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Amy Wallis brings Charm of Anne of Green Gables to Toronto

Amy Wallis brings charm of Anne of Green Gables to Toronto

VINCENT TALOTTA/TORONTO STAR
“Mom and dad didn’t want me to go into theatre at all,” laughs Amy Wallis. But the young actor, who has already played several lead roles, is hooked. (April 28, 2009)
Director knew she had found the right one after Wallis auditioned for musical

May 02, 2009


THEATRE CRITIC
When you’ve spent the last four years of your relatively short life alternating between playing one of Disney’s most beloved heroines and one of Canada’s most revered literary figures, you might think it could turn a young lady’s head.

But, judging from a recent conversation, Amy Wallis is doing just fine in the modesty department with none of the arrogance that both her onstage prototypes – Anne Shirley and Belle – have sometimes displayed.

Wallis, 26, is currently in Toronto rehearsing with the Charlottetown Festival Company to begin her fourth season as the title character in that best known of all Canadian musicals, Anne of Green Gables. What makes this time around even more special for her is that the show is going to begin on May 7 with a run at the Elgin Theatre, courtesy of Dancap Productions.

“I’m incredibly excited to be appearing in the city that I hope to build a career in,” says Wallis. “I really want to do well here.”

The chances are that she will. The reviews from her first three summers as Anne have all been glowing – the same kind of response in her native Vancouver, where she’s starred for the past four Christmases in the Arts Club Theatre’s production of Beauty and the Beast.

This might be the time for a bit of total disclosure. I directed Wallis’s mother, Valerie Easton (who is now a noted choreographer) and my wife, Pamela, appeared on stage with her father, Ray Wallis (who has left the business for a career in financial planning), when we were all young and foolish in Vancouver, back in the 1970s. But the Ouzounians had moved East by the time Amy was born on Sept. 16, 1982.

“Mom and dad didn’t want me to go into theatre at all,” she laughs. “They tried to get me interested in sports, but all I wanted to do was perform. I would force my parents to watch me put on these long, involved plays I had created when I was only four. I was always running around doing numbers from Cats and driving them crazy.”

By this point, Wallis’s father had quit show business “cold turkey,” in his daughter’s words, and was enjoying working in the financial sector. “Dad would try to get me interested in the things he was doing,” Wallis confesses, “and I would just stare at him with drool coming down from my mouth. I was such a Broadway baby!”

But the Wallis family still held the line, making sure Amy would have something approaching a normal existence. “I got very involved in high school drama,” shares Wallis, “and so I asked my mother if I could have an agent. She said `no.’ It was okay if went to dance classes and acted in community theatre, but she wanted me to have a real life.”

Eventually she spent a few years at York University, but dropped out, feeling that “I was ready and I knew what I wanted.”

After a year on a cruise ship (“just so I could see the world”), she wound up in her old hometown and got her first professional job as Anybodys in the Arts Club Theatre production of West Side Story.

Since then, she’s kept busy across the country in various shows, but there’s no doubt in her mind that the cherry on the sundae has been playing Anne Shirley.

“I flew out to Toronto to audition for it,” she remembers, “and I had no idea how I did at first. I wanted the part so badly! I had read the books as a little girl and the first song I ever sang at a concert was `Gee, I’m Glad I’m No One Else But Me.’ I had the VHS copy of the Megan Follows TV version and I’d watched it so much over the years that the tape had literally worn out. That’s how much I loved Anne of Green Gables.”

So her heart started beating just a bit faster when director Anne Allen stopped her after her audition and asked if she was planning to stay in Toronto a few more days.

“I told her `no,'” says Wallis, “that I was flying right back home. She just looked at me and said `Oh, I’d stay around.'”

Wallis was called back several times, and when she got to her final audition she remembers thinking she had blown it because she saw Allen turn to whisper to someone during her song.

“`Oh great, I thought, `She’s talking while I’m singing!'”

What she only found out later was that the person Allen was whispering to was author Don Harron, and what she was saying was “I think we’ve finally found our Anne.”

Things are busy for Wallis right now, but what about life after Anne?

“I see myself playing as many different roles as possible. I really want to do My Fair Lady. And I’ve always hoped to be in a production of Les Miserables. I’d be anyone … even the third whore from the left!”

I wonder what Marilla would have to say about that!

GETTING PERSONAL

Q: What was the first musical you ever saw?

Marilyn Dalzell, Peterborough

A: It was a Vancouver production of Peter Pan starring Cathy Rigby and Long John Baldry. Cathy Rigby threw fairy dust on me so I went home and tried to fly. I couldn’t. I didn’t get hurt, but I was very sad.

