Photo by Kevin Clark, Kevin Clark Studios
Richmond’s Shelby Wyminga, is working this season as an apprentice at Pacific Theatre, where she plays two roles in the upcoming production of “A Prayer for Owen Meany.”
“I play one of Owen Meany’s classmates. There’s a group of us who play the children in his class and see him being as a bit of an oddball. They are both fascinated with and don’t know what to make of him at the same time.”
Simon Bent’s adaptation, like John Irvings’s book upon which the play is based, spans two countries and many decades but is set mainly in the American1960s, a time when the US was at war with many young men dying.
“Then, at at the end, I come in as the grieving sister of a boy killed in Vietnam,” says the recent Trinity Western University grad.
And the play itself, “It’s about faith and doubt,” Wyminga says.
“It’s been really cool to go from just reading the script to seeing how it takes life in the rehearsal hall,” she says.
Calling the play, a pretty relatable story, Wyminga says “A Prayer for Owen Meany” will challenge people who do not usually go to theatre because, “It’s not given straight to you like on TV where the camera angles and lighting tell you what’s important to the plot. “
“It’s like a mystery book. There are little clues as to what’s happening; Owen has visions, premonitions, of what he thinks going to happen,” Wyminga says.
Asked to whom this play would appeal, she says, “Anyone with a background in any kind of spiritual practices whether they are still involved or not.”
She adds, “Anybody who’s read the book because it’s a really common one for people to read in book clubs and one people read in school. It’s such a well-known piece. People who are literary-minded are really, really excited for it.”
And, as with most of John Irving’s novels, she says, “It’s not until the end, when you see this stream of seemingly unrelated events, that you see his fate and his purpose.”
Wyminga says that it all eventually becomes clear, “Through the lines that we are weaving together. For people not used to seeing plays like this, it will be fun to experience this puzzle-making. For people used to seeing things that are a little more unconventional, this will appeal to them as well.”
One thing that stands out about Pacific Theatre is the intimate nature of their productions. The space is an alley theatre, with the stage at the lower level with seats up either side of the stage. It means you are close to the action at all times and the sight lines are excellent.
Another stand-out feature of this theatre company is their stellar skill level and the quality of their stage-craft.
One example is the custom music created for “A Prayer for Owen Meany.”
“We have a composer Rick Colhoun, sitting in the rehearsal hall and composing on the spot, doing the music for the show. Most of the score will be original and written in the two weeks we’re rehearsing it,” Wyminga says.
“It’s really cool, how much these scenes come alive when the actors are speaking then the music plays under it and the action takes on a whole new dimension. It’s really awesome,” she says.
“Instead of it being as much of the sixties in the music, it’s much more contemplative. It’s really cool, almost magical, in it’s feeing,” she says.
Having grown up in Nazko an Indigenous community near Quesnel in, Wyminga now lives in Richmond’s artists’ colony on Sea Island Way.
“It just went in a year ago. Everyone in my building are all professional artists. My next door neighbour on one side is a painter and my neighbours on the other side are a theatre director and a stage manager. And we have a whole slew of performing artists, musicians and visual artists in the building. It’s really cool stuff,” she says.
So, from a small community in Northern BC to Richmond to the bright lights of Vancouver’s professional theatre scene, Wyminga performs in a play that moves through the decades and from the US to Canada.
“It’s like a mystery book. There are little clues as to what’s happening. Owen has visions, premonitions of what he thinks going to happen. It’s not until the end when you see this stream of seemingly unrelated events that you see his fate and his purpose,” Wyminga says.
“A Prayer for Owen Meany” runs at Pacific Theatre, 1440 West 12 Ave (at Hemlock), Vancouver from Jan. 18 through Feb. 19 with a pay-what-you-can preview Jan 17.
For tickets clickor call 604.731.5518.