Come-All-Ye for the Time of Your Life!

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On its second year run, Come-All-Ye opened to a full house at The Mackenzie Theatre, better known as simply The MackCome-All-Ye brings together a stellar cast of five musicians and one comedian for an evening of live island music and, yes, comedy. The show runs for two full hours, possibly a bit more, since I got home really late and I’m sure I didn’t spend an hour and a half chatting with fellow-reviewer Michelle Pineau or Patrick Ledwell, the show’s sole comedian and co-creator or Acadienne singer Caroline Bernard. If I did, I certainly didn’t notice time fly, and fly it does when you’re having fun! What made the evening more entertaining was that Michelle and I were fortunate enough to be seated at the same table as the legendary veteran music radio host Eric MacEwen (the Director’s Notes misspelled it “MacEwan”) who was featured in videos presented during the show. Come-All-Ye is a multimedia show about PEI and its denizens, told through music, songs and witticisms, backed with photographs, slides and video clips that help the imagination and the mood. Except for the first time John Connolly and Patrick Ledwell used the center mike solo and the pickup was somewhat spotty—more likely because they were too tall for the mike’s position, which was rectified by the next number—the show was technically flawless. I just miss the presence of footlights or at least sidelights that would lessen the shadows on performers’ faces—which is what footlights are for.

Besides the music being an excellent representation of island music, the singers were top-of-the-line professional performers—stars in their own rights who, nonetheless, worked marvellously well together. I completely agree with Director Wade Lynch that there is so much talent on the island and to see it put together so magically is always a treat. Kudos to Music Director and performer John Connolly, who wove together a program of well-chosen songs with the right mix and mood that kept the audience clapping and stomping and singing along alternately with swaying and quietly listening to more introspective numbers.

And then there was Patrick. Most of my encounters with Patrick are of a more serious nature, although he manages to slip in some humour here and there, mostly tongue-in-cheek. The first time I saw him “at work” was when he emceed a mixer for Culture PEI. I thought he was quite the funny man there and his accompanying slides helped to emphasize the humour. This show was the first chance I had to catch him in full glory and all revved up in performance mode, bounding up the stage on his daddy-long-legs and keeping the audience charged and rolling with laughter after every two or three songs in the program. I guess the best thing about being a comedian is that you don’t really have to act and be someone else you really aren’t, and that’s just what Patrick was on stage—completely himself and at home, well, I’d say ninety-eight percent at home on stage—and only because he once in a while tripped over his own tongue or almost said something he didn’t mean to say, or seemed to be trying to recall a thing or two. Still, it was all very natural and very endearing as well as entertaining. Since he was also plugging his new book I Am An Islander, I’ll help him along and say that if the jokes in the book are as funny as the jokes he told in the show, I’m definitely buying that book and hoping he’ll sign it for me someday.

Kidding aside, Patrick Ledwell’s spiels explored various aspects of PEI, from history to geography, Charlottetown, the Acadian influence, the pros and cons of living on PEI, the Confederation Bridge and all the peculiarities of the typical islander, along with the unavoidable gibe at government. But only, in his words, “about what I know.” His penultimate spiel was a recitation of the poem “John of the Island” by his poet father Frank Ledwell, which pretty much summarized what PEI is all about. Without doubt, Come-All-Ye is the best and most entertaining way to learn as much as possible about this gentle island and its islanders. It is music and humour that will be appreciated by everyone, whether you are from here or away, as islanders would say. To quote my new friend Eric MacEwen, “it was a beautifully inventive celebratory show.” And to that, with a little intake of breath, I say “Amen!”

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365 Things to Look Forward to: Number 6 – Performing!

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6. Performing.

Okay. Let’s face it. Not everybody might look forward to performing. But really, everyone does some kind of performance at one time or another, some more often than others.

Most people think performing is just getting up on stage and acting or singing or dancing. Already, that’s 3 kinds of performances! When you’re really into it, there’s nothing like the thrill of getting ready for a performance…sure, the rehearsals might be difficult and you might be getting it perfect during rehearsals…but actually performing to an audience, live or otherwise, is a special kind of thrill. If you’re new to it, you’ll probably rehearse over and over again in front of a mirror, psych yourself into facing the audience, then experiencing that fluttery feeling in your belly, and sometimes that empty, sinking feeling when your belly feels like it’ll sink right through you to the floor. Then your hands get clammy and your throat tightens up. Sometimes you get all sweaty and it just won’t stop pouring down your face and back. That can be a very uncomfortable feeling. It’s usually called stage fright. And some people never get over stage fright.

Some people, on the other hand, take to stages like fish to water. No matter what they’re doing on stage, whether they’re performing, making an announcement, delivering a speech, they look like the perfect picture of a suave seasoned stage artist. They move into their act smoothly, maintain contact with their audience, and just get carried into it.

I know that I always wait for the response of the audience when I perform…when I hear any response, especially some kind of emotional response, I know my performance is working. And when I finally hear applause at the end, that is the sweetest most triumphant sound I glory in, because I know my performance is a success! It can get addictive, but it doesn’t mean you don’t go through that little bit of pre-performance nervousness. I know that, after all these years of acting, dancing, and speaking on a stage, I can go right up there without feeling nervous at all. Public speaking? Pooh. Folk dance? Just give me the right music. Acting? Anytime. As a student, I had joined so many spelling bees and speech contests that it has practically become second nature to me. As a teacher, on any given day, I can go up to the front, or side, or back of any classroom and get speaking on almost any topic you might give me…or at least begin a dialogue on anything, if I don’t know what I’m talking about.

I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing that I haven’t made performing my life’s calling. I’m still too self-conscious and introverted to flaunt my performance skills or offer them unless I’m asked. But those who know me and have seen me perform know what I do and can do when I am given the platform.

I think the greatest performances of my life have been in the classroom. If I could reproduce those days when I’d have a class completely attentive or rolling in laughter at what I do, I’d have had it made as a stand-up comedian. Step aside Patrick Ledwell, Cindy Lapeña is on a roll! But no, it’ll never happen because, unless I have to do it, I won’t, again I repeat, won’t volunteer. Someone will have to volunteer me. I hardly ever say no.