The world premiere of the new play Never Shoot a Stampede Queen, based on a rookie journalist’s experiences working for the Tribune in Williams Lake, opened at the Sage Brush Theatre in Kamloops last weekend and runs until May 4.
The play is based on Mark Leiren-Young’s memoir Never Shoot a Stampede Queen: A Rookie Reporter in the Cariboo.
The book won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour in 2009 and spent 16 weeks on the B.C. Bestseller’s list effectively putting Williams Lake on the curiosity travel map once again.
Leiren-Young was fresh out of the big city of Vancouver in 1985 when he landed his first reporter position with the Williams Lake Tribune.
Arriving in town his first evening Leiren-Young stopped to get gas and learned that the business had just been robbed.
To his editor’s, and fellow journalists’ amazement, Leiren-Young brought the story to work, his very first day on the job.
His stint in Williams Lake left a lasting impression as he covered stories he couldn’t have imagined and met people he couldn’t have made up.
“Williams Lake was unforgettable and the most amazing story I ever lived,” Leiren-Young, said in an interview with the Tribune this week.
“All of us want to bring this play to Williams Lake as soon as possible. Stampede 2014 would be perfect. If you’re on the Stampede Committee call us!”
The title Never Shoot a Stampede Queen is a play on words, shooting being reference to his camera, not a gun, as might be expected in this land where people often shoot their own game and need to pack a gun into the back-bush in case of encounters with unfriendly wildlife.
Leiren-Young became the focus of some Stampede supporters’ ire when his then editor published the most unflattering of the pictures he had taken of that year’s crop of Stampede Queen candidates — hence the title reference to shooting Stampede Queens.
The Kamloops production stars Ryan Beil, star of WCT’s Billy Bishop Goes to War.
“It’s pretty surreal having Ryan Beil — who is one of B.C.’s funniest actors — playing me, it’s even funnier because he’s playing all the people I met too!” Leiren-Young says.
The production is directed by famed comic monologist T.J.. Dawe.
Twenty years after Robin Nichol, now co-ordinator of the theatre program at Thompson Rivers University first suggested that he turn some of his stories of his time in Williams Lake into a one-man comedy, Leiren-Young heeded the advice of Dawe to do exactly that.
The result is an unforgettable comic memoir of a city boy learning about and learning to love life in a cowboy town.
“Laced with humour, truth and unbelievable people,” states the Prince George Free Press review of Never Shoot a Stampede Queen.
Leiren-Young says the Free Press review was by former Tribune editor Bill Phillips who read his book, but had never met him in person.
“Yep, the review quote was Bill Phillips, who wrote this amazing review talking about how we never met, but that I got it all right,” Leiren-Young says.
“The response to the book has been amazing. I’ve received fan letters from most of the people in it, former reporters at the Trib and even former Stampede Queens.”
Leiren-Young says his newest book Free Magic Secrets Revealed, is about his life in pre-Tribune times hits the stores the same day as the play opens in Kamloops.
Despite all his literary success Leiren-Young still holds a soft spot for Williams Lake and the friends he made here.
“When I arrived in Williams Lake all I wanted to do was get home to Vancouver,” Leiren-Young says.
“But when it was finally time to go I didn’t want to leave. Now I visit whenever I can.”
Tickets for the Kamloops production are available at https://tickets.kamloopslive.com/TheatreManager/1/login&event=0.
Another production of Never Shoot a Stampede Queen starring Zachary Stevenson opens May 10 at the Granville Island Stage in Vancouver.
Tickets for that production are available at www.vancouvertix.com/onstage.htm #stampedequeen.