Canadian content at Charlottetown Festival demanded

An online petition is pushing for all foreign content to be banned from the stage at the Confederation Centre of the Arts..

An online petition is pushing for all foreign content to be banned from the stage at the Confederation Centre of the Arts.

Nova Scotia playwright and theatre director John Brown launched the petition because he believes the centre has strayed too far from its founding mandate, which reads "celebrate....Canada's evolving nationhood by showcasing the nation's visual and performing arts and artists."

The Confederation Centre is being criticized for presenting non-Canadian shows such as Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash. (CBC)

Brown argues many of the shows presented on the Mainstage at the Charlottetown Festival over the last few years – such as Ring of Fire: the Music of Johnny Cash, Hairspray and The Full Monty – are a long way from meeting that mandate.

"The Confederation Centre of the Arts is a living monument," said Brown.

"If we treated a war memorial the way we treat this living monument I think there would be an uproar."

As a memorial to Confederation, the centre gets 35 per cent of its operating budget from Ottawa and nine provincial and territorial governments. Brown said if the Centre's not going to meet its mandate it shouldn't get that money.

But Confederation Centre CEO Jessie Inman disagrees. To begin with, she said, the criticism focuses too much on the Charlottetown Festival, ignoring the rest of what the Centre does, such as operating the art gallery, and presenting shows throughout the year.

Inman said a mandate review is underway, but she doesn't think the end result will be 100 per cent Canadian content.

"Sometimes, because we are a multicultural society, I don't think it's outside of our mandate to pick something that's written by someone else. And we might refer to Johnny Cash this year as an example," she said.

Inman also questioned how much support Brown's petition has with only nine signatures after a month online.

New Canadian musical

Even in advance of the mandate review, the centre is making a move towards more Canadian content at the Charlottetown Festival.

A new Canadian musical, written by the centre's playwright-in-residence, set in Charlottetown, is currently being workshopped. Sadie Calhoun is based on the visit of an American theatre troupe to Charlottetown in 1907.

There is still at least two years of work to do to make Sadie Calhoun ready for the stage, and no guarantee yet it will ever appear at the Charlottetown Festival.

For mobile device users: Do you think the Confederation Centre of the Arts should produce only Canadian content?