The Lyre Theatre was launched in February 2017 by two TRU alumni. Dan Ondang, the company’s co-founder, graduated with a major in marketing and a minor in theatre in 2015.
Ondang met Chanelle Renee, fellow Lyre co-founder, in a directing class at TRU. Both Ondang and Renee were directing their own plays in the annual director’s festival, and their shows played back-to-back.
“What we found was that our shows had a darker undertone to them than a lot of the other stuff that was playing at [the] festival. So, we wanted to expand on that, do more shows that have a darker undertone. Which is something that is not entirely absent from Kamloops, but is certainly not something that is seen a lot,” Ondang said.
Ondang says that both him and Renee had been thinking of starting their own theatre company for awhile and a bad and stressful summer was what kickstarted them into action.
“We kind of went ‘let’s do something, let’s do literally anything,’ so I guess out of that pain we built this,” Ondang said.
The Lyre Theatre will be showing its first ever production, called Allen’s Nine Murders in late April. TRU’s Drama and Theatre Club (TRUDAT) did a run of this play in December 2016.
“Dan wrote a play that I was able to watch [when] a student group did it at the theatre, and I thought it was really inspiring,” Renee said
All of the cast and crew in the production are either TRU alumni or current students. Renee says that it wasn’t planned to use only talent from TRU, but that it just kind of worked out that way. She says that when they started the company, their intent was to encourage as much diversity as possible.
“That’s one of the mandates of our company, [which] is to open it up to people who maybe don’t have the experience,” Renee said. “There’s so much hidden talent in Kamloops and the surroundings areas that people aren’t exposed to.”
Ondang co-wrote the play with fellow TRU alumni Andrew Robertson. The play follows a man named Allen, who is a telemarketer for a major company.
“It’s a black comedy. It’s a funny show in which a lot of sad things happen. It’s a play about suicide and depression,” Ondang said.
Allen feels so terrible about calling people and bugging them on the phone that he tries to make up for what he has done.
“He has a crisis of conscience one day and decides to go volunteer at the suicide hotline, in a universe where the suicide hotline does cold calls. So, he goes from being a telemarketer to being a telemarketer at the suicide hotline,” Ondang said.
Both Ondang and Renee add that this is a dark comedy that deals with very serious issues. The play not only poses the question but also provides resources of what to do afterward.
“I think there’s room in Kamloops for more difficult subjects to be discussed through theatre and I think it’s a really good medium to discuss those subjects,” Renee said
The show will run from April 27 to 29, all shows start at 7:30 p.m. There will also be a pay-what-you-can matinee at 2 p.m. on April 29, with proceeds going to the Canadian Mental Health Association of Kamloops.
Tickets are $15 each for adults and $12 each for students. You can buy tickets at the door, in advance at the Stock Pot Café, or online at allensninemurderskamloops.bpt.me. The show will be playing at The Stagehouse on 422 Tranquille Rd.