Canadian classic a family affair

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An Okotokian playing Matthew Cuthbert in the Canadian classic Anne of Green Gables isn’t quite in the same boat as the fictional character from PEI.

Afterall, Matthew suddenly finds himself with his only child — Anne. That’ not the case for actor Brad Fowler — he has eight children and the youngest, nine-year-old Asher, is also in the Windmill Theatre Players’ production.

Anne gave Fowler a chance to be with his son and relive some family lore.

“We had gone to PEI and saw where (Anne author) Lucy Maude Montgomery lived,” Fowler said. “It is something my kids grew up with.”

Fowler previously acted with some of his children in Dewdney Players’ Oliver.

“It’s awesome, just for them to see all the work that goes into a play,” Brad said. “This takes Asher out of his comfort zone because he has to sing, dance, act and learn stage direction. He is doing great.”

Asher got the acting bug from seeing plenty of other performances.

“I have seen a lot of plays and it looks likes it is a lot of fun,” said Asher, a Westmount School student. “I wanted to be in (Dewdney’s) Snow White, but I couldn’t get in it. When dad found out about Anne of Green Gables I wanted to be in it.”

He’s enjoying the extra dad time.

“It’s really fun acting with him,” Asher said. “I don’t think he ever makes a mistake.”

He added he looks up to not only his dad, but also looks up to older brother Joseph, who is acting in Calgary with Evergreen Theatre.

The Fowlers aren’t the only ones making Anne a family thing. There are two other Okotoks parent-child pairings in the production. Mom and daughter, Sheena and Ashlyn Johnston are experiencing life imitating art as they play Mrs. Minnie Pye and her daughter Aggie Pye, respectively.

“Ashlyn had an interest in acting and I thought she might have a chance to be in the children’s chorus,” Sheena said.

“When I came out with her, I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to act together so I auditioned with her.”

The pair did a duet for the audition.

“I feel like I have mentored her a little bit and we have had some wonderful mother-daughter time,” Sheena said. “And Ashlyn helps me with the songs.”

Her daughter loves it.

“It’s really fun to have this experience,” Ashlyn said. “I love being on the stage and performing. Sometimes I get a little scared, but it is really fun. She (mom) helps me a lot.”

She’s got a friend who helps her out.

“Ashlyn likes doing the choreography at home with Asher, they are friends,” Sheena said. “They practice together.”

Saige and mom Dianne Butler play Marie Sloane and Mrs. Sloane.

“I get to help my mom with the songs,” said 11-year-old Saige, a home-schooled student with the Centre for Learning.

“My mom is pretty experienced, I saw her do a play when I was four years old and that was when I started to love theatre.”

Okotokians will recognize Dianne Butler, she worked with North of Broadway in the past.

Anne just happened to be a good fit for the family.

“We were looking for a production that would be suitable for us to get involved with and when we saw the auditions for Windmill, we knew this would be it,” Dianne said. “It’s good for Saige to see how much work goes into a play.

“And much like the other kids in the play, she has every song memorized, every part — and Saige helps me with my music.”

Windmill Theatre last put on Anne of Green Gables 17 years ago. Lindsey Angell, a graduate of the Alberta High School of Fine Arts, and now an award-winning actor in the Vancouver theatre scene, had the lead.

Anne of Green Gables runs Nov. 23 and Dec. 2 at 7:30 p.m. Dinner theatre is Nov. 24, Nov. 25 and Nov. 30 with supper stating at 6 p.m. There are two matinees on Nov. 26 and Dec. 2 at 2 p.m.

All dinner theatre tickets are $50 with the other performances $20 and $15 for children under 13.

All shows are at the Highwood Memorial Centre in High River. For ticket information for dinner theatre call Celia at 403-652-7913 or order by e-mail: wtp@shaw.ca. For regular and matinee performances call 403-652-4404.

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