Everything’s up to date in Kansas City!

They’ve gone about as far as they could go…  Seriously, with this production.  I think they have.

Yes.  I am here in smolderin’ Kansas City where everyone teases me about (I mean… abowt) my little Canadian-isms.  I look at the weather in awe that it’ll be 37 degrees on Friday!  Which to Americans sounds like a frozen Canadian Christmas.

I am truly grateful to be here.  The staff at the theatre have been tremendously hospitable and the cast is overloaded with talent and energy.  The production value is second to none and the audiences are as enthusiastic as ever.  After logging hundreds of performances in Canada, it’s exciting to be closer to the source.  Kansas City is only a few hours from Clear Lake, IO where Buddy played his last show.

Zachary Stevenson Buddy Holly Kansas City Missouri
Taking Buddy to new heights in rehearsal

Fun fact:  When I was a shy, ninth-grader, my sister insisted I audition for the high school musical.  I fought off some serious nerves and flubbed my way through some kind of 90s grunge rock song.  Haha.  I think it was Nirvana.  Somehow some potential was revealed and I was cast as Will Parker in Oklahoma!  “Kansas City” was the first song I ever sang for a theatre audience.  Little did I know I had cut the first branch, carving a path for myself as a stage actor that has taken me all over Canada and, now, into the US.

I still recall some of the lyrics:

“I got to Kansas City on a Frid’y, by Saturday a learned a thing or two,

for up to then I didn’t have an I’dy of what the modern world was comin’ to

I counted 20 gas buggies goin’ by themselves almost everytime I took a walk.  

And then I put my ear to a Bell telephone and a strange woman started in to talk”

And I swear, it’s even more up-to-date then the song suggests 😉

Stampede Queen in Cowichan News Leader

Stampede queen targets the culture of small town B.C.

(Photo By David Cooper)

Zachary Stevenson steps away from his recent stint as Chemainus Theatre’s Buddy Holly to star in Never Shoot a Stampede Queen

An actor with roots in a small community taking his first run at a show based on a quirky small town shared on a stage in a community with that very same kind of feel.

It makes perfect sense to starring actor Zachary Stevenson.

Stevenson plays the lead role in his first performance in a three-night run of Never Shoot a Stampede Queen at the Duncan Garage Showroom starting May 3.

The former Parksville homeboy, Stevenson who now resides in Vancouver, is pretty pumped about leading this one-man show based on Mark Leiren-Young’s book and directed by TJ Dawe, and which follows rookie reporter (based on Leiren Young) tackling his first post at a small paper in Williams Lake.

Stevenson, who’s become quite accustomed to sporting cool, black-rimmed, coke-bottle glasses in his depiction of the great Buddy Holly for the Chemainus Theatre Festival Inn’s run, is now transitioning roles to a hick-town reporter.

“The crux of the story is it’s really a tale about growing up,” said Stevenson, 32. “He’s fresh out of university, in his early 20s, and he think he knows everything. He’s got it all figured out and he’s going to do some real damage in his first real job.

“It’s a comedy and it’s really quite funny actually,” said Stevenson, noting the name of the solo show is based on one of many debacles the reporter finds himself in, and that particular one him being assigned to shoot the town’s batch of Stampede Queen contestants, very much like Lake Cowichan’s Lady of the Lake contest.

“Williams Lake is known for their Stampede Queens,” explained Stevenson. “The girls there all aspire to be the queen. And it’s kind of like a joke on him when he’s assigned to shoot photos of all the girls and do profiles. It’s one of the many situations he finds himself in where he’s not quite understanding the culture.”

Stampede Queen may have its share of comical points, but the story also takes a more serious turn.

“It’s a comedy, but it does run deeper than that,” said Stevenson. “He sort of grows up a little. When he does eventually make his way back to Vancouver, he’s really become a bigger person.”

That rings bells for Stevenson.

I grew up in Parksville, so I’m a small-town kind of guy,” he said. “I live in Vancouver now and I’ve lived in Toronto as well. But I will always prefer living in a small town. That’s my eventual goal, to move back to the Island.”

The Duncan Garage Showroom couldn’t have been a better fit for Stampede Queen.

“Zachary is a rock star on Vancouver Island. I mean, he’s a rock star everywhere,” said Leiren-Young in an email. “He’s just coming off a sold out run of Buddy Holly in Chemainus, so when this came up it was pretty much perfect.

