BREAKING into the business
Neptune Theatre student Marietta Laan
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Atlantic Canada’s Digital Arts and Culture Monthly
INSIDE This Month Leap Magazine does not necessarily endorse the contents of websites mentioned in this publication. Use sensible judgement when viewing any website.
3 Leaping Off: Here we are Take the leap into the cultural cyber-frontier with technophile William Clarke.
10 Soft Drinks? It’s bottoms up at Kings Theatre for premiere of The Perfect Manhattan.
12 Killing Kempton 4 Stabbing the Governor A community cast tells tragic tale of Digby murder. They’re at it again in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Royal, but this brand of street theatre could be just what your Was Nova Scotia’s last hanged man really guilty? next promotion needs to fly! 14 Laan-tastic! Young actor reflects on experiences gained through 6 Halifax’s French Quarter Neptune Theatre’s developmental programs. Herve Hemlin is back on the peninsula with a new eatery and one more reason to go continental. 15 Next Month We’ve come to the end of the LEAP preview edition. 8 Art Lessons Here’s a look at what’s coming when our premiere The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia brings the world’s issue hits the wires on February 1, 2009. cultural treasures to Atlantic audiences.
Leap Magazine The Mock-up, baby! Editor: William Clarke Editorial Director: William Clarke Editorial Supervisor: William Clarke Illustrations: William Clarke Design & Production: William Clarke Photography: Well, you get the picture... Leap Magazine is published twelve (12) times per year by William Clarke Software. All content in this magazine and companion website are the sole property of William Clarke Software. Opinions expressed herein are not necessarily those of the publisher. Any reproduction in whole or in part, in print or electronic form, without express permission is strictly forbidden. Please contact the publisher for permission to reproduce selected editorial.Editorial contributions and letters to the editor may be submitted to Leap at email@example.com. No responsibility will be assumed for the safety of unsolicited material. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. © William Clarke 2008 All Rights Reserved
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Here we are T
he idea that has brought us to this point actually began about a year ago. I had been engaged to create the copy for a Neptune Theatre feature in the Halifax Daily News’ Hottest Winter Guide. After interviewing Mark Laventure, we began chatting about the ageold theatre challenge of putting bums in the seats. How do you deliver live performance to a non-traditional theatre audience? Or more simply, how do you grow the consuming market? What we needed was a way to educate, entertain and inform the consuming public, but in a more direct and cost-effective way than what has been previously available. Why not a website? Obviously, the quickest answer would be to create a website. After all, since paper wouldn’t be a part of the equation, it’d be pretty easy to throw something together, throw in some slick animations, video and sell a few ads, but does the Internet really need another one of those websites? The other side of the coin is value for advertisers. When I say value, I don’t mean simply lowering the price to reflect the savings on paper and ink, I mean the kind of value where people take notice of
the ads without them being intrusive or costing a stupid amount of money. And forget those cheesy squares and rectangles with which the online industry has fallen in love. No wonder mentioning the words “online advertising” sends businesspeople screaming into the hills. Everywhere you go you’re inundated with those flashing squares and Leap is definitely not that kind of product. The Leap website is ultra clean and designed to do just one thing; deliver the magazine. An electronic magazine A multimedia magazine, an arts magazine, needs to deliver a very rich, sparkling, eye-popping, full-screen experience. I chose to publish in PDF/ flash because it’s the best way to deliver a high-value experience package on any platform with any flash player, although Adobe Reader is most highly recommended. Leap is professionally designed and laid out for reader comfort. Its widescreen format is exceptionally well-suited to on-screen viewing. In fact, each page is laid out to eliminate the need to zoom or scroll. To ease eye strain, Leap uses serif fonts for its body type. Oh, and forget about having to buy an “online subscription” to read the magazine. There’s
no cover price so Leap is free to get, free to experience, and free to share. After all, the more people we can get to experience what we have here, the better for our community, supporters and advertisers. What’s next? Summarizing the advantages of a digital publication, the major gains are much higher production values, lower advertising rates, rapidity of distribution, and a multimedia-capable platform. But I haven’t stopped at the beginning. What is on the horizon is a re-tasking and expansion of the website to create a Flex-based front end component that enhances the Leap user-experience beyond anything you’ve ever seen before. My intent for Leap is to stay small and agile, hire the expert freelance talent we have, invest in the culture community, build a solid brand awareness, and extend the market’s most exceptional value with full-colour, hyperlinked ads for as little as $25 a month. Want to add flash video/animation? Try a rate starting at $10 per minute. Nope. It doesn’t need to be expensive to be effective. I think providing a select core of culture consumers and creators with a great advertising package and insightful, engaging, high-value content
will effectively support and promote our culture of art to each other - and the world. About William Clarke For those of you who don’t know me, I’ve paid my dues in the media business as a journalist and photographer from Calgary to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. I’ve won a few awards as a photographer, editor and reporter and have a history of creating exceptional value in business to consumer and business to business communications. I’m also no stranger to computers and the virtual world. I’ve written software in C and C++ and my cyberspace experience goes back to the days when telephone lines were analog and a fast modem was 9600 baud. What you’re seeing in this mock up/ preview is entirely work I’ve already done as a writer/photographer. In the future, my role at Leap is to step back from field work and concentrate on growing readership and increased advertiser value. Yes, that means the door is wide open for contributing artists. Oh! I’m father to a wonderful preschooler, asbolutely do not drive and live in Nova Scotia. Take the leap with us.
