As many of my regular readers may know, I grew up on Star Trek. Traditional children’s programming was not allowed, but most episodes of Star Trek were deemed as acceptable for my viewing as a child. It is one of the reasons science fiction has such a special place in my heart.
One of the perks of moving to Portland, something I was greatly looking forward to, is Trek in the Park. The past four years, a local group of actors under the label Atomic Arts has gotten together to perform an episode of Star Trek live on a stage in a local park. This was even spoofed in a famous Portlandia sketch.
With some excitement, I took the bus up to St. Johns for this past weekend for the opening show of Trek in the Park. Near the bus stop, I found a fantastic taqueria behind a small Mexican Grocery store where I procured a delightful carne asada burrito for a mere four dollars.
As I trekked to the park from the taqueria, I was surprised by the number of people walking the same direction with lawn chairs, which did not compare to my astonishment at the volume of individuals already sitting out, 45 minutes before the show started. Clearly Portland takes its Star Trek very seriously.
This is the fifth (and final) year of the production. This year, the episode they are performing every weekend in August at Cathedral Park is The Trouble with Tribbles, the classic mid-season 2 episode (which originally aired in 1967) featuring the adorable, eternally reproductive, fluffy Tribbles.
So where did Atomic Arts get so many tribbles? The residents of Portland. The company put out a donation request, asking individuals to make as many tribbles as they wanted and donate them through pick-up spots at supportive local businesses or at Tribble-making parties.
Because of my arrival time, and not having a collapsible chair to plant and enjoy the show from, I ended up standing in the back of the park on stage right. There was ample sound that I could just barely hear the dialogue, which was delivered well, and greatly honored the episode.
Obviously, some elements of a science fiction television show are difficult to produce on a stage, but Atomic Arts overcame these issues. Most notably, a video call from an Admiral at Starfleet Command, which featured the actor standing side-stage of Kirk’s Enterprise Bridge, the sequences involving a transporter – marked merely by scene change – and the comic recreation of the famous mid-episode fight scene, instead of having all the action moving at once, the actors freeze while one conflict at a time takes place, and all freezing while un-befuddled salesmen Cyrano Jones pours himself a drink at the bar.
Trek in the Park is a reminder of how timeless these the tales of the crew of the USS Enterprise really are. It makes one realize how simply this story could be reset as a western or even a modern story, but also allows us to look at the consequences of our decision and impact on the world.
Trek in the Park will be performed every Saturday and Sunday in August in Cathedral Park at 5:00pm – though I recommend you arrive a few hours early to get a good seat.