“This gives Zachary the chance to run the show before it arrives in Vancouver, but the goal of this show is to tour, a lot, especially in BC. So we’re hoping to bring the show back to Vancouver Island again soon. We’d love to bring it in for a run in Chemainus, Duncan, Victoria, one-nighters all over the island.

“This is a show about discovering rural B.C. and we all think it’s really going to hit a very special chord outside of the big cities.”

Stevenson, an accomplishes singer, song-writer, actor and multi-instrumentalist, has been skyping with with Vancouver-based writer/performer, film-maker Leiren-Young on sounding out Stampede’s script.

“It was different, that’s for sure,” Stevenson said of the preliminary phase Skype session with Leiren-Young. “Mark was really just listening to me read, and it was really about making sure the intentions, voices, meanings were right. The physical stuff comes a little bit later on.”

The Stevenson, Leiren-Young and Dawe, all Vancouver-based boys, make for a dream team, or “a force not to be reckoned with,” all having very different but at the same time similar backgrounds.

Stevenson has also starred in Urinetown, Assassins, Hair, Hanks Williams: The Show He Never Gave, and The Ballad of Phil Ochs.

Dawes is known on the scene for play Toothpaste & Cigars (co-written with Mike Rinaldi) which has recently wrapped shooting as a feature film titled The F Word, starring Harry Potter sensation Daniel Radcliffe.

He also directed and co-created The One Man Star Wars Trilogy and One Man Lord of the Rings with Charlie Ross, both of which have been touring the world since they debuted in 2002 and 2004.

Leiren-Young isn’t shy of credits either.

His resume includes plays Easy Money and The Year in Revue, as well as Shylock, which has been staged all over North America.

What: Never Shoot a Stampede Queen

Who: Starring Zachary Stevenson, Directed by TJ Dawe and written by Mark Leiren-Young

When: May 3,4, 5, nightly at 8 p.m.

Where: Duncan Garage Showroom

Why:  The island premiere of what is sure to be a hit show across the country!

Tickets: $18 advance $15 door

Buddy “Raves On” in Chemainus

Thank you to all of Vancouver Island’s fans of rock & roll who continue to pack the Chemainus Festival Theatre and enjoy the Buddy Holly Story.  The town is buzzin’ with the rockin’ and rollin’ sounds of the Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens and the great Buddy Holly.

 

 

JUST ANNOUNCED: my lastest project, a one-man show titled “Never Shoot a Stampede Queen”,  will be presented in Duncan at the Showroom Garage, on May 3, 4, and 5th before heading to the Arts Club in Vancouver.    The show is based on the book by the same title that won the 2009 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour.  Click here for ticket info for Duncan.  Or call 250-748-7246

 

From the Georgia Straight:

Never Shoot A Stampede Queen

(May 10 to 25 at the Arts Club’s Granville Island Stage)

In this stage adaptation of his book Never Shoot a Stampede Queen: A Rookie Reporter in the Cariboo, Georgia Straightcontributor Mark Leiren-Young mines the comedy from his time as a journalist at the Williams Lake Tribune.

The Draw: A trifecta of awesomeness: the book won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour in 2009; star monologist TJ Dawe acts as dramaturge and director; and Zachary Stevenson, who was the geeky, sexy lead in the Arts Club’s The Buddy Holly Story, takes on the solo performance duties.


Target Audience:
 City kids who dream of going country. This includes everybody in Vancouver who drives an SUV thinking that, one day, they might take it off-road.

For more on the book and it’s author, click HERE.  For Vancouver tickets call the Arts Club box office: 604-687-1644.

 

 

 

The Hometown Crowd!

Happy New Year!

In just one short month from now I’m proud to promote that I’ll be, once gain, reprising my role as Buddy Holly for the eighth time.  Yes, my friends, it’s BUDDY VIII.  This time I’ll be performing a run of the show as close to my hometown of Parksville as I ever have.   The Chemainus Festival Theatre will be presenting “Buddy” from Feb. 20th to April 7th.   While my parents operated an apple orchard in Parksville, my dad was commuting to Chemainus every school day to teach Chemistry at Cow(ichan) High.  I became familiar with the “Mural City” and the theatre during my childhood.  Most memorable, of course, were the trips to Billy’s Delight where I’d relish in two scoops of  gourmet Ice Cream.  I’m looking forward to spending my days off, wiping my chin clean of his famous Chocolate Peanut Butter flavour.

Have a “Holly” Jolly Christmas!

Yes, I’m a sucker for a good pun.  Every year, I get a christmas card from Buddy Holly Int.  Wishing me Happy “Holly-days”.  Very punny, very cheesy, and yet I love it.

