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‘Stories from the Red Dirt Road’, new musical, debuts at The Mack Aug. 2

This Prince Edward Island postcard illustrates the theme of a new musical, “Stories from the Red Dirt Road” that will be making its debut in Charlottetown this summer. P.E.I. MUSEUM AND HERITAGE/SUBMITTED PHOTO
This Prince Edward Island postcard illustrates the theme of a new musical, “Stories from the Red Dirt Road” that will be making its debut in Charlottetown this summer. P.E.I. MUSEUM AND HERITAGE/SUBMITTED PHOTO - The Guardian

Prince Edward Island is rich in stories and songs.

These gifts of creativity add colour, depth and beauty to the Island’s cultural landscape.

Now some of these offerings are the basis for a new theatre production. 

It’s called “Stories from the Red Dirt Road.”

Adapted by Marlane O’Brien from the book, “And My Name Is…Stories from The Quilt”, by Margie Carmichael, the show consists of four Island stories woven together with original songs and the red dirt road that joins their lives together.

Marlane O’Brien, left, and Margie Carmichael, attend a news conference last September announcing the lineup for the 2018 Charlottetown Festival. Their show, “Stories from the Red Dirt Road”, was on the list. SALLY COLE/THE GUARDIAN
Marlane O’Brien, left, and Margie Carmichael, attend a news conference last September announcing the lineup for the 2018 Charlottetown Festival. Their show, “Stories from the Red Dirt Road”, was on the list. SALLY COLE/THE GUARDIAN

This truly Island musical will make its world premiere at the Charlottetown Festival at The Mack on Aug. 2. It runs until Sept. 21.

“At the centre, (Confederation Centre of the Arts) it’s so wonderful for us to dive into a piece of theatre that tells stories about the Island that is for the Island and from the Island,” says Adam Brazier, centre artistic director.

While O’Brien waits for rehearsals to begin, she pinches herself to make sure she’s not dreaming.

“I don’t believe that it’s actually happening...to actually have it come together is remarkable. It’s like, after a lot of hard work, all the stars have aligned. But, I’m most thrilled for Margie more than myself or anyone else. It’s going to bring this very talented lady back into the spotlight,” O’Brien said in a telephone interview.

Audience members received a sneak peek into “Stories from the Red Dirt Road” during the Circle Around the Centre luncheon in Studio 1 of Confederation Centre of the Arts this past Wednesday. After an introduction by host, Catherine Hennessey, Brazier and Carmichael talked about the workshops and the writing process and the things that have to be done before opening night. O’Brien was unable to attend.

Things started on a high note when Carmichael, an accomplished songwriter, invited audience members to sing the chorus of her song, “Red Dirt Road”. Within minutes, the audience turned into a rousing choir. And, by the last verse, some were even singing in three-part harmony.

“I was amazed with the song. It was great to hear the words and learn about everything that went on along that red dirt road,” says Betsy Houston, Charlottetown, tapping her foot in time to the music.

The idea for the musical began several years ago when O’Brien asked Carmichael if she was interested in having her book, “And My Name Is…Stories from The Quilt”, turned into a piece of theatre.

“I said sure. It just sitting there collecting dust really,” says the P.E.I. author/songwriter.

Confederation Centre of the Arts artistic director Adam Brazier and author/singer/songwriter Margie Carmichael take a break after speaking at the Circle Around the Centre Luncheon on Wednesday. They spoke about the upcoming production of “Stories from the Red Dirt Road” that makes its world premiere at The Mack in Charlottetown on Aug. 2. Missing from the photo is Marlane O’Brien, who wrote the script. SALLY COLE/THE GUARDIAN
Confederation Centre of the Arts artistic director Adam Brazier and author/singer/songwriter Margie Carmichael take a break after speaking at the Circle Around the Centre Luncheon on Wednesday. They spoke about the upcoming production of “Stories from the Red Dirt Road” that makes its world premiere at The Mack in Charlottetown on Aug. 2. Missing from the photo is Marlane O’Brien, who wrote the script. SALLY COLE/THE GUARDIAN

In the weeks and months that followed, the two met countless times to discuss the book and run over ideas that O’Brien had for the show.

“Since then, it’s been Marlane’s work; some of the stories, some of the songs. And, from there, there’s been a couple of co-writes and some new pieces by native artists to create this wonderful production,” says Carmichael, who is impressed with the script.

“Marlane has just wowed me with how bright she was in connecting with my characters. She got them. She knew what they were trying to be. And she knew the value of their stories.”

One of their favourite characters in the play is Flora Hill, a senior citizen who found her true vocation preparing bodies for burial.

“She does hair, makeup, nails and wardrobe for people who want a specific touch,” explains Carmichael.

Flora provides most of the comic relief in the show.  And she often finds herself in ticklish situations.

“O’Brien combined two of the stories into one in this great sketch. If nothing else, you’ve got to come and see Flora.”

After the luncheon Houston says she’s thinks the Charlottetown Festival has another hit on its hands.

 “I think the show is going to be very entertaining.”

If you are going:

  • - Tickets for “Stories from the Red Dirt Road” are available from the Confederation Centre Box Office, by calling 902-566-1267 or online at https://confederationcentre.com/.
  • - Dean Constable will be the guest speaker at the April 11 Circle Around the Centre Luncheon at the Confederation Centre at noon.
  • - Karen Jans will be the guest speaker at the May 16 Circle Around the Centre Luncheon at the Confederation Centre at noon.
  • - A Tribute to Brian Burke will be the theme of the June 13 Circle Around the Centre Luncheon at the Confederation Centre at noon.
  • - For more information, tickets contact the box office.

sally.cole@TheGuardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/SallyForth57

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