Dissertation Topic: Is Star Trek a Classic?
When we think of summer outdoor theater, we assume it is Shakespeare, so it initially seems out of place to produce something as contemporary as Star Trek, in a public park in the summer. However, Star Trek is just as much a classic as Shakespeare, and deals with the same universal material as Shakespeare’s histories and tragedies: larger than life characters, of the heroic and dastardly varieties, great moral issues and epic tales of conflict. Similarly, both Shakespeare and Star Trek have had huge cultural influences on English as well as world literature, cinema and culture. Outdoor Trek, opened Space Seed by Gene Coon and Carey Wilber, directed by Phil Duff, produced by Hello Earth last weekend in Dr. Blanche Lavizzo Park in South Seattle.
This was a delightful, outdoor presentation of an episode from the original Star Trek television series. As an outdoor show they were forced to do with minimal sets, using pantomime, to represent forcing doors open, and hot-wiring of electronic through access panels.
The actors also did their own Foley work, so even though you could not see the automatic doors leading to the bridges you could hear them swoosh open and close. Similarly the invisible panels of buttons uttered satisfying beeps and chirps as they punched in the directives to call Starbase or set the warp drives.
The costuming was effective, being the same basic color-coded shirts, with the distinctive logo, used in the TV production. And the props were amusing as well, an antiquated flip top cell phone, that you wouldn’t be caught dead using to make a phone call today, works perfectly as a prop for those flip-open communicators, used on the show.
And music – Ta da daaaa duh da da duh Daaaa!, a live band dressed as Red Shirts, supplied both background and accompaniment for the song (oh, you probably forgot that it was a musical, eh?) – all played on, what else, Washboard, Trombone, Accordion and Guitar.
Being outdoors it was occasionally hard to hear over traffic noise, but the actors were good at compensating, pausing as a plane roars overhead, and ad-libbing when someone set off a firecracker elsewhere in the park (it is still July, right?).
In those few moments when it was hard to hear, I realized that not only do I already know most of the story, but also I have probably seen more different productions of the story of Kahn (this one in the park, the original Star Trek, the Wrath of Kahn Movie, and the recent re-boot version) than I have seen of Macbeth (the Polanski version, the one they did at my college, the one with Orson Wells). Have I seen others? I must have, eh? I mean Macbeth is a classic, right.
Indeed it is a classic, and so is Kahn. The price is right: It takes about hour of your time, there is free street parking nearby, and if you choose to encourage them to continue these productions, they graciously put out a jar out for donations. Very pleasant fare for a summer evening in the park.
Space Seed. Adapted from Star Trek’s The Wrath of Kahn, produced by Hello Earth, Sat and Sun evenings 8 pm. Thru Aug 14 Outdoors at Dr. Blanche Lavizzo Park ( Between Yesler and Jackson near 23rd) Free. Donations accepted. www.helloearthproductions.com