Peter Pacey (1979)
Daily Gleaner - Thursday June 27, 2013
Photo by Ryan O’Toole
Crazy days: the Calithumpians will be presenting a daily show in officers Square. In the back row, from left, are: Peter Pacey, Will Pacey, ashley Goodine, Kevin belyea, Samm Phillips, annie Sherry, Matthew leblanc, Michael Sinclaire, Jack ball and Seger Dow. Kneeling in the front row, from left, are: Robbie lynn, Julia Kennedy, Kristen McFawn and Jill McCurdy.
Fredericton Outdoor Summer Theatre brings the city and our history to life from Canada Day through Labour Day
By LORI GALLAGHER
Theatre in the great outdoors has become a staple in Fredericton thanks to the talents of the Fencibles and the Calithumpians.
The two are part of Fredericton Outdoor Summer Theatre, the group that brings locals and tourists everything from Haunted Hikes and theatre in Officers Square to events at the Guard House and tours of the downtown.
“We’ve got a neat group of kids this year,” says Peter Pacey, the founder and producer of Fredericton Outdoor Summer Theatre. “They’re so multitalented.”
Each year, the Calithumpians perform a round of four shows in Officers Square. They can be found there daily between Canada Day and Labour Day, with shows at 12:15 p.m. weekdays and 2 p.m. on the weekends.
“What I do is I come up with the ideas for the show and give some kind of content or box for the kids to kind of work within, and then I work with them to think about the messages we want to have, then set them and their imaginations free,” says Pacey. “They write their own material with me as an editorial kind of person.” His role in the company is the producer and this year, his son, Will Pacey, is taking on the role of director.
“Will’s been with the company for seven years,” he says. “He’s keeping them on the straight and narrow and helping them as they develop the shows.”
The first main show, which opens on Canada Day, is Canada’s Great Street Theatre!, a tribute to Queen Street. In 2012, Queen Street was named the Great Street of Canada by popular vote and a panel of city planners.
“There are so many neat things about Queen Street, so we’re having fun with that,” says Pacey. “We have such a wonderful city and so many people take it for granted.”
The other big show featuring the full cast is called Every Litter Bit. It’s an anti-litter campaign.
“We can stop this. If everyone does his or her little bit then we can eradicate the litter problem,” he says. “We’re asking people to think twice before they do it.”
They’d like people to not only stop littering, but to pick up litter when they see it.
“We implore our audiences to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem,” he says.
Typically the weekend shows are historical, says Pacey, and this year is no different, with two creative shows celebrating our fascinating past.
“We’re partnering with Maugerville 250,” he says, on Staging Maugerville, a show celebrating 250 years of Maugerville and Sheffield.
In 1763 the New England Planters established the first English settlement on the St. John River and the troupe is celebrating 250 years of this resilient community.
“We’ll be doing that show in the park all summer, and we’ll probably go down and do that a couple of times for them in the community,” he says. “That’s going to be fun.”
The final show in Officers Square is Mammy!, a tribute to Mammy Hopkins.
“Mammy was a heroine of the 104th Regiment of Foot and her life story reads like an epic adventure tale as she was a participant in famous battles of the Revolutionary War, and was a refugee among the Loyalists founders of New Brunswick,” says Pacey. “It will be our wrap-up of the War of 1812 stuff.”
Hopkins had 22 kids, outlasted three husbands and six of her family were in the 104th.
“The reason we know so much about her is at the time the 104th was disbanded, some people put forth a memorial to petition the crown to give this woman a pension. She in fact got a pension of 100 pounds until she died,” he says. “It’s a really neat story. She was nicknamed Mammy by the regiment, she was kind of the mother of all soldiers, and she had this amazing life.”
If that’s not enough theatre for you, head over to the Guard House on Carleton Street, where the Fencibles doing everything from A Day in a Soldier’s Life to city tours. And, every day at 4:30 p.m., they’ll be performing The Incredible Feats of the Foot. This is the saga of New Brunswick’s 104th Regiment and the soldiers’ return to establish their homes on grants of land in the military settlements on the St. John River.
Pacey notes there are three parts to their operation, the third being the week-long drama camps.
“It’s a neat formula we’ve developed over many years. The counsellors help the kids write their own play and at the end of the week they perform it in front of family and friends and the public,” he says.
The topic of the shows this year, like last, is the environment.
“They get to see how things work behind the scenes with the Calithumpians and they also have workshops with pairs of the troupe from the park who come in and do sessions on dance and singing and improv and so one,” says Pacey.
The camps are a lot of fun and they’re welcoming to all. A neat part of the drama camps that has grown and developed over the past few years is the scholarship program.
“This is a program that was started a couple of years ago and we got a bunch of scholarships for kids to attend camp,” says Pacey. “These are underprivileged kids who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend.”
The kids are nominated by teachers and various non-profit organizations around town, and the scholarships are provided by local businesses.
Fredericton Outdoor Summer Theatre and all it includes is made possible thanks to support from the community and all three levels of government, he says, resulting in great summer jobs for a talented groups of kids each year.
“We’re giving them an opportunity to learn about the local area and develop a lot of skills that serve them well in their future,” he says.
Some of these kids go on to careers in the performing arts, but even those who go into unrelated fields have said they find the skills helpful.
“It’s so much fun to do this,” says Pacey. “I love how the city has embraced us … and I want more people to know about what we do, because I want more people to come down and get these positive messages.”
He invites everyone to come out and experience it for themselves.
Fredericton Outdoor Summer Theatre kicks off on Canada Day, Monday, July 1. To learn more, visit calithumpians.com, check them out on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.