LEAP - 4 Madeleine Akin-Carhart, Brenda Thompson and Brenda Keen form the entire cast of 5 Stab Wounds in the Governor. The Annapolis Royal play breaks from theatre tradition by moving the audience to different locales as the story unfolds.
Murder, mystery create intimate attraction
Wounds a sweetly murderous twist on street theatre By William Clarke LEAP Magazine
laborate sets, auditoriums, and huge casts might not be necessary to produce great theatre that performs as a regional draw. Take a story based on local history, throw in an attractive cast, perform parts in different locations around town, and you have an affordable new tourist attraction. At least that’s what the Annapolis Heritage Society is finding with its already soldout premiere weekend of 5 Stab Wounds in the Governor. “What it’s trying to do is get the history of the town out of the museum and out onto the streets,” said Society member and O’Dell House Museum curator, Ryan Scranton. “We’re trying to popularize the history of the community (and) let people know what’s going on. There’s a lot of stories we have to tell and not all of them are being told.”
Credit: William Clarke
The Society presented its collaboration with local restaurant and lodging owners. 5 Stab Wounds in the Governor was performed as five 30-minute episodes, with each episode at a different venue. The $40 ticket included a bite to eat at each stop, and ends with a trial at Annapolis Provincial Court, the oldest operating courhouse in Nova Scotia. Director and playwright Kent Thompson said the production is a fact-based historical accounting of the “amazing death” of Annapolis Royal’s Lt. Col. Lawrence Armstrong. Found deceased in 1739, “suicide in a fit of lunacy” was the official cause of death although his body had five stab wounds in the chest. He said there was at least one plausible motive for the murder. Governor Lawrence
Armstrong had a falling out with one of his servants, Robert Nicoles when they were up at Canso. The records show Nicoles struck Armstrong, but Armstrong waited until they were back in Annapolis Royal months later before exacting his revenge. He punished Nicoles by putting him on the gallows with a sign reading “audacious villain” around his neck. When he was done with that, Armstrong had him tied to an ox cart and he was walked up to the Cape Road and back, receiving five lashes every hundred paces. By the time Nicoles finished the journey, there was not much of him left. Much to everyone’s surprise, he survived the brutal punishment and might have developed a really good motive for wanting Armstrong dead. “It’s clear there was a coverup in 1739,”
said Thompson in an interview. “Armstrong was not a popular man. There were at least five suspects who could have killed him, there are others who were glad to hear he was dead, and a whole lot more people who were just applauding.” Thompson said he had done this type of street theatre before, and that experience taught him the cast needed to be small so for this play he enlisted Brenda Keen, Brenda Thompson, and Madeleine AkinCarhart to play the primary roles of three squabbling sisters. “The middle daughter is married to the other Lt. Governor, Alexander Cosby, who has his power because his sister is married to the governor who’s back in Europe. The other two women are married to men who are executors of Armstrong’s estate,” said Thompson. Continued on Page 5
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Credit: William Clarke
“The women are all involved, everyone in Annapolis Royal was involved, and in the coverup - they were all involved too.” Kent Thompson
Continued from Page 4
Brenda Thompson, Brenda Keen and Madeleine Akin-Carhart entertained visitors to the Annapolis Royal Farmers Market with excerpts from 5 Stab Wounds in the Governor.
