I have a confession to make. I am not a fan of Shakespeare in the Park.
Now having said this, I performed plays in Shakespeare in the Park during my days as an actor and had a wonderful experience. I fully support theatre that is free (or donation-supported) to expose audiences to the arts who couldn’t otherwise afford it. In theory, the mix of great performances and summer weather is ideal.
Unfortunately, in practice, Shakespeare’s language is intricate and contains great subtlety. Unless actors are performing in an amphitheater specifically designed for theatrical performances, such as the outdoor theatre at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, actors have to shout all of their lines to be heard. The opportunities for nuance are limited. Distractions such as airplanes and park noise are hard to compensate for.
Enter Star Trek in the Park, which is a whole different beast. Star Trek (and we’re talking the original series here) is performed broadly – William Shatner, after all – and actors’ high volume performances only elevates the intensity of alien worlds and interpersonal conflicts among Federation officers. Add in talented local performers who keep performances light and add their own spin to it, and it becomes a fantastic experience.
Star Trek in the Park (the Seattle area version) is performed by Hello Earth Productions. Now in their sixth year, their performances are both authentic to the series while adding modern twists and commentary. Special effects are performed with creativity on a low-budget and a theatrical flair. The cast is diverse, with a female Kirk and Spock and other cross-cast roles. Helen Parson as Spock and Kris Hambrick as Kirk (also the producer) are regular cast members every year. While they take inspiration from the original episodes, performances are far from carbon copies. Live musicians perform the theme song and underscore each episode in a fun way.
Please don’t take this as a review of their current show, though: there’s just one weekend left of this year’s performances. Star Trek in the Park’s 2016 entry is Space Seed, a classic episode featuring the first appearance of the villain Khan. Performances are at 7pm at Blanche Lavizzo Park in the Central District, frequently featuring local musicians as opening acts.
So what are you waiting for? I’ll be there this Sunday, August 14 for one of my favorite Seattle theatrical events of the year. You should be too.