It’s been 22 years since Andre Sutherland Begin rediscovered his love for poetry, drama and storytelling, on route to becoming a staple in Penticton’s arts and culture scene.
He’s entertained locals with dramatic poetry recitement for the better half of the decade, following a return to English class in 2000 where he learned the works of U.K.-born poet Robert Service.
Begin’s talents haven’t been limited to those who live in Penticton and across B.C., though.
From Feb. 23 to 27, the storyteller will be in Whitehorse, Yukon, for Rendezvous 2023.
The Penticton resident — who performs under the stage name of The Man From Eldorado — has been featured at the territory’s coming-of-spring celebration since 2017.
“I just love doing this,” the 69-year-old said. “There’s something magical about it.”
Just before his return to the classroom at the turn of the millennium, Begin’s father, aunt and uncle were all diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Seventeen years later, Begin was also diagnosed with the disease.
But by then, he had already been reintroduced for his love of storytelling.
In fact, he did so while performing for patients at a Nanaimo-based Alzheimer’s treatment home.
“It was there that I saw the magic of storytelling through poetry and spoken word,” Begin said.
The performer has since shared poems at retirement homes, museums, libraries, theatres and art galleries across the province.
A member of the Storytellers of Canada, Begin has also recently appeared at Okanagan College’s Speaker Series on Shaw TV, Penticton’s Ignite the Arts Festival and the Brown Bag Lecture Series at the local museum and archives.
Treatment for Alzheimer’s in Penticton is going well, Begin said. Whether it’s in front of an audience or not, he says his poetry recitations are used as a therapeutic exercise.
When he arrives in Whitehorse later this month, The Man from Eldorado will perform 15-minute shows at the Thompson Centre, Whistle Bend and Copper Ridge Retirement homes from Feb. 24 to 26.
Along with making an appearance on the kids’ festival stage on his final day in the Yukon, he’ll also headline a show at the Raven Inn Rail Works Lounge on Feb. 25 and 26 at 6 p.m.
More information about the Yukon-hosted festival can be found here.
The Penticton storyteller will perform the works from Robert Service, his favourite poet who is known as ‘the Bard of the Yukon.’
“I memorized all of what he did when I returned to school,” Begin recalled. “Performing his poems in Yukon is something I look forward to every year.”