Hello! Your friendly neighbourhood trekker, Mike here. I just had to write a quick blog entry about what a crazy small world it is. So, when I’m not watching or podcasting about Star Trek I’m at my “day job” as a theatre stage manager. Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to work with some amazing actors in academic and professional settings. A handful of those actors have gone on to have successful careers both on and off the stage. That brings us back to Star Trek– a franchise that has a history of hiring actors with a strong theatre– and more specifically a strong Shakespeare background. Patrick Stewart is was best known as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company before he put on his Starfleet uniform.
All those years of sitting on thrones in England with the Royal Shakespeare Company was nothing but preparation to sit in the captain’s chair on the Enterprise. – Patrick Stewart
Likewise, William Shatner trained at the Canadian National Repertory Theatre in Ottawa before working with Tyone Guthrie at the Stratford Festival. Avery Brooks’s gained praise for his performance as Othello under director Michael Kahn at the Shakeapeare Theatre Company in DC. A side note- I did an internship there but our time didn’t overlap. Kate Mulgrew trained with Stella Adler before playing roles like Desdamona and Hedda Gabler– as well as Captain Janeway. Mulgrew pointed out that classical theatre training is a huge asset to any actor who’s taking on the heightened language and themes presented in Star Trek.
That casting tradition is continuing in Star Trek Discovery and as luck would have it, I’ve worked with 3 of the new cast members. Sonequa Martin Green earned her BFA in Acting from the University of Alabama. I was there at the same time working on my MFA in Stage Management and I got work with Sonequa! She played Mercutio the university’s production of Romeo & Juliet. Our director, Seth Panich, cast Sonequa in the traditionally male role because he knew she had the chops to tackle the famous Queen Mab speech. She blew me away on stage! She’s a super talented artist and just a really great person.
A few years later I was hired to be a Stage Manager at The Juilliard School for their Drama Division’s third year Shakespeare Project. The students in group 44 were preparing Richard III & As You Like It in rep. Among them were soon to be Star Trek alums Mary Chieffo and Mary Wiseman. Richard III was directed by veteran actor Harris Yulin, who Trekkies know as Aamin Marritza in the DS9 episode “Duet”.
Mary Chieffo played Queen Elizabeth in Yulin’s production of Richard III. Meanwhile, Mary Wiseman stole the show in As You Like It. I didn’t get the chance to really become close to either of these ladies. They were very busy Juilliard students and I was just a staff member (not faculty). But I do remember them both being very nice to me as I wrangled the rep schedule, costume fittings, and their class schedules. 🙂
I’m so happy that the creative minds behind Star Trek Discovery are hiring theatre people! It really is a small business and I guess I’ve worked in it long enough that I’m now 6 degrees of separation (or less) to a lot of Trek actors. I can’t begin to express how happy that makes me!!
Anyway, those are my random ramblings of the day. 🙂 – Mike Jones