Q: How old were you when you first came across Anne of Green Gables?

Jean-Anne Moors, Whitby

A: I think I was 9 when I first started reading one of the books. Then I learned the songs from the musical and next came the TV show on tape.

Q: Why do you think Anne of Green Gables is still so popular in Charlottetown after all these years?

Eleanor Vineberg, Halifax, N.S.

A: First of all, it’s a wonderful show, but I also think people love coming to see Anne’s story near her home.


ANNES WITH AN ‘E’

Fourteen actresses have played Anne Shirley in the Charlottetown Festival production of Anne of Green Gables since it premiered in 1965. Here’s a few:

Susan Cuthbert (1979-1980): She went on to become the first alternate for Rebecca Caine’s Christine Daae in the original Toronto production of The Phantom of the Opera, playing the role at least twice a week.

Glynis Ranney (1991-1992): Known for her soulful, wide-eyed stare and crystal-clear voice, Ranney has been seen for many years at the Shaw Festival.

Tracy Michailidis (1994-1996): One of the most serious and emotional of all Annes, Michailidis has gone on to star at Shaw and Stratford as well as theatres around North America.

Chilina Kennedy (2000-2001): The feisty, sexy Kennedy went far beyond Anne Shirley, starring as Sophie in the national tour of Mamma Mia! and is currently at Stratford, in West Side Story.

ISPEI welcomes The Anne of Green Gables and L. M. Montgomery Lexicon to the Blogroll

We are very happy to introduce The Anne of Green Gables and L. M. Montgomery Lexicon to our Blogroll.

The Lexicon has become a leading clearinghouse of Anne and Montgomery content.

If you ever wanted to explore Anne’s World and the writings of Montgomery online this is one site you don’t want to miss.

The menu includes:

  1. About the author
  2. list of e-texts
  3. bibliography
  4. flimography
  5. creation and publication
  6. locations
  7. timelines (by leading character)
  8. library
  9. recipes (scrumptious?  The names sound nice for sure.)
  10. book cover gallery ( a MUST see!)
  11. Famous fans
  12. book mentions
  13. memorabilia
  14. quizzes
  15. games
  16. and e-cards
  17. blog
  18. links to other LMM sites
  19. shop
  20. guestbook

Check it out.

‘Anne of Green Gables’ is an evergreen

COMMENTARY

The sheer vitality of L.M. Montgomery’s adventure-seeking 1908 title character is as fresh as ever at 100.

The planks that made up her bedroom wall did not fit together properly, so when she would wake up on winter mornings in an old house on Prince Edward Island, Canada, often there were snowdrifts on the floor. To keep warm while she wrote her stories, she had to curl up her legs and sit on her feet. Her secondhand typewriter lacked a “w” key.

Still she wrote. (Or “rote,” as it would have appeared in her typewritten version.) Obstacles, hardships, setbacks, impediments — they counted for nothing. Lucy Maud Montgomery, who roomed with relatives because her mother had died when she was an infant and her father left to seek his fortune elsewhere, was a small woman with a staggeringly strong will. Her imagination was a driving force that would not be denied.

When Montgomery finished her first novel, she mailed it to publisher after publisher. The rejection slips piled up like the snowdrifts in that bedroom.

And then, after more than two dozen publishers had said no, one finally said yes, and the young orphan known as Anne Shirley — don’t forget the “e” at the end of “Anne,” or she’ll let you know about it — was born into the world of readers.

“Anne of Green Gables” was published in June 1908, which means that soon it will be a century old. Yet “old” doesn’t go with the character, because if there is one thing we know about Anne, it’s that this lively, redheaded streak of exuberance, no matter her chronological age, is now and forevermore associated with youth.

Montgomery ultimately would write 24 novels, including seven more about Anne’s adventures on the ruggedly beautiful island that constitutes Canada’s smallest province. She’d also account for 530 short stories and more than 500 poems. Anne, however, was easily her most famous creation. Before Montgomery’s death in 1942 at age 67, she saw the child of her imagination — the plucky, fearless, boundary-pushing girl who was a perpetual magnet for trouble — become an international sensation. Her story was made into several movies and it inspired fan letters from around the world.

A paperback copy of any volume in the series will cost you about $5, which means that you can jump into Anne’s world for the price of a Starbucks venti latte. Trust me: After a few rollicking, helter-skelter chapters, you won’t need the caffeine anyway.