“The women are all involved, everyone in Annapolis Royal was involved, and in the coverup - they were all involved too.” Scranton said the idea grew from research Thompson had been doing on another book. He said they had chatted about Thompson’s King’s Landing experience and thought this twist on street theatre would be a perfect way to tell this type of story. “There’s a plethora of mystery-type stories that could be dramatized,” said Scranton. “As we were looking through the history of Annapolis, this one jumped out as a story that could really be dramatized quite well. A lot of big figures, key transitional moments in the history of the province, and a potential murder mystery.” But to perform any result, on a tight budget, required some ingenuity. With one society member experienced in producing plays that spread
over weekends, and Thompson’s experience with street theatre, they combined their knowledge and engaged local tourism businesses as hosts. In fact, many of the locations were homes around the time of the murder - or suicide. “We wanted to advertise the venues for one thing, for the tourist attraction,” said Thompson. “We also do this intimate theatre because it’s comparatively cheap and we use the houses because we have the audience close. Now we’re feeding all of the audiences as well, because that’s half of the fun.” Although a complete sellout is the dream of every producer, Scranton said the response to this production already has the Society looking ahead to the future - and with business sponsorships, promotion, and other community involvement, it’s a model of successful theatre that might be transported easily to other regions.
Setting the Scene An Amazing Suicide Newman’s Restaurant 218 St George St Robert Nicoles’ Cut-Throat Cheesecake God is Not Mocked Hillsdale House 519 St George St Father Breslay’s Incarnate Corruption Soup Widow Boudreau’s Molasses Bread Where did You Leave Your Husband? The German Bakery and Garden Cafe 441 St George St Merchant Blinn’s Sweet Revenge Family Matters The Queen Anne Inn 494 St George St Mary’s Embezzlement Gingerbread Cake On Trial Annapolis Provincial Courthouse 377 St George St The Carriage House 643 St George St Scrivener and Clerk Brunch
Credit: William Clarke
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Delightful Dining Hemlin’s triumphant downtown return serves up elegant continental cuisine By William Clarke LEAP Magazine
Certified Chef Herve Hemlin (left) crosses the harbour to bring his French fare to the culture crowd of downtown Halifax.
hâteau Briand is inviting old clients and new to help celebrate their first anniversary. For those in the know, Château Briand has quickly become the place to experience fine dining in Halifax. For those who want to be in the know, what took you so long? Château Briand isn’t hard to find. It’s tucked into historic Granville Street’s walking plaza between the Delta Barrington and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in an eclectic neighbourhood filled with character and colour. Continued on Page 7
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Even during daylight hours, Chateau Briand offers a warm and friendly glow to guests in the know.
Credit: William Clarke
Continued from Page 6 In this part of downtown Halifax, modern office towers sit within steps of centuries-old buildings, Bohemian students brush shoulders with corporate executives, and handmade crafts sell with the same fervor as some of Halifax’s priciest home furnishings. Those are just a few of the reasons your hosts selected this area one year ago to open their doors and present a new fine dining choice for Haligonians and visitors. The restaurant is the creation of two people dedicated to quality. Both enjoy fine dining, premium menu selections, excellent service and the pleasurable atmosphere that encircles such an experience. “We wanted to open here because of the traffic and the exposure,” says Hervé Hemlin, a Château Briand partner and one of the few Certified Chefs living in Canada. “We’re glad we made the move, very glad.” In worldwide culinary competitions of up to 6,000 hopeful chefs, Hemlin’s creations have risen to the top to earn several prestigious medals over the course of his career thus far. His partner brings years of globe trotting and experiences dining at the best restaurants in the most prestigious locations. During the 2002 G7 summit in Halifax, Hemlin served as Russian president Boris Yeltsin’s personal chef, and over the years, the award-winning chef has hosted many celebrities like senators, ambassadors and artists. Just within this first year, feature film producers have taken advantage of Château Briand’s old-world French ambiance, choosing the location for October 1970, Sybil and Wedding March. “The kind of service we do, we’re probably the only restaurant decanting the wine, serving the vegetables on the side, 90 per cent of
the menu is French with some Italian as well. That’s what sets us apart, and the quality is of the best.” Speaking of quality, Château Briand’s menu is as flavourful as the neighbourhood’s diversity with standard offerings for the tentative North American palate as well as interesting journeys into unique blends of flavours and textures. For example, the lunch menu includes Rolled Galette, a crepe with filling of wild mushrooms and pork; spinach salad served with sliced pears poached in red wine; and a quiche of spinach and gruyere cheese served with a tomato and cucumber salad. For those leaning to the traditional, the lunch menu also includes a selection of open-faced sandwiches, thin crust pizzas, pastas and more. For dinner, you could start with tasty escargot sautéed in butter and Pernod and served with lettuce cooked in cream; then move on to the house chateaubriand for two or a tantalizing chicken breast cooked with coconut milk, cayenne pepper, black beans and pumpkin. “It’s nice there’s so much competition around because it keeps you on your toes,” says Hemlin. “I enjoy competing with the other fine restaurants and it’s always a good idea to phone ahead for reservations on the evenings and weekends because you could be disappointed to show up and the room is full. Reservations have priority so if you reserve you’ll get a table for sure.” Located at 1873 Granville Street, Château Briand is open for lunch and dinner Monday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and until 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. You can make your reservation for the first anniversary celebrations, and other times, by calling 446-4992.
