Ah summer in Portland – time for festivals, picnics and Trek in the Park!
More normal cities put on Shakesphere in the Park when the summer turns warm, and Portland has these as well. But Portland has Trek in the Park, which is a classic Star Trek episode performed like Shakesphere: All of the original dialog, but adapted to an outdoor setting.
This marks the fourth summer of Trek and my third – my first experience was with “Space Seed” in 2012 (which was the introduction to Robert Montalban’s classic baddie Khan or “KHAN!!!”) Last summer they presented “Mirror, Mirror,” an alternate universe story complete with an alternate Spock sporting a goatee. This season’s classic Trek episode is “Journey to Babel.”
“Journey to Babel” has all of the elements of a classic Star Trek episode: Aliens, fistfights, space battles and cold war inspired geopolitical paranoia. The only thing missing is a Captain Kirk love scene.
New this summer is a new venue: Cathedral Park under the east end of the St Johns bridge addresses one of the major downsides of previous seasons – the inability to hear the dialog. As special as Woodlawn Park’s little amphitheater was, there was simply no way to hear the actors unless you came hours before the performance to stake out a close-in spot. Woodlawn Park was also close enough to the Portland International Airport that low-flying airplanes would cause all of the action to stop until the airplane cleared.
But Cathedral Park’s permanent stage setup and natural bowl are considerably bigger. Although there were audience members who came hours early, it really isn’t necessary. I suspect that you could come right before “curtain” time and find a good spot with fine acoustics. There is still the risk of a train rolling through the middle of the park and stopping the action, but hopefully this will be rare.
It would be hard to argue that Star Trek is this country’s Shakesphere. In previous seasons, any seriousness in the original scripts was played for maximum laughter, as befits the campy roots of the show. But in this season’s production there was an attempt to deliver some drama straight – the confrontation between Spock and his mother, Amanda, which ends with her slapping her son. “… I’ll hate you for the rest of my life!” This scene was actually a vast improvement over the way it was played in the show, though I wish it had been played with a real slap rather than a faked one.
Of course, all seriousness will likely be put aside next season. Like any good TV show from the 1960s, Trek in the Park includes a teaser for the next episode. I won’t spoil which one it is, but needless to say the audience was pretty excited.
I highly recommend catching “Trek in the Park” during the Saturday and Sunday evenings during August at 5PM. And buy a commemorative T-shirt while you’re there to support the production group.