Anne has a habit of getting into “scrapes,” as her guardian, the dour Marilla, puts it. In fact, that is the chief pleasure of the Anne books: They recognize, as so many other books with young females as protagonists do not, that girls like to run and jump and get dirty and explore the woods and have adventures just as much as boys do. A century after Anne got herself tangled up in scrape after scrape, the lesson still hasn’t sunk in. The recent bestseller “The Dangerous Book for Boys” (2007) is great — but its prejudice is plain in its title. Don’t bother telling me about “The Daring Book for Girls” (2007), a thin attempt to play catch-up; all you need to know is that when USA Today reviewed the latter, the headline was: “Books for Girls Chase After the Boys.” Can’t you see Anne cringing at that?

Source: The Los Angles Times

Leisa Way – Anne of Green Gables Musical lead for 6 Years in Sweet Dreams: A Tribute to Patsy Cline

Posted By KATHLEEN HAY, STANDARD-FREEHOLDER

Posted 4 days ago

It’s a phrase you usually only get to see in big city theatres: “NEW BLOCK OF TICKETS ON-SALE!”

Such was not the case this time though when the spring show, Sweet Dreams: A Tribute to Patsy Cline, resulted in seats being snapped up faster than you could say walkin’ after midnight. Originally scheduled for a run April 22-26 and May 1-3, it sold-out so quickly four more shows have been added for May 8-10.

Starring Leisa Way (who captivated Playhouse audiences in The Love List two years ago) as the legendary country singer, she’s backed-up by the Wayward Wind Band (Bruce Ley, Dave Wilson and Michael Mulrooney) who are some of this country’s finest musicians.

Way, who was raised on country music, initially began her studies at the University of Toronto’s prestigious opera school in the early 1980s. Opera at that time, however, she explains had a rather “chi-chi” reputation and when her teachers were trying to persuade her to focus solely on that genre, her natural impulse lead her elsewhere.

“I had so many different interests,” she explained from her home in Orangeville. “I wanted to sing jazz, do musical theatre. I have a big voice, but I wasn’t so sure about opera.

“I’m a lead in musical theatre, but not in opera. Still, you wonder.”

Following her heart, she successfully auditioned for the lead in Anne of Green Gables at the Charlottetown Festival. For the six next years, she travelled the globe (including six tours to Japan) performing as the red-haired girl, including performing for the British Royal Family on three occasions.

Her other musical theatre credits are no less impressive. Leading roles in productions such as Showboat, 42nd Street, Crazy for You, Cats and Camelot, have seen her travel across North America and to 50 countries worldwide.

In 1997, she was asked to perform in Drayton Entertainment’s production of A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline. She took this show as far afield as Dubai and France where the universal appeal of the country star found ready fans everywhere.

“Originally, my greatest fear was performing the role of a real person, not an imaginary character in a play,” stated Way. “I thought, ‘If I don’t nail this, people are going to know it.’

“But there’s so little live footage of her as her career was so short.”

In fact, she continues, Cline’s career really only lasted six years, from 1957-63. Her first huge hit Walkin’ After Midnight was in 1957, then there was nothing again until 1960.

“She struggled and struggled,” says Way. “So many of her songs came out posthumously following her death in ’63.”

It was this show that gave Way the momentum to create her own tribute to the singer in Sweet Dreams: The Songs of Patsy Cline. The two-hour production is set on the eve of her final concert in Kansas City before a fatal flight home during nasty rainstorm in 1963. In it, she sings 27 of Cline’s hit songs peppered in between with dialogue to give a glimpse of the singing legend.

“I thought, ‘Why don’t I research this?'”Way said. “I started gleaning information from various books, I spoke to people who had recorded her live.

“I wanted to tell Patsy’s story.” What a story it was, she added.

During that era, said Way, there were hardly any women who were headline acts, much less any who would command a Las Vegas gig for $1,000 a night. Her husband beat her, but that wasn’t talked about. Instead, Cline was always the breadwinner in her relationships.

“She was so generous,” she She would help out other singers, like Loretta Lynn, Brenda Lee and Dottie West . . . she would give the shirt off her back, and then not be able to pay her own bills.

“She paved the way for other women. I love talking about her.”

Although known for her country stylings, Cline was all-around performer.

“Patsy was the first to have a cross-over hit to pop from country,” said Way. “She played Carnegie Hall, Las Vegas . . . she was not a country singer.

“She was a singer who could sing anything.”