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ON A MISSION: Jeff Gray is a man on a mission to bring the worldâ€™s art to audiences in the Maritimes.
AGNS Bringing art to the masses
By William Clarke LEAP Magazine
Credit: William Clarke
ith exhibitions covering (or uncovering) Marilyn Monroe, cars and hockey, you might say the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia's (AGNS) winter season was created to help guys make it through the winter. That's kind of what the gallery has in mind as it expands its offerings to engage more of the community in what they might not normally think of as art. As the province's art collector, the gallery currently holds about 14,000 pieces of art it's charged with maintaining forever. Part of that responsibility is to educate people of all ages and to provide an appreciation for art, and in more recent times, the gallery has hosted exhibits you might never
have anticipated seeing. "We're not just the art gallery of Nova Scotia, we're also the art gallery for Nova Scotia," says AGNS development manager, Jeff Gray. "We bring exciting exhibitions to our art gallery in Halifax and Yarmouth and get people excited about visual art that they probably wouldn't have an opportunity to see otherwise." In the past, if you wanted to see something famous, you had to go to a major gallery or museum in New York, Boston or Toronto to see it. Gray says he sees the community at large accepting that mindset as changing. "Just in the last two years we had two exhibitions that looked at Egypt
and mummies, that was the first time those types of exhibitions had ever been in Atlantic Canada before," says Gray. "We brought them because kids have a right to see mummies. They learn about mummies in school, but to be able to see them for real is an important learning opportunity." Along with the physical exhibits, AGNS typically includes discussions with artists and hands-on activities for children, making for a fine family destination at any given time. "Halifax is lucky to have a very interesting and vibrant downtown," says Gray. Continued on Page 9
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â€œWe have things that stand up against the rest of the country, specifically in Canadian art from the 1970s and 80s. We actually have a very strong collection, so we wanted to showcase that as well.â€?
Continued from Page 8 "We shouldn't be the sole reason for a visit to Halifax; there's lots of interesting things to do in and around downtown, we're close to other museums, other cultural activities, there's lots of pubs and restaurants and bars - but you can time it to be part of another visit." Two of the most anticipated winter exhibitions can easily be added to any agenda. The upcoming Marilyn Monroe exhibit includes 11 Andy Warhol prints, photographs from her first Playboy Magazine session, photos from the last session before her death, movie stills, and contemporary art inspired by her life and her legend. It's about $200,000,000 in art hanging on the walls in Halifax from December 15 as the exhibit makes its only Canadian stop. There's also an AGNS online contest currently running that will see 15 lucky people get the chance to view that exhibit before it's unveiled to the public. "It's a nice coup for the gallery to receive that," says Gray. "Andy Warhol's works are world famous, everybody knows of him, and you don't really have an opportunity to see that. Well we're bringing those, you'll actu-
ally have the chance to see those." Future Retro, from the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, is an exhibit of car renderings and concept drawings that were done in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s that either were or were not built in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. It includes concept drawings for the Corvette Stingray and Barracuda and examines society's love affair with cars. "It's an interesting mix of things and sort of the background feeling of what the future would look like and the idea of how the militaristic U.S. and space travel factored into what they assumed the future would look like," says Gray. "We're now 50 years beyond their vision of the future. So it's interesting to look back at a future that never was, certainly with cars, and the way they impact society even today." In March, a hockey exhibition timed to coincide with the World Hockey Championships in May will focus on contemporary art that deals with hockey, books that focus on hockey for inspiration, historic art that looks at hockey as its topic, and will have a lot of hands-on activities for children. Contemporary exhibitions include Grey's Anatomy, which looks at the
