Steve O’Connell plays the Whale Man

Between Breaths

Play inspired by the true story of Dr. Jon Lien

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The Charlottetown Festival returns June 3 at Confederation Centre of the Arts with the Island premiere of Between Breaths, presented by Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland. The poignant play kicks off The 2021 Charlottetown Festival, which will present four musicals between June and September.

Inspired by the true story of Dr. Jon Lien, known as the Whale Man, Between Breaths sails through Dr. Jon’s career and the death-defying work of saving whales trapped in fishing nets off Newfoundland.

“I have always been drawn to true stories in the theatre,”offers Artistic Director Adam Brazier. “Experiencing real life stories on stage connects me to our past while demanding creativity from both the storytellers and the audience. Between Breaths reminds us how small we are and the immense influence we can have.”

This poignant memory play begins late in Dr. Jon’s life and moves backwards, to his first whale intervention. With his head down in freezing waters and armed only with a snorkel and knife, Dr. Jon would go on to save the lives of over 500 animals and earn the hard-won respect of Newfoundland’s fishers. Featuring a live score from The Once, Between Breaths weaves dynamically from the Whale Man’s origins in the American mid-west, throughout his incredible career, right up to the biggest fight of his life—facing dementia in his later years.

Directed by Jillian Keiley (Artistic Director of the National Arts Centre) Between Breaths plays June 3 to 19 in the Mainstage Theatre.

The play features an ensemble of Newfoundland-based actors and musicians: Steve O’Connell as Dr. Jon Lien; Bernardine Stapleton as wife and caregiver, Judy Lien; and Darryl Hopkins as Wayne the Fisher, and other roles; Andrew Laite (vocals/guitar); Kelly McMichael (vocals); and Josh Sandu (mandolin/bodhran/vocals).

Festival tickets can be purchased online at, by phone at 1-800-565-0278, or in person at the Centre’s box office. This show contains occasional strong language.

Shows will be presented with no intermission and concessions are to be ordered online in advance.