Dinner theatre pokes fun at 'terrible Tignishers'
'We're taking a local story and laughing about it'
An original dinner theatre production in Tignish, P.E.I., is parodying an incident from the news this time last year.
Several residents of western P.E.I. had booked stays at a Charlottetown hotel last New Year's Eve, but were turned away when they arrived to check in — they were told the hotel didn't allow anyone from the West Prince region of P.E.I., which includes Tignish.
Sometimes we might not see the good news stories coming out of Tignish.— Sean Doyle
The hotel apologized on Facebook and called the incident "an indiscretion that was made by one associate."
"It's nice to poke fun at ourselves while also showing that we're not all about disrupting hotels in Charlottetown," said Sean Doyle, the president of Tignish Dinner Theatre Inc., as well as an actor. Doyle is also a teacher in western P.E.I. and is from North Cape.
"We definitely don't mean any ill will, we're taking a local story and laughing about it," he said.
Doyle performed in the popular dinner theatre productions in Tignish at Cousin's Diner for several years, in the summer and at Christmas. When the diner burned down in 2015, Doyle and some of the other performers banded together to keep the dinner theatre going, forming their own company.
The troupe writes its own original shows, where Cousin's used to contract out the scripts. They spend two to four months writing the scripts from scratch, incorporating popular music.
"It is definitely more rewarding because we have more creative control and we're able to touch on more local aspects, as we do in this upcoming production," Doyle said.
He came up with the concept for this year's show, but ran out of time (he's working on his masters of education degree) so fellow actor Danalee Lynch-Veinotte took the reins and wrote Cruisin' for Christmas in just six weeks.
'Playing up some of the Tignish characteristics'
The comedy follows Fran Sniffington aboard a Love Boat-type cruise — little do her fellow cruise ship passengers know she is with the Society of Charlottetown Hospitality Investigations into Terrible Tignishers — or S.C.H.I.T.T. — "Keeping Tignishers out of Charlottetown Hotels Since New Year's Eve, 2017," her card reads.
"We have a cruise leaving from Tignish and going down to Charlottetown, and unbeknownst to the Tignishers there's a spy from the organization from Charlottetown trying to make sure that the ship doesn't reach the docks, so we can keep the Tignishers out of the hotels," Doyle explains.
Fran takes notes about the Tignishers' "undesirable" behaviour, including their distinct dialect and penchant for nicknames.
"Just some of the characters we have — Kirk Bernard is playing kind of a tough guy, so playing up some of the Tignish characteristics for sure," Doyle said.
Is the reputation earned?
People from western P.E.I. "are passionate in whatever they do — sometimes that passion I guess might spill out in ways that people might consider undesirable," Doyle said.
Doyle sees that passion playing out in positive ways, too — the community comes together in tough times, raising money at benefits for neighbours in need, or this fall, searching for days for two local fishermen lost at sea and supporting their families.
"Sometimes if they're passionate for the wrong reasons that really gets publicized, but sometimes we might not see the good news stories coming out of Tignish," he said.
Last year's New Year's Eve hotel incident wasn't the first time people from the area have been discriminated against, Doyle said.
"I wasn't entirely surprised," Doyle said. He recalls when he was looking to rent an apartment in Charlottetown while attending UPEI a few years ago. He said the landlord was all ready to hand over the keys when he asked where they were from.
"I guess it was our mistake — when we said Tignish, he said, 'We don't rent to anybody from Tignish,' and that was the end of the deal." Doyle never did get any further explanation, he said.
'Falling in love with Tignish'
Spoiler alert: as the play progresses, the culture grows on Fran Sniffington and she "finds that she's falling in love with Tignish, and she's seeing the good aspects of it — so she has a change of heart," said Doyle.
The dinner theatre is staged at the Tignish Legion starting on Nov. 29 and has eight shows — about half of them are already sold out and the rest have limited seating available.
Most of the guests are from western P.E.I., Doyle said.
"I think they'll get a kick out of it, just because it's a local event, something that happened, and it's still kind of fresh in everybody's mind."