Way’s own performance of numbers like Crazy, Walkin’ After Midnight, Sweet Dreams, Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey, I Fall to Pieces and others have been critically hailed as a “strong clear voice and heartfelt singing to thrill any Patsy Cline fan.”

Her staggering success portraying the legendary singer inspired Way and her band to go into the studio and recapture the magic of that live performance. The CD, Sweet Dreams: The Songs of Patsy Cline, has thrilled her fans and resulted in two European tours, as well as ones to Asia and the South Pacific.

“Everything I say in the show is something Patsy said. Performing this tribute to her is an honour. I’ve been told that within five minutes, people forget and think they are at a Patsy Cline concert. That was my goal. To take them away for two hours. What better gift do you give people?” Way said.

– – –

SWEET DREAMS:A TRIBUTE TO PATSY CLINE

WHAT:Musical theatre sensation Leisa Way takes you on a two-hour journey of the late singer’s life that’s filled with hit songs and insight into what made Patsy Cline such a special person.

WHEN:May 8 to 10, in addition to previous sold-out dates of April 22- 26 and May 1-3.

WHERE:Upper Canada Playhouse, Morrisburg.

COST:$28 (adults); $24 seniors (60 and up)/students. Groups of 10 or more are $23 per person. To book tickets, call 613-543-3713.

SHOW TIMES:May 8 and 9 at 8 p. m., plus 2 p. m. matinees on May 9 and 10.

Tourism looks promising for summer season – In this recessionary year not everything is doom and gloom for Islanders

The Guardian – Prince Edward Island’s provincial newspaper. 07/03/09
Editorial

Tourism operators, along with industry and government officials, are all brimming with optimism as they look forward to the coming 2009 tourist year on P.E.I. That outlook seems well placed despite the current economic situation facing the province. Last season was disappointing, but could have been worse. Despite the high dollar, high price of gas, and record rainfall in August, the overall decline was in the single digits. Now the price of gas has dropped significantly, the dollar in below 80 cents U.S. and a lot of big things are planned for P.E.I. this summer.

Those factors may persuade more U.S. visitors to head north. We always hear that U.S. tourism drops in an election year and that proved correct in 2008. With a new president installed, maybe his stimulus package will have the desired effect of increasing the spending and purchasing habits of Americans, and boosting the optimism for our neighbours to the south.

All things point to a strong tourism year this summer across Prince Edward Island. The 2009 Canada Summer Games, scheduled for the last two weeks of August, will attract thousands of athletes, officials, family members and spectators. There will be national media coverage and that might provide a boost heading into the fall shoulder season as well.

Old Home Week is celebrating a milestone this August with the 50th running of the Gold Cup and Saucer harness race. There is sure to be extra marketing and hype associated with the race, along with the durable provincial exhibition which underwent considerable modernization efforts in 2008.

July received a big boost earlier this week with the announcement of a major three-day country music festival in Cavendish, coming to a close at the start of the Summerside Lobster Carnival Week. Maybe music fans will stick around for some extra days to enjoy the weather and the big fair in Summerside.

The 2009 tourism marketing, media and public relations plan was unveiled Thursday in Charlottetown and was well received. The TIAPEI meeting was told that a banner year in meetings and conventions is coming up. P.E.I. is already known as Canada’s top golf destination and the airing of the Golf Channel’s Big Break Prince Edward Island next month, will be sure to draw increased interest from golfers across North America and beyond. All these developments present guaranteed opportunities to grow tourism for the province.

But it will be hard to replace the big boost that the 100th anniversary of the publication of Anne of Green Gables brought in last year. That anniversary is credited with almost single-handedly salvaging what could have been a very disappointing tourism season.

The current recession has been diagnosed as almost being the result of a false state of mind. We hear so much bad news from other parts of Canada, the U.S. and beyond, that we feel the same must be true here. But our economic indicators are much more robust and we have to think ourselves out of this rut we seem to be in. We had a strong holiday shopping season, car dealers had a big year in 2008, and good things are happening with construction and infrastructure projects.

If the good news and optimism coming out of the tourism conference can be converted into changing the mind-set of Islanders that not all is gloom and doom, then things will indeed be rosier in the days ahead.

Now, if only Mother Nature will co-operate and bring us some better weather, everything should fall into place for a banner 2009 tourism year.

[God bless America and Island optimizim.  We need both.]

