Introducing Diane Barnes: Confederation Centre Playwright-in-ResidenceSeptember 10, 2012
(Charlottetown) - Confederation Centre of the Arts is very pleased to introduce its 2012 Playwright-in-Residence, Diane Barnes. Barnes is a Charlottetown-based writer and producer for stage and screen. She carries a strong background in film and history, best known for Circle of Justice, a documentary she wrote and produced about the healing journeys of Aboriginal offenders in a penitentiary, which screened on CBC and at many festivals in the mid 2000's.
As playwright-in-residence, Diane has been working out of Confederation Centre on her own original full-length musical, Sadie Calhoun. The play is based on a true story of an actress from the southern states who toured Canada with her theatre company in the early 1900's. For several nights in 1907, Sadie Calhoun performed her play at Charlottetown's Opera House on Queen Street to sell-out crowds of over 1000 people each night. Newspaper reviews were extraordinary and it was in discovering these stories recently that Barnes was inspired to write a musical about Sadie Calhoun and her impact on P.E.I.
"Sadie Calhoun was a woman ahead of her time, a truly empowering force," says Barnes. "This is a dream come true to be bringing her story to life within the fostering environment of The Charlottetown Festival.
Wade Lynch, The Centre's associate artistic director, has supported key development of the project as both consultant and workshop director and funding is provided in part by the Prince Edward Island Council of the Arts.
"What appeals to me are the facts that Sadie was a real person who actually performed in Charlottetown," states Lynch. "She was a successful, independent woman and a contemporary of Lucy Maud Montgomery. She also actively opposed bigotry by working with black artists. The play that Diane is crafting incorporates all of those features and is still a funny, engaging, sexy and original musical."
Barnes is honoured to be also working on elements of the project with David Warrack - a giant in Canadian musical theatre with connections to The Centre. Warrack's original musical, Windsor, was part of the Charlottetown Festival in 1978 and he was musical director for Don Harron's show, The Udders in 2009.
"I applaud the Festival team for having the courage to support the development of new theatre projects and strongly believe we can bring all the elements together to make this a must-see musical experience someday," says Warrack.
Last month, Lynch and Barnes led the first of two Sadie development workshops that featured members of the Charlottetown Festival cast, including Lisa Kisch, Jake Simons, Tim Koetting, Tess Benger, and Ian Cheverie. This process is continuing this month with additional seminars and workshops.
"The Sadie Calhoun musical is a wonderful fit to be fostered within Confederation Centre and is consistent with their cultural and artistic tradition," says Barnes. "Sadie Calhoun embraces heritage through its use of real places and people and brings yesterday Charlottetown into today with its contemporary themes and incorporation of modern innovations such as projection and other special effects."
For more information on the playwright-in-residence program please visit charlottetownfestival.com/playwrightinresdience.
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Confederation Centre Playwright-in-Residence, Diane Barnes is currently work-shopping and developing her original musical, Sadie Calhoun (Louise Vessey photo).
Fraser McCallum, Communications Manager, Confederation Centre of the Arts
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