Have you ever watched Star Trek and wondered: “Why is no one singing? Why is no one dancing?” If so, you’re in luck.
Trek Theatre, the beloved Eugene theater troupe known for its public performances of Star Trek episodes, is about to debut its first musical.
Pon Farr: A Green-Blooded Musical Love Story is an adaptation of “Amok Time,” a 1967 Trek episode in which the half-alien, half-human Spock undergoes the titular hormonal explosion. He must find a mate within seven days or die – pretty typical Broadway stuff.
The creative minds behind Pon Farr are Jason Heald, director of music at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, and Chryss Allaback, Artistic Director at Trek Theatre. The two met three years ago while Allaback was working on a musical for UCC and hatched the idea as a way to celebrate Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, which falls on Sept. 8 of this year.
The episode was selected via popular vote through Trek Theatre’s Facebook page. Trek Theatre generally performs material from The Next Generation, the philosophical series that aired 1987 to 1994 and followed up the Original Series (1966-1969) from which Pon Farr was sourced. This was no issue for Allaback – and certainly not for Heald, who claims he “never followed the spin-offs as much.”
In writing material for such iconic characters as Spock and Captain Kirk, Heald struggled to portray the characters in ways that would feel new to the audience.
“You have characters that are already in people’s minds,” said Heald. “You don’t want to redefine them, so you have to really think about that character and how they would express themselves in song. What kind of language might they use?”
It helps that the cast is familiar with the material. “I’ve never had a cast before so totally dedicated to the subject,” said Heald.
In another unexpected twist, the songs in Pon Farr are all arranged for surf band. Heald found that, in addition to adding retro flavor, the minimal sound of surf music complemented Trek Theatre’s stripped-down style. It’s also convenient in that it uses fewer musicians than a typical pit orchestra.
Pon Farr debuted on July 28 at UCC.
Trek Theater will head to Eugene on Sept. 8 for a 50th-anniversary celebration at Amazon Community Center, where they’ll perform both Pon Farr and the Next Generation episode “The Drumhead.” They’ll perform Pon Farr there again on Sept. 10, then wrap up in Corvallis on Sept. 11.
Trek Theatre often picks episodes with timely themes. Star Trek has long been known for its social-justice bent, and Allaback found “The Drumhead” — an episode she describes as being about “witch-hunting people based on their race” – particularly resonated in a post-9/11 era.
This proved particularly prescient given that Trek Theater planned to perform Pon Farr at the Festival of Eugene on Aug. 21, which was cancelled after founder Krysta Albert’s history of racist comments was exposed.
Amid what’s already been termed the Summer of Shit by the Internet, “The Drumhead” should prove to be more relevant than ever. Audiences seeking to confront these issues head-on could do worse than to catch “The Drumhead.” But if you want to distract yourself with a singing Spock, check out Pon Farr this September.