Anne of Green Gables is an Evergreen

‘Anne of Green Gables’ is an evergreen
The sheer vitality of L.M. Montgomery’s adventure-seeking 1908 title character is as fresh as ever at 100.
By Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune
May 23, 2008
The planks that made up her bedroom wall did not fit together properly, so when she would wake up on winter mornings in an old house on Prince Edward Island, Canada, often there were snowdrifts on the floor. To keep warm while she wrote her stories, she had to curl up her legs and sit on her feet. Her secondhand typewriter lacked a “w” key.

Still she wrote. (Or “rote,” as it would have appeared in her typewritten version.) Obstacles, hardships, setbacks, impediments — they counted for nothing. Lucy Maud Montgomery, who roomed with relatives because her mother had died when she was an infant and her father left to seek his fortune elsewhere, was a small woman with a staggeringly strong will. Her imagination was a driving force that would not be denied.

When Montgomery finished her first novel, she mailed it to publisher after publisher. The rejection slips piled up like the snowdrifts in that bedroom.

And then, after more than two dozen publishers had said no, one finally said yes, and the young orphan known as Anne Shirley — don’t forget the “e” at the end of “Anne,” or she’ll let you know about it — was born into the world of readers.

“Anne of Green Gables” was published in June 1908, which means that soon it will be a century old. Yet “old” doesn’t go with the character, because if there is one thing we know about Anne, it’s that this lively, redheaded streak of exuberance, no matter her chronological age, is now and forevermore associated with youth.

Montgomery ultimately would write 24 novels, including seven more about Anne’s adventures on the ruggedly beautiful island that constitutes Canada’s smallest province. She’d also account for 530 short stories and more than 500 poems. Anne, however, was easily her most famous creation. Before Montgomery’s death in 1942 at age 67, she saw the child of her imagination — the plucky, fearless, boundary-pushing girl who was a perpetual magnet for trouble — become an international sensation. Her story was made into several movies and it inspired fan letters from around the world.

A paperback copy of any volume in the series will cost you about $5, which means that you can jump into Anne’s world for the price of a Starbucks venti latte. Trust me: After a few rollicking, helter-skelter chapters, you won’t need the caffeine anyway.

Anne has a habit of getting into “scrapes,” as her guardian, the dour Marilla, puts it. In fact, that is the chief pleasure of the Anne books: They recognize, as so many other books with young females as protagonists do not, that girls like to run and jump and get dirty and explore the woods and have adventures just as much as boys do. A century after Anne got herself tangled up in scrape after scrape, the lesson still hasn’t sunk in. The recent bestseller “The Dangerous Book for Boys” (2007) is great — but its prejudice is plain in its title. Don’t bother telling me about “The Daring Book for Girls” (2007), a thin attempt to play catch-up; all you need to know is that when USA Today reviewed the latter, the headline was: “Books for Girls Chase After the Boys.” Can’t you see Anne cringing at that?

Montgomery’s tales have held up well across the decades. There is a good deal of artistry in the books, but it is so seamlessly deployed that young readers likely won’t notice it — an enormous tribute to the author’s skills. There is a bright light at the center of these stories, a wholesomeness that might prove cloying were it not for the ornery, unrepentant nature of Anne’s impetuosity. She’s a rascal. And rascals captivate.

Montgomery’s life, alas, would prove to be far darker than that of her fictional creation. She was married to a minister, and his clinical depression became increasingly debilitating. For more than two decades, Montgomery hid her husband’s affliction from the world while struggling to raise their two children and keep writing her books. Burdened with unrelieved physical pain toward the end of her life, she became dependent on prescription medication. Her letters to friends, once cheerful, grew bitter.

There is no pleasing platitude to soften such a fate. Nor would Montgomery, a strong and accomplished woman brought low by circumstance, want us to waste our time in search of one. If there is a lesson to be learned from her life, it lies in a sentence from “Anne of Green Gables”: “Next to trying and winning,” Anne says, “the best thing is trying and failing.” The magic glimmers in the effort, not the outcome.

The Heartbreaking Truth About Anne’s Creator

It is hard to read about the tragic death of Lucy Maud Montgomery.  I    am grateful to Kate MacDonald and her family for sharing and helping people others to break free of stigma.
The Hearbreaking Truth About Anne’s Creator

Globe and Mail September 19, 2008

For many years, my family has kept a troubling secret. What has made things even more difficult is the fact that the person it involves was not only my grandmother, but one of Canada’s most beloved authors, Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Her most famous novel, Anne of Green Gables, is still a bestseller after 100 years. In addition to Anne, my grandmother wrote 19 other novels, personal journals and hundreds of short stories and poems. As well, she has been the subject of several biographical studies.