human body and how it's portrayed in art, and Abstraction in Canada, based on a new book co-published by AGNS that looks at the history of abstraction and abstract painting in Canada. "We're going to mount pieces from our collection that showcase the same work in an effort to show how the AGNS collection is on par with other collections in the country. We have things that stand up against the rest of the country, specifically in Canadian art from the 1970s and 80s. We actually have a very strong collection so we wanted to showcase that as well." AGNS is currently set to display the works of the finalists for the Sobey Art Prize. The richest prize in Canadian art, an artist under the age of 40 will win $50,000 on October 15. The exhibit opens this weekend and will surely draw a large group of people who are really into Canadian contemporary art. "At the end of the day, an experience with us will never be an offensive experience," says Gray. "Art is subjective at the best of times, but you're going to find something that you like." For more information on AGNS, call 424-7542, drop in at 1723 Hollis Street (across from Province House), or visit online at www.agns.gov.ns.ca.
Credit: William Clarke
Jeff Gray, AGNS development manager
Credit: William Clarke
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Click to play clip
Cast of the Annapolis District Drama Group’s presentation of Dianne Lococo’s The Perfect Manhattan. From left are Wayne Currie (Rocco), director, Madeleine Akin-Carhart, Susan Stopford (Madeleine), Richard Cianflone (Roderick) and Brenda Keen (Fifi). Missing is Phil Milo (Ted)
‘Wickedly funny’ comedy highlights pre-holiday fare By William Clarke LEAP Magazine
t seems regional actors and audiences have developed a taste for homicide. In keeping with that theme, The Perfect Manhattan brings valley theatre fans another dose of live mayhem - but it might not be the kind of theatre for those without a solid grasp of English. Written by Ontario’s Dianne Lococo, The Perfect Manhattan has won numerous awards and makes its first appearance outside of that province on the stage at King’s Theatre. This contemporary comedy tackles the difficulties that arrive when a sophisticated suburban housewife conjures up an imaginary lover. Continued on Page 11
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Credit: William Clarke
Of course, the neighbours from hell - okay, New Jersey - move in next door and that prompts an invitation to dine. It soon becomes apparent the men cannot see the fantasy man, but the other woman can, and she wants him for her own. Mayhem and murder ensue. “It is a comedy, and it’s got sparkling repartee and very subtle wit,” said director, Madeleine Akin-Carhart.
Kent Thompson shares an opening night laugh with The Perfect Manhattan neophyte director, Madeleine Akin-Carhart at King's Theatre.
“What I mean by that is the comedy is very subtle, especially the language.” Lococo said her inspiration for this play, her first full-length effort, came during a dinner party where a set of her friends told tales about their dreadful neighbours. “I had started working on the play already and it was quite different, so I switched it based on what I’d heard from these other people,” said Lococo in a telephone interview. “Coincidentally, a lot of the stuff I’d thought of, this guy had done to them. The rest I made up from there.” As a member of the Annapolis District Drama Group, and fresh from an exquisitely outrageous performance in Stab Wounds, Akin-Carhart is making her directorial debut with this play. It’s no surprise the frazzled housewife’s name is Madeleine, as Lococo and Akin-Carhart attended university together, and Lococo said she likes to slip her friends’ names into her plays. “I like the Madeleine character because she’s got a sense of whimsy and she’s very strong, but frail in a way too,” said Lococo. “The Fifi character is quite funny, she tries to steal Madeleine’s imaginary lover, Roderick.” Lococo is relatively new to the craft of writing plays, having just picked it up seven years ago - after honing her fiction skills writing government reports. She said what makes The Perfect Manhattan fun is the ridiculousness of the premise. “I like that all of these things happen that couldn’t happen in real life, but you kind of believe it when you see it up there on stage,” she said. The cast features Rich Cianflone,