I’m currently on tour, once again, with the Legends of Rock n’ Roll.  It is really a good time.  We each include a Christmas song in our sets.  So I’ve continued the punny tradition by performing “Holly Jolly Christmas” as my selection.

Hanging out with my friends: Kenny Wayne (Fats Domino), Larry Branson (Roy Orbison) and Ted Torres (Elvis Presley) sure is a riot.  And the crowds have been fantastic so far.  The tour is completely sold out.  We’ve played Maple Ridge, North Vancouver, Surrey and Ladner with Chilliwack, Penticton and Vernon yet to come!

 

My biggest, little fan.

Acting and performing is a rewarding but often exhausting profession.  At the end of the run of the Buddy Holly Story, my muscles protested and my brain needed new batteries.  On that particular closing night, I had picked up my girlfriend early from the airport; I had flown to Victoria and back for an emergency a day before, it was the end of a long week at the end of a long run.

After I had greeted the audience in the lobby at the CDs table as per usual, the cast gathered in the lobby for a toast and some words of congratulations.  The crew began to tear down the set and we gathered our loose ends in the dressing rooms.  Mine was particularly bad.  At my station: hair sprays and brylcream, multiple pairs of glasses, greeting cards, towels, flowers, LPs, tonnes of coins and my “little Buddy” figurine.  On top of this, I had boxes of remaining CDs and my guitar to pick up.

With arms loaded with the aforementioned articles, my gal and I seized the opportunity to flag down a taxi at first sight.  We loaded in, loaded out at my apartment and took a nap.   There was just one thing- amidst the chaos I completely forgot that Bill (director) had asked me to meet a young fan in the lobby that had brought his guitar to sign!   By the time I remembered, it was hours later and too late.  I felt horrible.

Fortunately, everyone behind the scenes at the Arts Club were happy to help me try to amend the situation.  They were able to track down a phone number.  I called and got the young lads mom, Hiromi, on the line.  We set a time to meet outside the Stanley Theatre.


Meet Lance!   Turns out, he’s my number one fan!  He saw the show back in 2010 and has been a big fan ever since.  He even got a super-cool, Fender guitar only made in Japan that looks like Buddy’s Strat, only Lance-sized!  I was finally able to put my name on it.  I tuned it up and we jammed a little of “Rave On” on the street.  They were very gracious and even made me a custom “Buddy” bottle of wine!

I recently got to enjoy the Buddy wine at a romantic dinner.   Delicious.  It prompted me to write this little thank you note to Lance and his mom.  It’s for people like you that I do what I do.  Thank you so much for your thoughtful gift and for your appreciation of my performance.  And, Lance, next time I see you – I wanna see YOU rockin’ out Rave On on that sweet guitar!

Your Buddy,

Zach

Thank you, Buddies!

Well, Buddy VII has now come and gone.  And, oh, so quickly, too.  I want to thank each and everyone who, once again, made this production so spectacular and also, all those who attended and made the performance electric with their enthusiasm.

Thank you (as pictured left to right) Bill, Caryn, Tom, Mark, Jeremy, Martin, Mat, Mark, Bob, Neil, Tim, Tom, Pattie, Henry, Sasha, Elena, Sibel, Ronaye, Heather, Mark, Alec, Joseph, Jeff, Geoff, Michael, Seana-Lee, Scott, Marlene, and Denay.  An extraordinary team!

It is truly remarkable how the music Buddy created, in his short life, has lived on and given a creative life to so many artists around the world as we tell his story and learn through his journey a little about ourselves.  I’ve made some of my closest friends, had the best collaborations and forged my fondest performance memories through Buddy.

I guess, in a strange way, I feel he’s become one my good friends.  I’m eternally grateful for the journey he started and I’ve been traveling for the past 6 years.  I’m happy to extend his life in my own way.

Thank you, Buddy.

 

Introducing… Little Buddy.

Do you remember “My Buddy” from the 80s?

Well, not to be outdone by the Microcaster I received last week, the genius Heather Turnbull, one of our magnificent crew members, hand crafted a one-of-a-kind, limited edition, “Little Buddy”!

Yes, once unveiled, demand has soared for these buddies.  Alas, there are no plans for overseas production… yet.

My Buddy and Me:

Now wherever I go.  Little Buddy goes.

 

Buddy’s final Week!

Well, it’s the final week of the Buddy Holly Story here in Vancouver and it has sure been another marvelous run!  Last week, Rick Thorne, Licensing Manager from London, UK, came and raved (on) about the production.

