Half a century ago this world, as well as worlds beyond our solar system, fell in love with the ’60s television series-turned-movie franchise known as Star Trek.
Christina Allaback, creative director of Eugene’s Trek Theatre, says that along with the relationships among central characters like Kirk, Spock and McCoy, the show’s underlying message of hope helps Star Trek endure.
“There are dystopic science fiction stories,” Allaback explains. “With Star Trek you have the opposite of that — the possibilities of where the human race can go.”
This summer Trek Theatre is celebrating Star Trek’s birthday with an original theatrical production, Pon Farr: A Green-Blooded Musical Love Story.
Founded four years ago, Trek Theatre usually adapts Star Trek: Next Generation episodes. This time, Pon Farr references the classic series episode “Amok Time,” in which Spock returns to his home planet Vulcan to engage in his people’s brutal mating ritual.
Jason Heald, music director at Umpqua Community College, wrote what Allaback describes as an original, surf-rock inspired score and Allaback, in collaboration with the cast, adapted the text.
“It’s a pretty iconic episode,” Allaback explains. “It’s referenced quite a bit on other science fiction film and TV shows.”
She continues: “If you listen to the soundtrack of the original series, it’s got this sort of surf-rocky thing going on. That was Star Trek’s time period.”
Allaback says she encourages her cast to not “imitate” actors like William Shatner or Leonard Nimoy in their roles. Instead, she asks them to find their own take on the characters while preserving the personal chemistry we all know and love. For example: Bones antagonizing Kirk, Kirk being a hotshot and Spock being a lovable if somewhat insufferable know-it-all.
“We find moments where we ‘nod-nod, wink-wink’ to the audience,” Allaback admits. “We know all these characters really well and now we’re learning about them in a different context. The actors are finding their own spin.”
And not unlike the campy tone and low-budget special effects of the original series, Allaback calls Trek Theatre staging “minimal.” In fact, the bridge of the Enterprise is recreated using lawn chairs.
Allaback explains: “There’s willful suspension of disbelief. The stories are great, the characters are great but — so what? -— we’re sitting on lawn chairs.”
Trek Theatre presents Star Trek’s free 50th Anniversary Celebration 6 pm Thursday, Sept. 8 (the exact date classic Trek premiered), and 5 pm Saturday, Sept. 10, at Amazon Community Center, 2700 Hilyard Street. On Sept. 8, along with Pon Farr, Trek Theatre also presents Next Generation story “The Drumhead.”
And if you can’t make those in Eugene, catch Trek Theatre 3 pm Sunday, Sept. 11, in Corvallis Central Park. All performances are free.