Despite her great success, it is known that she suffered from depression, that she was isolated, sad and filled with worry and dread for much of her life. But our family has never spoken publicly about the extent of her illness.

What has never been revealed is that L.M. Montgomery took her own life at the age of 67 through a drug overdose.

I wasn’t told the details of what happened, and I never saw the note she left, but I do know that it asked for forgiveness.

After having read the poignant Breakdown series on mental health in The Globe and Mail during the summer, I was inspired to reflect upon my own family’s history with depression.

Additionally, the recent focus on my grandmother’s creativity – this is the 100th anniversary of the publication of Anne of Green Gables, with events around the world celebrating Anne and her creator – has encouraged me to end our silence.

I have come to feel very strongly that the stigma surrounding mental illness will be forever upon us as a society until we sweep away the misconception that depression happens to other people, not us – and most certainly not to our heroes and icons.

Obviously it can happen to anyone. The public faces of such prominent Canadians as Roméo Dallaire, James Bartleman, Valerie Pringle and others who supported mental-health awareness during the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s recent publicity campaign have also had a powerful effect on me.

But, most important, the legacy of L.M. Montgomery, and my grandfather, Rev. Ewan Macdonald, and its related responsibilities and joys, are taken very seriously by my family. I spoke with them before writing this essay and we agreed that it was important for us to share our family’s story.

I never knew my grandmother. She died in 1942, before I was born. My grandfather, who also suffered from serious mental illness, died the following year. I got to know them through my father.

After my two older brothers married and left home, I had my parents all to myself for a few short years before my father, a physician at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, died in 1982. I became closer to him while I studied at the dining-room table – a time when we had a lot of conversations together. We developed a deeper connection during his last years and I am grateful for those memories of our time together.

When the last volume of The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery was published in 2004, I sobbed through it and, in fact, I couldn’t even finish it – there was such a profound sadness for me in imagining how my father must have coped with two such depressed parents.

For a young man in the prime of his life, it must have been an overwhelming responsibility. I remembered our late-night conversations and how he shared many memories, yet rarely talked about the burdens he must have felt during his young adult life.

My heart aches for my father, who was left behind to deal with the grief of losing his beloved mother. He carried the secret of the circumstances of her death and maintained the façade of a proper and well-adjusted family because of his desire to protect them and their reputation in the community.

Reading between the lines

L.M. Montgomery’s most famous character, Anne Shirley, declared, “My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes,” and readers find it one of Anne’s more endearing sayings. That particular lament has always been especially significant to me as I imagine my grandmother must have felt the same sadness at times in her life. The fictional Anne went on to happiness and a life full of love and fulfilment. My grandmother’s reality was not so positive, although she continues to inspire generations of readers with her books, which reveal her understanding of nature – both in matters of the heart and the world. Although she was a very successful author, her life was overshadowed by her depression, coping with her husband’s mental illness and the restrictions of her life as a clergyman’s wife and mother in an era when women’s roles were highly defined.

Even though I never met them, I’ve always regarded my paternal grandparents with great affection because of their influence on my father and, therefore, on me. I grew up admiring their achievements, both professional and personal, through my father’s stories and reminiscences.

My heart aches for them, as well, because I know they were part of a generation that simply did not acknowledge personal dysfunction, let alone seek help.

I have great admiration for my grandmother, for her contribution to Canadian literature and culture, her strength of character, and the love, pride and sense of responsibility she gave to my family.

I am proud of her courage, given how isolated and lonely she must have felt during certain periods of her life. I wish that her family or community had had some of the tools that are available today. I expect that most families continue to be bewildered about how to help loved ones who suffer from debilitating depression.

I hope that by writing about my grandmother now there might be less secrecy and more awareness that will ease the unnecessary suffering so many people experience as a result of such depressions.

An encouraging light

The recent Globe and Mail series certainly sheds an encouraging light on the notion of the “perfect” family, acknowledging that it may include the reality of depression and other mental illness, and suggests that the shame surrounding these subjects may be lifting.

I’ll never know if my grandmother might have been inclined to seek help if she had lived in a less judgmental era or if she had had access to supportive therapy or the medications available today. I would like to think so.

I long to tell her how I wish her family could have known how to help her and how proud we all are of her accomplishments. I also wish that, while my father was still alive, my family could have helped one another more by talking more openly about our feelings around her death. We realize now that secrecy is not the way to deal with the reality of depression and other mental-health issues.

Kate Macdonald Butler is the daughter of Stuart Macdonald, who was the youngest son of L.M. Montgomery.