He even presented me with a mini, Buddy Holly replica guitar!

The Microcaster!  Thanks Rick!

 

Buddy Holly is alive and well at the Stanley Theatre

Eight shows a week (and a quick trip to see the Jays in Seattle) have kept me very busy as of late.  I figured, at very least, I could share a couple interviews I did recently.  Hope to see you at the Stanley!

Here is an appearance on Vancouver’s Urban Rush:


From the Courier, July 31st:

10 Questions: Buddy-ing actor makes Holly pilgrimage

 

Photo by Dan Toulgoet

By Michael Kissinger, Vancouver Courier

Vancouver audiences know Zachary Stevenson for his Jessie Award-nominated portrayal of Buddy Holly in the Arts Club’s crowd-pleasing Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, which returns to the Stanley this summer and runs until Aug. 26. But the local rock ’n’ roller is also a talented singer-songwriter, both as a solo artist and as a member of the band the Human Statues. Stevenson took time from his busy schedule to rave on with the Courier and discuss songwriting, eyeware and his likeness to Cee-lo Green.

1. Where does one find proper Buddy Holly glasses?

eBay! Actually, you know, it’s really tough to find really authentic Buddy glasses. They have really strong angles, which few modern dark-rimmed hipster glasses do.

2. Having played Buddy Holly and performed his songs so many times, do you feel your performance has evolved or changed?

Absolutely. When I was first cast as Buddy, I was a shaggy-haired, side-burned hippy coming off a production of Hair. I played a decent folk guitar but had never played blues or rock on an electric. I worked really hard to get it off the ground. Every production since has given me another crack to dig a little deeper and get more detailed. Also working with multiple directors and actors contribute a lot to refining the character as well. A couple of summers ago I finally went down to Lubbock, Texas; Clovis, New Mexico; and Clear Lake, Iowa to do some hands-on research and reflection on the trail of Buddy Holly, which deepened my connection with him. There’s a really cool video my sister made of the trip called “Searching for Buddy Holly” on YouTube.

3. What was it like to actually see in person the towns, recording studios and concert halls portrayed in the production and even perform a song with one of Holly’s backup singers?

Unforgettable. I had already logged over 200 performances of the Buddy Holly Story before I finally was able to head down and see some of the locations that we portray onstage. I’d spent so many hours visualizing these places that it was really surreal to actually be in the presence. It was quite emotional to actually step into that studio floor. I’m not a “spiritual” person per se. But I could really feel the presence of energy and the vibrations that Buddy and the boys had caused in those walls all those years ago.

4. How has playing Buddy Holly influenced your own songwriting?

Editing. Most of Buddy Holly’s songs are not much longer than two minutes. No self-indulgence here. Helps me to edit anything that is extraneous to the song.

5. Your recently released album Smashed Hits consists of covers of Buddy Holly songs and other early rock ’n’ roll classics, and the album art looks of that time period. What about that era of music appeals to you?

I love how exciting it was for people to hear new songs on the radio. How there was a lot of mystery about the performers. That people gathered ’round the record player and listened to music and treated it with more reverence and focus. We consume so much music now on the go and with visuals on the Internet. A lot of pop music has become a little like fast food.

6. You’ve played Phil Ochs, Hank Williams, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly on stage. Which one is the hardest to play?

Jerry Lee was. Mostly because I’m not a natural Boogie-Woogie player so it took A LOT of practice to give up to a performable level. I think I naturally share more in common, personality-wise, with the other guys, too.

7. What modern day musician do you think you’d be best suited to portray?

How ’bout Cee-lo Green? A lot of people have said I look like Chris Isaac but I’d love to be Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie (one of my fav bands).

8. Have you ever suffered any Buddy Holly-related injuries?

Haha. Just last night I sliced up my finger pretty good on a broken string.

9. What kind of music do you listen to when you’re at home?

I listen to a lot of different styles. I just bought Hey Ocean’s latest album. It’s really good.

10. I assume there are times when you must get tired of playing the same songs night after night. What is the key to warding off Buddy Holly exhaustion?

The look in an older lady’s eyes as she tells me how she couldn’t keep still during the performance and how much it meant to her to hear those songs that flooded her with memories of her youth. It reminds me of the power of music and why I love it so much. Though, I may not wake up every morning thinking “I can’t wait to play ‘Peggy Sue’ yet again tonight!” I do go to bed every night thankful I did.

mkissinger@vancourier.com

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