Most identify “Star Trek” as a television series, and some may say that it might be just as important as a film franchise. Other fans might point to the many novels and thousands of comic book titles which Gene Roddenberry’s creation has spawned through the decades. There’s still more growing evidence of Trek as a video game phenomenon with “Star Trek Online” going strong — even twelve years after its original debut.
One medium that might be seen as overlooked is the realm of live theater. While all the other versions of Trek — written, filmed, or video games — can be started and stopped at will, the theater is the only version of “Star Trek” that is in the moment only.
Trek in the Theater
While there have been many productions in the recent past, including “Star Trek: Live!” in St. Louis, one might wonder why there are not more. Many Trek alumni got their start in live theater, from William Shatner to Tara Rosling of “Star Trek: Discovery.”
And no one can forget Sir Patrick Stewart, whose legendary stage performances include “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “The Tempest,” “Macbeth,” and “Hamlet.”
‘Arena’ is Back — Live!
It just so happens that the spirit of live theater and Trek are alive and well at a small school in Oregon. Thanks to the work of faculty Dr. Christina “Chryss” Allaback and Jason Heald, Umpqua Community College is now presenting “Arena Gorn Superstar” in-person and online.
According to an interview with Trek Report, Allaback and Heald have been working on this idea for some time. It seemed like the right time to debut “Arena Gorn Superstar” in an effort to get the college and community involved in the theater after the COVID-era shutdowns.
“Jason thought Arena would be a great musical, and we have sort of been throwing that around for a few years,” Allaback told The News-Review. “With COVID, we knew any live performance would have to be outside, and Arena was just made to be outside.”
As the name hints, the performance is based on the classic Trek episode, “Arena.” Fans know this one well, and even non-fans have some idea of what happens during “Arena.” It’s the episode where Kirk fights the green-skinned Gorn as the Metrons watch and judge.
Allaback told Trek Report that she and Heald consider the story of “Arena” to be a serious one.
“But, when you throw a rapping Gorn into that, and you say — we’re making a Star Trek musical now,” Allaback told Trek Report. “I added a lot of comedy and a lot of physical bits. It’s basically the same story.”
Fans will notice that most of the cast of “Arena Gorn Superstar” are women. This was just one of the reasons that Allaback encouraged the actors to make the roles “their own.”
“This is classic Start Trek,” Cassandra Horton told The News-Review. Horton portrays Mr. Spock in the show. “If you’ve seen the old shows, you’ll love it. If you’ve only seen the new movies, you’ll love it. If you know nothing about Star Trek… You’ll love it!”
“Star Trek has always been a part of my life,” Horton said in the article. “I was raised on it. It’s exciting and a little intimidating to bring to life such well-known and well-loved character as well as bringing our twist to them,” Horton said.
Allaback said that she did not want her troupe to impersonate or imitate the Trek actors.
“It’s our interpretation of Trek,” Allaback told Trek Report. “It’s not necessarily making fun of Trek. It’s a love letter to Trek. I don’t want to make fun of William Shatner as Kirk because I feel like when people do the Shatner impression, I feel like they are making fun of Kirk. I don’t like that.”
Trek Report reviewed the show, which will be streaming on the Umpqua Community College Theater Facebook page this Saturday at 6:30 p.m. PST, and noted that Ariel Hicks as Kirk is “terrific.” They reported that Gavin Pike’s Gorn will leave audiences “giggling” and that the show will “make you stand and applaud.”