Of Orphans and Grandaughters

Japan Times

Of Orphans and Granddaughters
Marking its 100th anniversary, ‘Anne of Green Gables’ still touches hearts in Japan

By ERIKO ARITA
Staff writer

When I was 10 years old, I found a book titled “Akage no An” (“Anne with Red Hair”) in a library. It was a Japanese translation of “Anne of Green Gables” written by Canadian novelist Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942) in 1908.

News photo
Common bonds: Kate Macdonald Butler meets Eri (left) and Mie Muraoka, granddaughters of translator Hanako Muraoka. ERIKO ARITA

I became absorbed in reading the novel, fascinated by the heroine Anne Shirley, a cheerful and romantic orphan girl raised by Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, middle-aged siblings. The pastoral world of Prince Edward Island on the east coast of Canada, where the story is set, seemed to me like a wonderland.

So I was excited when a granddaughter of Montgomery, Kate Macdonald Butler, came to Japan in December, the 100th anniversary year of the internationally beloved classic publication.

At an event held at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo on Dec. 4, Butler, and Eri Muraoka — granddaughter of Hanako Muraoka (1893-1968), who translated the novel into Japanese — gave presentations about the book and their grandmothers. About 200 fans of Anne attended the event.

In Butler’s speech, she said Montgomery loved her home, Prince Edward Island, with its beautiful hills, woods and shores.

“Her celebration of its beauty is the lyrical charm to her writing. In nature she found peace and spiritual fulfillment,” Butler said. Then she read aloud from the book a scene in which Anne sees a long canopy of snowy, fragrant apple tree blossoms during her first buggy drive with Matthew Cuthbert on the way to his home, Green Gables. “Oh, Mr. Cuthbert,” she whispered, “that place we came through — that white place — what was it?”

“Well now, you must mean the Avenue,” said Matthew after a few moments’ profound reflection. “It is a kind of pretty place.”

“Pretty? Oh, pretty doesn’t seem the right word to use. Nor beautiful, either. They don’t go far enough. Oh, it was wonderful—wonderful. It’s the first thing I ever saw that couldn’t be improved upon by imagination. It just satisfied me here” — she put one hand on her breast — “it made a queer funny ache and yet it was a pleasant ache. Did you ever have an ache like that, Mr. Cuthbert?”

“Well now, I just can’t recollect that I ever had.”

“I have it lots of times — whenever I see anything royally beautiful. But they shouldn’t call that lovely place the Avenue. There is no meaning in a name like that. They should call it — let me see — the White Way of Delight. Isn’t that a nice imaginative name?”

After reading, Butler and Muraoka shared memories of their grandmothers with the audience. Butler recalled her first trip to Japan in 2005, when she visited Hanako Muraoka’s house in Tokyo’s Ota Ward, where she had translated the novel.

“It was a very moving moment to sit where your grandmother translated my grandmother’s story. Did you feel like that, too?” Butler asked Eri Muraoka.

News photo
Boundless enthusiasm: A scene from “Akage no An” (“Anne with Red Hair”), based on a Japanese translation of “Anne of Green Gables,” shows Anne Shirley enjoying a buggy drive with her guardian Matthew Cuthbert. NIPPON ANIMATION CO.

“I was very moved, too,” Muraoka answered. “My grandmother wrote in the afterword of one of ‘Anne of Green Gables’ sequels, ‘If I could have met Mrs. Montgomery, we would have been bosom friends.”

Bosom friend is the words that Anne used for Diana, her closest confident, in the novel.

“Perhaps when my grandmother was translating what your grandmother expressed in her works, she found that she shared values and views on life with your grandmother,” Muraoka said. “Even though they never met, my grandmother seemed to have had spiritual ties to your grandmother.”

Butler asked Muraoka to come on her first trip to Prince Edward Island last year. Muraoka said she was touched upon seeing the places written about in the novel as well as those that related to the author’s life.

According to the Canadian Tourism Commission, more than 8,000 Japanese visited the island in 2008. The number of Japanese tourists to the island from January to October 2008 rose 70 percent from that of the previous year.

Celebrations of the centennial of Anne’s story took place last year on Prince Edward Island, as they did in Japan, home to some of her most enthusiastic fans. Anne’s popularity here has been facilitated by Muraoka’s translation, first published in 1952. Muraoka studied English literature in a girls’ school in Tokyo that had been established by Canadian missionaries.

