I feel pretty fortunate to have met some gosh darn cool, interesting and talented people in my life, many of whom I am happy to call friends. And you know I find nothing sexier than an interesting and creative mind, attached to a big heart. One such sexy beast in my life is Mark Leiren Young, whom if you have been following the arts media in Vancouver as of late, you’ll know has been up to some pretty cool things. You see Mark has just released his latest memoir, Free Magic Secrets Revealed, on his late teens (more on that later, as I only just began titillating the synapses with it earlier on this flight – yes, I am writing this from several thousand feet above the Earth) and had the play based on his first memoir, Never Shoot a Stampede Queen hit the Granville Island Stage at the Arts Club this past week!
I have been fortunate to attend the play (about Mark’s experience writing for a small town paper in Williams Lake in his early 20s) on a couple of occasions, along with a couple of the post-Show Talk Backs, each of which have been a different experience, and have allowed me to take in different things. Now I imagine this play is a very different experience for everyone that sees it, depending on their relationship with the content – whether seeing it:
- with fresh, green eyes,
- as a fan of the book,
- having lived in Williams Lake,
- having lived in another small town,
- having worked as a reporter,
- knowing Mark,
- being a fan of Zach’s (the one man show – and star of the Buddy Holly Story) … etc.
You get a little nibble of these different perspectives during the Talk Backs, which I find most interesting, as they are always so very different, depending on that night’s audience’s connection to the story … always bringing out new stories from Mark, TJ Dawe (the director & dramaturge) and Zach Stevenson.
For me, I watched with the perspective of a close friend and one time housemate of Mark’s, and as a fan of the novel, Never Shoot a Stampede Queen. I laughed as saw so many little Mark-ism that TJ and Zach had put into their portrayal of this much younger version of the Mark I know and love, from the black jeans, to his slightly awkward and adorable mannerism around women he finds attractive, to nerding to his comic book icons (something that I think only Mark would do in a red neck town, like Williams Lake) to his extreme coke obsession. I still remember coming downstairs to the living room, after Mark had pulled one of his many late nighters on a deadline, to find the couch cushions stuffed with his coke empties and junk food bags. I was fascinated to see how TJ had dramaturged the story to better suit it to the stage, and like any good Canadian that has wandered from the city to the wilder side of our country, I smiled knowingly at the array of characters, both in how Mark perceived them and in how they perceived Mark. Fondly remember a few such small town British Columbia days in my past.
So needless to say I enjoyed the story each time. Zach’s performance, however, was much better on my second visit to the play. You see I first saw it on Opening Night, when the technical crew botched the sound effects, throwing Zach’s performance off, and understandably so. Ironic, given the content of Mark’s latest memoir, although it might still be too early for that chuckle. When I finally saw Zach play the role, of not only Mark, but at least 10 other characters, and transition from each so effortlessly and believably, I saw why this man has such a fan following. He was brilliant, and as a one man show made this production way more enjoyable then watching 10 other actors on stage with him, although there certainly were 10 other characters on stage with him. Bravo Zach!
So do I recommend you catch Never Shoot a Stampede before it closes in Vancouver on May 25th, 2013? Absolutely – it is a must see this week. Witty, charming and cleverly done. Am I saying this because Mark is a good friend of mine? I don’t think so, as I honestly enjoyed the play and talk backs more and more with each subsequent time I attended, and started to appreciate all the brilliance that TJ and Zach had put into it, making it their own too, aside from simply relishing in the moments that a friend can’t help but laugh at.