Last night Scott, my current roommate & one of my best friends, and I went to see William Shatner talk about his life. We were supposed to go with our friend Kristen, but she got caught at work, the tickets, however, were a gift from her and I’m super grateful as the show was wonderful.
To be able to really talk about Shatner, I need to explain my relationship with him as an actor a little bit first. I know him best as Captain James T Kirk. I am a Star Trek geek, born and bred, the child of two Trekkies (who also loved Star Wars). I come by this honestly. This said, I have always seen Kirk as the lesser of the Captains.
I know. I have many a reason, but, mostly it’s because I just can’t get into The Original Series. I enjoy the campiness, and I get what it did to lay the groundwork for the Star Trek that would become the glory of my childhood: The Next Generation. I do love the movies, those at least have reasonable acting, and they were certainly rewatched oh-too-many-times in my childhood.
My contempt for Shatner was matched only by Shatner’s contempt for Trekkies. This is a well known issue, and one that, thankfully, he outgrew. He remarked on it last night, in passing, and I am glad he did. It made it much easier for me to let go of.
After last night, I respect William Shatner. I can and do see Bill as a man, the one he portrayed on the stage, who admitted his flaws and faced up to his mistakes and said, “I am only human.”
Scott asked as we were leaving, “What part did you like most?”
My answer is that I loved the part about NASA. Shatner discussed his relationship with NASA over the years, about sitting inside the lunar module before it went up to the moon(!!!) and recording the intro before the Discovery’s final launch. I cried. This *one* man by virtue of a character he played on tv managed to bookend the USA’s manned exploration of space.
I’m still trying to process that.
However, the most touching section of the evening was the story he tells about a horse he had. It was heartbreaking, a story of awe, beauty, pain and suffering. It lifted my heart and crushed my spirit a little. I can do it no justice in retelling, but it was a story worth hearing.
I have acted, directed, managed and produced theater. I have written plays and one-man shows. I grasp how hard what happened on the stage was last night. William Shatner walked out on the stage, alone but for a screen, a mike (and not even that the whole time), and some chairs and lights, and engaged a whole opera house of people. The empty seats did him disservice.
He shared not just stories of his work, which for an actor is easy enough, I know that, but told stories of himself, his pain, his misfortune, his losses, with the same elegant charm and understatement he told his stories of successes, joy and love. He shared himself. For once he played no part, he simply stood upon the stage and was himself.
And I am honored I was there.