Charlottetown Summer Festival
The Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown, built in 1964 to commemorate the centenary of the CHARLOTTETOWN CONFERENCE (1864), was the inspiration behind the 1965 founding of the Charlottetown Summer Festival. A summer festival of Canadian performers organized by James Mavor MOORE to celebrate the opening of the centre was so successful that Moore was retained as the first artistic director of an annual event dedicated to the encouragement of Canadian writers and performers.
In its first season, under Moore's artistic direction, the festival staged 4 shows and premiered ANNE OF GREEN GABLES the musical, written by Don HARRON, Norman CAMPBELL, and Moore. The festival has also premiered more than 80 other productions, including Johnny Belinda (1968), Ye Gods! (1984) and Canada Rocks! The Hits Musical Revue (2005).
Besides Moore (1965-67), the festival has had 6 other artistic directors: Alan Lund (1968- 86, under whose stewardship the festival began to produce only Canadian musicals and became the cornerstone of PEI's tourism industry), Walter Learning (1987-91), Jacques Lemay (1992-97), Kim Ladman (2001), Duncan McIntosh (2002-03) and Anne Allen (2004-present). The festival was also directed by executive director Curtis Barlowe (1997-2001).
As well as its mainstage productions, the festival has run shows at the Mack, formerly The David Mackenzie Building Theatre, since 1977. The Mack, a cabaret-style theatre, has housed successful productions such as The Ballad of Stompin' Tom Connors. The festival uses the Studio Theatre to house smaller productions such as its various children's shows in the past and, more recently, Salt-Water Moon (2007).
While Anne of Green Gables has run every year since the beginning, the festival has also developed a variety of other programming features, such as its Young Company, which officially began in 1993. The Young Company serves as a training program for young musical theatre performers from across Canada. The company began its current existence performing Spirit of the Nation, the show previously performed by LES FEUX FOLLETS. In 1969, Alan Lund took a new Feux Follets production to Expo 70 in Osaka. As part of the following season, Les Feux Follets became a part of the festival, and remained a part of it for the next decade. The Young Company provides quality free outdoor theatre during the festival's season.
Along with the Young Company, the festival's other educational initiative is the Maude Whitmore Concert, which raises funds for scholarships that are awarded to young members of the festival company who are pursuing further education in the performing arts.
While based in Charlottetown, the festival has toured Anne at various times in its history. The musical was produced in London (1969), on Broadway (1972) and in Toronto (1979). It made 3 national tours (1967, 1974, 1981) and was featured at Expo 70 in Japan and EXPO 86 in Vancouver. In 1991, Anne travelled to Japan as part of the Great Canada 1991 Arts Festival that marked the opening of the new Canadian Embassy, with performances in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima. The festival brought Anne, in conjunction with Dancap Productions, to Toronto for a run in the spring of 2009.
As with most theatre festivals in Canada, the Charlottetown Festival has had its periods of success and of struggle. By 1991 the festival was $3 million in debt and had lost its $175 000 CANADA COUNCIL grant. While a joint federal-provincial arrangement wiped out the debt, declining audience attendance added to the financial problems. However, 2007 and 2008 were 2 of the most successful years in the festival's history and have eliminated all of its debt. As a result the festival is poised to continue producing quality musical theatre for audiences for years to come.
See also, FESTIVAL THEATRE and MUSICAL THEATRE.