Susan Stopford, Phil Milo, Wayne Currie and Akin-Carhart’s fellow Stab Wounds performer, Brenda Keen. Jennifer Batiot supports the production as stage manager. “It is very wickedly funny and there’s quite a bit of physical comedy,” said Akin-Carhart. “It’s got to move quite quickly, which is daunting for a firsttime director.” The Perfect Manhattan didn’t disappoint on its debut night. Not only was the play a highly anticipated challenge for the local cast and first-time director, even on opening night in front of an almost-full house, it was far from disappointing theatre. Except for a few minor glitches, which are part of the magic of live theatre, The Perfect Manhattan is a play worthy of the awards it has already received. Lococo had crafted this contemporary two-act comedy based on the oil and water surface mixture of an upscale suburban couple (Madeleine and Ted) and their streetwise new neighbours from New Jersey (Rocco and Fifi). Their cultural differences alone would make for a mildly funny play - but adding a splash of lust, dropping in a loaded gun, and topping the mixture off with a roguishly charming fantasy man (Roderick) visible only to the women, makes for an intoxicatingly hilarious evening of theatre. As the play progresses, the audience discovers Ted (Phil Milo) is too worried about his career to pay attention to his wife, Madeleine (Susan Stopford), who is more of an accessory than a partner. The tuxedo-garbed Roderick (Rich Cianflone) meanwhile is busy behind
the bar, mixing Madeleine’s perfect Manhattans. Things liven up quickly, and so does the humour, as Rocco (Wayne Currie) and Fifi (Brenda Keen) enter the action. Their thick, over the top, Jersey accents lend credibility to their thorough, and hilarious, mangling of English, yet still Lococo provides depth as each character’s motives rise to the surface. Without revealing any of the details, there comes a point where a murder takes place and the plot takes a couple of wildly unexpected turns. With each twist, the audience discovers the characters are much more than cliche caricatures as even Roderick assumes more substance. “A one-act version was done and it won several awards,” said Lococo. “It won best ensemble, a couple of best actors, then Galt Little Theatre premiered it and it won best production there. I think it won four awards there and then went to the next level.” Currie and Keen, both experienced actors, were able to pull off the difficult accent assignments with brilliant believability and physicality. Milo’s Ted, at times, seemed to drop a bit of character, but Stopford’s frazzled Madeleine provided gracious support over the rough spots. The tall, elegant Cianflone, a relative newcomer to the stage, rounded out the cast as the ultrasmooth Roderick. The ADDG’s Perfect Manhattan was a rollercoaster ride of incredible wit and, at times, gut-busting laughter, and this sparkling production leaves you with just one thought at the end; Perfect.
Credit: William Clarke
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KEMPTON Audience left to decide; Was justice served?
Peter Wheeler (Don Carter) monologue in his jail cell as his final days. Wheeler was the incredible murder of a Nova Scotia girl in 1896.
performs a he ponders hanged for Bear River,
By William Clarke LEAP Magazine
t’s taken a little more than a century, but the story of Bear River’s most sensational murder has finally reached the stage. It’s also drawn both experienced and first-time actors from throughout the region as an epic grassroots effort to bring history into the modern age. Kempton was found murdered in 1896 and immediate suspicion was laid on a former sailor, Peter Wheeler. Through an investigation and sensational murder trial, Wheeler was hanged for the crime, but as with many crimes from the past, doubt has swirled around the question of Wheeler’s true guilt. The play Annie Kempton doesn’t seek to definitively answer that question. Instead it provides a modern audience with a dramatic portrayal of actual events and evidence, leading only to the conclusion that capital punishment erases any possibility of fixing mistakes. Playwright and director, Rupert Haley has pulled together possibly the region’s largest cast ever to bring Kempton and Wheeler’s story
to the stage - complete with exquisite period costumes and a set that would be a visual feast under the lights at Digby Regional High School Oct. 25 and 26. “It leaves the viewer with a lot of pieces of the puzzle which, to me, suggests that he might not have been the murderer,” said Haley during a break from rehearsals. “I do try, as the writer, to suggest that it wasn’t beyond a reasonable doubt. Once you hang them, you can’t apologize for that later.” Haley said the idea formed a few years ago while he was teaching drama at the high school, and finally came together this past May. After that the Digby and Area Theatre Society advertised for a cast and by August, it was time to begin rehearsals. For lifelong Bear River resident and neophyte actor Neil Brennan, the play brings back memories of his childhood and visits to the Kempton homestead and her grave. Continued on Page 13
