin McCloskey, David Moses, Nancy McLure, Mark Stevenson, Rob MacDonald

Both plays were well- received by those who attend. Annekenstein II, which has an almost entirely new script, is especially popular, selling out regularly during its six week run.

Lucy Maud Montgomery (Nancy McLure) has no time for husband Ewan (Mark Stevenson)
Darrin McCloskey as Gus of Green Gables
The Annekenstein Monster (Rob MacDonald) towers over Mimsi Hashfield (David Moses)
Some of the lowest-budget costumes and props you’ll ever see

The Bog Hoppers

The Bog Hoppers, with their concerts of tradition maritime music, made a welcome addition to the Off Stage summer line-up.

Late Night at Off Stage

Off Stage also initiated a series of “Late Night” One Person Performances: Andy Jones in Easy Pieces,, John Taylor in My Three Dads, and Clair Coulter in Wallace Shawn’s The Fever. This was thought to be an important step for the company in establishing connections with performers from across the country in an effort to excel in and experience a variety of theatrical forms.

A discouraging note regarding advertising– OffStage Theatre felt obliged to pull their newspaper advertising from the Guardian/Patriot after the first month to protest the paper’s neglect in sending a reviewer to OffStage shows. Other theatre companies were given prompt reviews at the start of their seasons but OffStage was not. After repeated requests were refused, OffStage cancelled their ads. Ironically, Toronto’s Globe and Mail reviewed Annekenstein II, shortly after which the Guardian finally did send a reporter.

The Guardian finally reviews Annekenstein II

In the fall, Off Stage was contracted to produce a play about teenage women and substance abuse. Over a dozen young women participated and the show toured many island junior high schools.

Off Stage second semester of acting class began.

Dracula Lives

As the first production of its first full winter season, Off Stage produced Dracula Lives, a new play by Nick Grant who, appropriately enough, wrote the first play Off Stage ever produced.

Dracula (Peter Locke) confronts Betty (Kelly O’Brien) in Dracula Lives!
Biff (Ed Rashed) keeps the cop (Doug Huskilson) at bay
Billy (Rob MacDonald) takes a swing at the cop (Doug Huskilson)

A Man Looking Out The Window

Off Stage Presented Greg Dunham’s one man show, A Man Looking Out The Window.

Land of the Midnight Sunshine Sketches

Off Stage Presented Hank Stinson’s one man show, Land of the Midnight Sun Sketches.

Les Belles Soeurs

Off Stage produced Les Belles Soeurs, cast with twelve island actresses.

B-Movie

Off Stage produced B-Movie, by Tom Wood.

Children’s Theatre Season

Off Stage Produced a series of three plays for young audiences: The Paperbag Princess, The Reluctant Dragon and Jack and the Beanstalk.

1993

Arms and the Man

Off Stage presented, a Pleasant Productions production of Bernard Shaw’s, Arms and The Man.

Moo

Off Stage produced Sally Clark’s Moo.

Fun While It Lasted

In March 1992, due to insufficient funding, a leaking building, a growing debt, Off Stage began preparations to move out of 64 King Street. Fun While It Lasted, an original revue, was the last show produced at that location.

OffStage Theatre and Annekenstein is featured in an article on Anne of Green Gables in Air Canada’s in-fight magazine En Route.

In April, Off Stage found a new home at 203 Fitzroy Street. Renovations and preparations began.

May saw Off Stage hosting Theatre PEI’s New Voices Play writing Workshop and performing an Evening of Improvisation for the Professional Secretary’s Institute.

Annekenstein 3

Off Stage produced the third summer season of Annekenstein, running June to September

It was the only play they produced that summer. As like previous years’ productions, this one continued to grow in popularity as the summer run continued, and was often sold out for the last weeks of performance.

Horatio, by Sean McQuaid

In October and November, Off Stage, in co-production with Theatre PEI, presented Horatio, by Sean McQuaid. This sequel to Hamlet was a winner of the previous spring’s New Voices Playwriting Contest. With a large cast, this was Off Stage’s grandest production since the original The Kelly Murder, and was a critical and popular success.

1994

The Good, The Bad, and the Sugar Coated Peanut Butter Shredded Wheat Balls

February

Off Stage’s Fitzroy Street location had its final production, The Good, The Bad, and The Sugar Coated, Peanut Butter Shredded Wheat Balls, written by Rob MacDonald. This children’s play was performed for a small number of daycare children, and the public was invited to a workshop production, to which a small number attended.

March

Off Stage left Fitzroy Street to no-fixed-address. The fate of the company was in doubt. Plans were to find a space for the summer, and to produce another season of Annekenstein.

June

Off Stage managed to secure the Carriage House at the Prince Edward Island Museum and Heritage Foundation, 2 Kent Street. Rehearsals and slight renovations began immediately.

Annekenstein IV

The fourth season of Annekenstein was presented, July to September. Shows sold well all summer long and Off Stage declared the season a success. With the Museum Foundation pleased with their take on the box office, Off Stage and the Foundation made plans for another run the following summer.

David Moses, Rob MacDonald, Ed Rashed, Nancy McLure, Laurie Murphy

1995

In February, plans to produce a fifth season of Annekenstein fell apart when the Museum Foundation pulled out of the agreement after surrounding neighbors of the Carriage House voiced concerns and complaints about the Foundation using the Carriage House as a place of business in a residential area. Off Stage was again homeless with no future productions in sight.

In May, the CP Prince Edward Hotel, lower Queen Street, offered Off Stage a deal to perform Annekenstein in the Auriga Room of the hotel. Off Stage accepted.

Rehearsals and renovations get underway in June for Annekenstein V: The Best of Annekenstein.

Annekenstein V: The Best of Annekenstein

Laurie Murphy, Rob MacDonald, Jan Rudd, Nancy McLure, Matt Rainnie, Ed Rashed;
Directed by David Moses

From July to September, four nights a week, Off Stage presented Annekenstein V to great response from the public. Shows average 75% capacity of the 100 seat room for the entire season, with many nights at standing room only. Financially, Off Stage had its greatest success.

As Annekenstein continued to make a name for itself that even began to reach outside of PEI, the production was featured on an episode of CBC Television’s On The Road Again with Wayne Rostad.

After a mutually successful season, tentative plans were made with the CP Hotel to perform another Annekenstein for the summer of 1996. It soon became apparent that these plans wouldn’t come through, as the hotel underwent structural renovations which left them without a venue to offer Off Stage.

In November, once again homeless, and with the fact that the company had become a one play, one season company, and was no longer following its mandate, and with no one with a strong enough desire to take over the management, Off Stage resigned its status as a non-profit, charitable organization, and for all intents and purposes was no longer a company.

Off Stage Theatre Company ceased to produce theatre under its name.

1996

Annekenstein Six

Despite the dissolution of OffStage Theatre, Dave & Rob managed to secure the bar Myron’s as a venue for a 6th summer run of Annekenstein, to run June to August.  Despite being, basically, theatre in a bar, it performs quite well.

1997

Annekenstein 7

Annekenstein’s 7th summer season returned to Myron’s, from June to August, six nights a week.  Once again, a combination of brand new material and classic Annekenstein favourites worked well and shows sold well.

Six nights a week!!!

And, there you have it! A history of OffStage Theatre Company. Do you have any memories of OffStage Theatre? Any plays or performances or music you saw there that stuck with you? I’d love to hear your memories.