A summary of ‘Anne of Green Gables’

By ERIKO ARITA

Anne Shirley, an 11-year-old orphan with red hair, is sent from Nova Scotia on the east coast of Canada to neighboring Prince Edward Island to live with Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert at a farm house called Green Gables. Though the middle-aged siblings were expecting a sturdy boy to help around the farm, they decide to raise the talkative and bright young girl.

While Anne has a fierce temper and tumbles into one scrape after another, Marilla and Matthew come to love the imaginative girl who just wants to find a home. She builds friendships with local people such as Diana Barry, whom she calls her “bosom friend.”

Anne finds plenty of adventures in the quiet community of Avonlea. At school, she hits her classmate Gilbert Blythe with her writing slate after he teases her about her red hair, calling her “carrots.” Provoked by another classmate, Anne climbs up on the roof of Diana’s house, promptly falling off and breaking her ankle.

But she works hard at school and home while enjoying the beautiful nature of the island. As years pass and Anne grows up to become an intelligent young lady, she succeeds in entering Queen’s Academy, a teachers school on the island, and Marilla, a strict and stubborn woman, learns to honestly express her love for Anne.

Anne receives the highest mark in English literature at the academy, for which she is given a scholarship to study at a college. When Matthew suddenly dies, though, Anne decides to stay with Marilla and teach at a local school. Seven sequels by Montgomery follow the continuing adventures in Anne’s life.

One of Muraoka’s friends, the missionary Loretta Leonard Shaw, gave “Anne of Green Gables” to Muraoka in 1939, according to “An no Yurikago” (“Anne’s Cradle”), the biography of Muraoka written by her granddaughter. It was shortly before the outbreak of World War II, and Shaw, being from Canada, was forced to leave the country. Before she did, though, she asked Muraoka to introduce the novel to Japanese girls by translating it when peace returned.

Muraoka went ahead with translating the novel soon after, according to the biography. When the U.S. Air Force in April 1945 bombed southern Tokyo, where Muraoka was living, she held the novel and her manuscripts of Japanese translation in her arms, dashing into the air-raid shelter in her garden. She and the translation narrowly survived the bombing.

Soon after, her Japanese translation of “Anne of Green Gables” was published in 1952, and the book became a best-seller. More than 1 million copies of the novel have been sold to this day, according to Shinchosha Publishing Co.

The story has also been adapted for the stage. The Shiki Theatre Company has performed a musical about Anne around 500 times since April 1980. The show is a Japanese version of the musical that has been staged on the Prince Edward Island since 1965.

“The success of the musical here comes from the supreme popularity of the book,” said Takaho Nishimura, spokesperson for the theater company.

Perhaps the most Japanese interpretation of Anne is an animation. Produced by Nippon Animation, the cartoon series of “Anne of Green Gables” was first screened in January 1979 and has been re-broadcast on TV, CS or BS channels for around 10 years. To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the series this year, Nippon Animation will broadcast a new version from April.

Titled “Konnichiwa An” (“Hello Anne”), it is based on “Before Green Gables,” which Canadian novelist Budge Wilson wrote as a story detailing Anne’s life before her arrival at Green Gables. The book was published by Penguin Group in the United States and Canada in February, and the Japanese translation was published by Shinchosha Publishing in July.

Setsuko Iwasaki of Nippon Animation said the company staff were very much interested in “Anne before Green Gables” as the prequel of the best-seller. “Konnichiwa An” narrates 11 years of Anne’s life before she meets Matthew and Marilla, Iwasaki said in the e-mail.

“While Anne has a tough life of poverty and labor under her foster parents, by developing her imagination, she never loses hope. The story depicts the start of the life of Anne Shirley, who is always positive and has rich emotions,” she said.

An exhibition on Anne has also been held here. The “Anne of Green Gables Exhibition,” which visited five cities throughout 2008 and continued up until Jan. 12, has attracted some 170,000 people, according to organizers. The exhibition, which includes the manuscript of an “Anne” sequels by Montgomery and a Japanese manuscript by Muraoka, will travel to Sendai and Kumamoto Prefecture in March.

Though the centennial of the novel is now over, the boom in anything Anne- related in Japan should continue throughout this year, and probably for much, much longer.

Published in: on January 23, 2009 at 12:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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Welcome to our new community outlet.

Island Spirit PEI is an Anne of Green Gables shop.   We offer the best selection of Anne items online and are slowly updating our pictures and making videos that will be posted on this blog along with news, views and events from around Avonlea.

We hope to provide quality information and resources to our kindred spirits with this blog.  We would really appreciate your feedback on what you would like to see and learn about.

We are currently working on video.  Youtube and interactive.

A Kindred Spirit,

Jason