Continued from Page 12 As a child he was given a gift of old newspaper articles about the case that had appeared in the Digby Courier and Annapolis Spectator. Brennan was always fascinated by the story and is playing the role of a doctor, fitting as his father was a Bear River doctor for 43 years. “I think it’s a very valuable thing for our village because any lifelong resident of Bear River will immediately recognize the name of Annie Kempton and know she was murdered,” said Brennan. “There’s a lot of mistaken legends that have grown up, but this will bring it through with accuracy.” He said many people had their doubts about Wheeler’s guilt even in 1896. Perhaps they were so anxious to find someone to nail it on that other possibilities were not considered. “I know that a lot of old people who were alive at the time passed down their doubts to their sons and daughters,” said Brennan. “I still hear that now when people talk about it and they say their grandfather told them that they hanged the wrong man and that the real killer walked backwards through the snow to deceive the trackers.” Haley said he painstakingly researched his facts before creating a play that used real people from that time. Of course, as the playwright, he had to use his imagination to create dialogue and that could make for interesting conversations after people see the play. “All of the people in the play really lived, most of them are buried there in Bear River - and their families still live around the area,” said Haley. “It has occurred to me somebody might say, ‘How dare you say great-great-aunt so-and-so said suchand-such when I know she would never say that.’” Unlike the actors who have deep roots in the community and its history, Don Carter is a Bear River newcomer. He said
he’s always been interested in the area’s history and had originally been cast as Annie Kempton’s father. After work commitments led to the original lead stepping aside, Carter was re-cast in the role of Wheeler. He said narrow-sightedness led to some of the original cast dropping out. “A few people at the start were pretty negative about it, about whether or not the play should even be done, so when (Haley) asked me I said I’d do what I could to make the play work,” said Carter. “Wheeler’s being portrayed pretty well - the way Rupert has been able to find history about it - so there’s a little doubt. It seems like he might have done it, but there could have been someone else involved. There could have been two or three scenarios, but he was the easiest one to blame.” Haley said for the most part, it’s been an enjoyable experience getting the people together to perform the play, but it might be difficult to keep all of the cast together to perform in Bear River or farther up the road in Annapolis Royal. Meanwhile, Brennan said it’s about time the story was told. “This story deserves to be told and this play brings it all to life,” said Brennan. “I think it’s a good thing to have this all reconciled in an accurate form for the people of Bear River.” The play proved to be the region’s ‘must see’ event on Oct. 25. So many people wanted to see the premiere performances of Annie Kempton, a line twisted from the theatre door, across the mezzanine and out into the parking lot. Haley completed his script earlier this year, drawing a cast of 30 people from throughout the region to bring the Bear River saga to life. For Ariel Van Tassel, a grade 11 student, playing Kempton was her first role. “I read the script and this one came out to me more than the other roles,” she said. “I hope to do more acting, if anything comes where I might find a role.” The play runs about two hours, with a
15 minute intermission, and opens with Annie and her girlfriends chatting in downtown Bear River the day before her murder. Annie is separated from the other girls as they discuss local affairs, and she tells them of a deathly dream she’s had. Peter Wheeler (Donald Carter) is introduced to the audience as he passes by the girls in the background, stopping to glance longingly at Annie, but he moves on without speaking. Annie’s forebodings and audience hints continue when she chooses to play a hymn when given the opportunity to play a tune on her piano. She then tells her more ageappropriate suitor, Harding Benson (Brycen Gunn) she’s dreamed of him being dead and wonders why she’s dreaming of death. Annie deals with Wheeler’s amorous advances in the play’s only scene where the two of them speak alone. As Wheeler attempts to draw near, Annie skilfully dodges each advance as though she’s done it many times before. “You’re a grown man, I’m just a young girl,” Annie says. “You need a wife and a home, that I know. I need friends, parties, to become a teacher so much... let us not speak of this anymore.” Under dim lighting, three actors careened through the theatre as Haley’s device to handle the reports of drunken men heard walking on the road that night. The murder is also handled in a darkened theatre as Annie is chased then caught and killed by an unidentifiable assailant. Nikki Cress turned in an extraordinary portrayal of busybody Mrs. Tamar Marshall. Hers is a name to look for in the future while little Kennedy Cottreau was hilarious as the fainting Ethel Clarke.
