Local playwright recipient of the 2021 PECAC’s Artist Fund grant

Conrad Beaubien, local playwright, is the recipient of the 2021 Prince Edward County Arts Council's Public Arts grant with his dramatic reading of 'The Boxcar Cowboy'. (Desirée Decoste/Gazette staff)




The Prince Edward County Arts Council (PECAC) announced local artist, playwright and director Conrad Beaubien has been selected as the 2021 recipient of their Public Art grant with his dramatic reading of ‘The Boxcar Cowboy’.

The grant program provides artist fees towards the realization of public art projects, and is supported through the Arts Council’s Artist Fund. Beyond supporting and encouraging local artists in their work, the program also aims to bring creativity to public spaces and contribute to the community’s sense of belonging.  

“This has been something in the works for quite a while,” Beaubien stated to The Gazette. “I always have plays, sort of like buns rising, like dough rising in the oven. My idea is not to try to recount this play date-for-date as any kind of a historical context but most of my work is impressionistic and I attempted here to create a sort of impression of time and an impression of the emotional and sociological parts that sort of always come together in times of family separations and coming together.”

Beaubien is using the $1,500 grant to write and stage the dramatic reading of “The Boxcar Cowboy”, his new one-act play based on a true story.

The performance tells the story of a local Hillier boy who, one morning before his 16th birthday and at the time of the Great Depression, hides away in a rail freight car and travels the country east to west for thirty years afterward, living the life of a drifter.

He returned to Prince Edward County only once. The performance is directed by John Burns and features actors Lisa Messina, David Miller & Micheline Cox, with music by Nicholas Peat and lighting by Phil Dowling. 

“Conrad is the first playwright, and ‘The Boxcar Cowboy’ the first public performance piece, to be awarded a grant through our Public Art program,” said Janna Smith, Executive Director of PECAC. “We found his unique, place-based approach compelling, and were encouraged by the project’s potential to help connect the audience to an aspect of our region’s history”  

The 45-minute performance will take place on Saturday, November 13th at 7 p.m. Following in the ‘open air theatre’ tradition, it will be held outdoors at the Garden Wall Performance Space (24 Station Road in Hillier). Audience members are advised to dress warmly and bring their own chair; a hot beverage will be provided. Admission is free, and advance reservations are not required. Covid-19 public health protocols will be in effect. The rain date is Sunday, November 14th at 7 p.m.

“Storytelling is embedded within humanity,” Beaubien noted. “Where opportunities exist to recount real life experiences of people, both local and broader audiences gain an understanding of the stuff that underpins a community’s past. On this occasion, audiences share the ground where the story is rooted”. 

Past Public Art Grant recipients include the Department of Illumination for ICE BOX interactive art installations (2018) and their virtual Boxtopia activity (2020), Danielle Reddick for the creation of the wire sculpture soldier located in Glenwood Cemetery (2019), and Nella Casson for the “Looking Out, Looking Up” installation in the Books & Company storefront (2020).

“I am proud of the work,” expressed Beaubien. “We’ve worked very hard through the readings and this grant has given me some guidance to be able to sharpen it, what this allows me as the next step beyond here is, its a free event, anyone can attend but I will be looking for feedback, audience feedback. There will be those locally that perhaps because I have dramatized it feel that maybe I missed a few of the details which not everything can be put in.”

The Arts Council’s grant programs are funded through its Artist Fund. Established in 2017, the fund has awarded more than $16,000 in grants to support local artists – including visual artists, dancers, actors, and cinematographers – in their community-based and career development pursuits. 

For more information on the event please email info@walkingwiththunder.com.

To learn more about ongoing programs and/or to make a donation to PECAC’s Artist Fund and other programming please visit http://countyarts.ca