How not doing Anne of Green Gables opens up new artistic possibilities for the Charlottetown Festival |  CBC News

How not doing Anne of Green Gables opens up new artistic possibilities for the Charlottetown Festival | CBC News

Anne of Green Gables — The Musicala staple of the Charlottetown festival for more than 50 years, it will only be produced every other year from now on, it will not be produced next year.

This was announced by the Confederation Center of the Arts on Thursday morning.

The production based on the young heroine of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s beloved novels holds the world record for the longest-running seasonal musical.

The festival was played every summer between 1965 and 2019, but was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. After a two-year break, she returned to the Confederation Center in 2022.

Charlottetown Festival Artistic Director Adam Brazier said the pandemic provided time to rework.

“It forced us to look inside,” Brazier said.

“What is our purpose as an arts center? What is our purpose as a non-profit charitable arts organization and what is our responsibility in that?”

The bottom line was that the center needed to sponsor more new work, and Anne was holding this back to some extent, and not just because it took up space on the main stage every summer.

While Anne of Green Gables — the musical is a masterpiece of its time, Brazier said, has limited the kinds of shows the festival can present. The Confederation Center hires a company of 27 actors, crew and musicians, and any other show the festival presents must work with that group.

“Every show we’ve done goes through Avonlea, and some shows don’t go through Avonlea well,” Brazier said.

“Part of the creativity of being an art director here, and all of my predecessors, is creating or finding pieces that can go through Avonlea.”

The creators of new musicals don’t write like they did in the 1960s, he says, which means that staging these musicals sometimes requires a different kind of company.

New Canadian works

Ticket sales were not a factor in the decision, Confederation Center CEO Steve Bellamy said.

As an annual production, ticket sales for Anne sometimes lagged, although it did well in 2022.

“The fundamental change is to create space for new shows, new work and new voices. That’s the whole idea. That’s what’s behind it,” Bellamy said.

“It’s important for an institution like this to continually contribute to the creation of new Canadian work, and this is a way to do that.”

As a charitable arts organization, ticket sales are just one source of revenue for the center, he said. Money also comes from the government, donors and corporate sponsors. Ticket sales cover about one-third of the cost of the shows they do, and Anne is no exception. This decision is part of the fulfillment of the center’s obligations towards other contributors.

The main show for 2023 will be the world premiere of a new Canadian musical. Brazier said his plan is to continue that pattern, with Anne as the main star one year and world premiere the next.

Anne in other scenes

When there is no production Anne at the Charlottetown Arts Center, rights will be available to additional productions, schools and non-professional community groups in alternate years under the terms of a renegotiated rights agreement.

Brazier said he believes opening productions to schools and community theaters will increase interest in the show.

“This gives young people an opportunity to explore this incredible masterpiece,” Brazier said.

“I believe it will bring another generation into the story again.”

Adam Brazier looks forward to working with creators across Canada to create new musicals. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Kelly Harron, daughter of the musical’s co-creator, Don Harron, is excited about opening up opportunities for new companies to present the show.

“The pandemic has given us an opportunity to imagine how we can share the magic of Anne and Avonlea,” Harron said in a press release.

“Making the musical available will help inspire a new generation of theater artists and patrons,”

The show will next be performed on the Charlottetown Main Stage in 2024, coinciding with Montgomery’s birth 150 years earlier, in 1874.

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