A noose hangs ominously in the background, but Don Carter performed admirably as Peter Wheeler in the play, Annie Kempton.
Credit: William Clarke
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HALIFAX – Marietta Laan is an attractive 18-year-old with close to 10 years in the theatre business. She’s one of the young actors getting a jumpstart into the profession through Neptune Theatre School. Marietta said she was introduced to a variety of theatre starting from the age of 10 in Wolfville, Nova Scotia as an usher at the Atlantic Theatre Festival. That was when she really began watching plays. “It's really funny actually, I used to be really shy and I hated talking in front of people, going up (in front of the class) and doing anything,” she said. “My mother saw an advertisement for Neptune Summer Camp, so without asking me first, she just signed me up for the whole summer. I hated my mother for putting me in that camp.” At that camp, the students studied musical theatre, which added singing and dancing to acting. “Theatre became my summer,” she said. “I did their musical theatre camps for three years in a row, that's where I started leaning more to musical theatre.” Marietta said the atmosphere at the camps was good for getting comfortable with other people. She said the teachers were also younger so they understood a lot of the turmoil facing the students and provided encouragement. She liked her summer experiences so much, she started taking classes in the winter season from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Her first major experience came after successfully auditioning for Neptune Theatre’s Youth Performance Company. She landed a smaller role in Bugsy Malone Junior. “The next year I auditioned again, and
we were doing Pirates of Penzance, and I got a lead role, which was the Pirate King - turned into the Pirate Queen for me and that was probably the best experience of my life,” she said. “It was so much fun. In rehearsals you drive yourself so hard when show week comes it's like you just work off of every ounce of energy you have, then feed off of the audience. Once it's over, it's a huge release, but you want to do it again.” Back in her regular high school life, she noticed a huge difference in work ethic and professionalism when she auditioned for her high school’s annual musical. Most of the time, rehearsals were done with less than a full cast as students had other commitments like sports. Marietta said she found it frustrating after here experiences with the Neptune programs. “It was a lot different from the Neptune atmosphere,” she said. “High school is such a different level than when you're working with other people who have trained for it. There was a lot less focus and people were a lot less committed.” “As an actor, if you're sick, you come and you watch and you take in feedback so the next time you have that in the back of your mind and you try it. With high school, most people don't bother to write down notes so you do things over and over and over again because nobody really applies themselves.” These days she’s in the pre-professional program at Neptune, something she says was a huge step. “We have five classes right now,” she said. “It's split into three terms and the introductory term is where we're getting back into things. We have acting and four
hours of class a week, we do warm-up exercises and we're doing some Shakespeare, learning sonnets and breaking them down which is really helpful.” She said she entered the pre-professional program to go on to study theatre in university. The program would provide the experience and confidence for university auditions. “York, Ryerson, or National- those three are my top three choices,” she said. “This is so I learn how to professionally present myself in auditioning situations because directors pick up on etiquette. There is theatre etiquette, audition etiquette, all kinds of little things that if you do them, directors pick up on that.” She has missed some of the social aspects of high school due to her theatre commitments. She said she had to give up being a cheerleader and the Youth Performance Company’s show week caused her to miss a lot of time at school. She had an important test the day following the week’s final performance – and slept in. Luckily she was able to write a makeup. She said there’s an awful lot of energy being on stage with other people having common goals and working toward them together. That’s something she says is addicting. “It's not about pretending to be someone else,” she said. “While acting you're taking little bits of yourself and applying them to other people's characteristics to form the person that you're playing - or being. Getting people to react to you the way you want them to is the best feeling ever. It feels so good because you know you're doing something right and you just want to do it again.”
Credit: William Clarke
Theatre camp launches career
That’s a wrap!
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INSIDE Next Month Atlantic Canada’s Kitchen Party The East Coast Music Awards celebrate the region’s best in music and the business of making music. Join the crew of LEAP Magazine for an inside preview from Corner Brook, Newfoundland. Out of Africa From the plantation to the White House, LEAP celebrates the region’s African heritage with a series of reports for Black History Month. A World of Romance What have you got planned for the most romantic day of the year? No problem, LEAP will host a myriad of options for your cultural romantic calendar. Preview Your high-brow guide to where to be seen in February - and where not to be caught dead! Interested in supporting local business? Click to download the PDF of affordable LEAP ad rates!