"An experience that I can best describe as magical. The energy unleashed when a community comes together, inspired by inclusion in a creative process is astonishing."
- Margaret Stawinoga, Pageant Choir Member
Something remarkable happened on the banks of the River Clyde in New Glasgow, PEI this past July. On July 30 and 31, in the final hours of summer daylight, almost three hundred people gathered and traveled together along the riverbank to take part in an outdoor theatre performance. Audience walked alongside stilt-walkers dressed as great blue herons and a giant trout puppet operated by 7 children, meeting a school of luminous jellyfish fashioned from transparent umbrellas, bridge-dwelling trolls, gossipy mermaids, a choir, an Acadian fisherman rowing a dory, and a Mi’kmaq drum group. Together, the performers told a story about the river they were traveling on, and about the people and wildlife whose lives and livelihoods were entwined with it. When the performance was over, everyone - audience, performers and volunteers - shared a meal on the lawn of The Mill Restaurant, as the sun set over the River Clyde.
The River Clyde Pageant was an unprecedented collaboration between artists, volunteers, and an entire community; joining together to create a magical, celebratory performance about the river at the heart of the community, and the environmental issues that affect its sustainability. The Pageant began as an act of faith but evolved into an extraordinary success thanks to generous support from the community and audiences well beyond capacity, who all expressed a strong desire to see the Pageant return to the River Clyde in 2017.
Our plan for the 2017 River Clyde Pageant is to take it further, telling a new story with new scenes and characters, while also giving our returning community collaborators increased creative opportunities. Our community workshop offerings will expand in 2017 to include a writing workshop with a professional playwright, and a music workshop with guest artists from New Orleans. We are also expanding the number of performances from 2 to 5, to enable more audiences to experience the Pageant.
The River Clyde Pageant was conceived by Ker Wells and Megan Stewart, two Island theatre artists who have been involved in similar community-based projects on PEI and elsewhere. Ker led the stilt squad for The Weather Project, a community-created performance focused on climate change, in the town of Yulan, New York. Megan started the Crow Parade in 2011 (with collaborators Jamie Shannon & Harmony Wagner), now a yearly tradition for Charlottetown’s Art in the Open, and is the co-founder of the Island Fringe Festival. Emily Wells, chef and owner of The Mill in New Glasgow, is the local liaison and organizer of the community supper that will conclude the Pageant performances.
We are seeking performers and volunteers from communities across the Island to collaborate on the making of the 2017 Pageant. We welcome anyone who wants to be involved – all ages, abilities and levels of experience. You don’t need to be a ‘performer’ or ‘artist’ by any traditional definition, but if you have an interest in building puppets and lanterns, singing in a choir or playing in a parade band, stilt-walking, playing a character, or if you are concerned about the health of Island waterways, then we have a place for you in next summer’s Pageant. Volunteers, set builders and costume makers are also needed.
Ker and Megan will direct the Pageant, with specific group leaders directing components such as puppets, stilts, and music. Public workshops will begin early June 2017. Rehearsals will occur throughout July, ramping up during the final two weeks before the performances on July 29-30 and August 4,5,6. There will also be workshops in New Glasgow and Charlottetown for puppet and lantern building and stilt walking. Rehearsals will occur on weekends and weekday evenings, and are flexible for various levels of commitment.
If you have questions or if you’d like to learn more about the Pageant and how you can be involved, send us a message via the contact page or email riverclydepageant[at]gmail[dot]com. We will send updates to potential participants throughout this year as the project develops.
Why the River Clyde?
Rivers and waterways have been the subject of much community discussion and debate on PEI in recent years, as rivers that once supported healthy fish and shellfish populations have become clogged with sea lettuce, and “anoxic events” and spontaneous “fish kills” have been dramatic indicators of serious changes in the riverine chemistry and ecosystem. It’s generally accepted that these changes are at least in part the result of decades of increasingly intensive monocrop farming, and associated pesticide, herbicide, and topsoil run-off into rivers and waterways. In recent years, as the scientific and anecdotal evidence has become more overwhelming and public recognition of effects of human activity on the environment has increased, the subject of waterway health has finally emerged into the public arena. The River Clyde Pageant is part of that emergence.
The River Clyde Pageant is not a didactic or polemical performance, but rather an inclusive and widely collaborative event that brings people from many different parts of the community together to celebrate our environment and our history; to create something thoughtful, enchanting, and fun. The free community suppers following each evening’s Pageant performance serve as an opportunity for audiences to meet the individuals involved in the Pageant’s creation and share a meal and conversation. These post-show suppers spark further discussion and storytelling related to our country’s waterways, and serve as an opportunity to propose ideas to promote environmental stewardship across generations.