GeekGirlCon Interviews Hello Earth Productions
GeekGirlCon is quickly approaching! With that in mind, Stephanie interviewed Kris Hambrick and Joy DeLyria of Hello Earth Productions. Hello Earth is a new, non-profit theater company that brings classic Star Trek episodes to life every summer. Their performances are free, showcasing original Star Trek adventures in an outdoor setting. Kris and Joy will present the GeekGirlCon panel, Star Trek: Then and Now, on Saturday, October 8th. Take a look at some of their experiences with Star Trek, theater, and general geekdom.
Stephanie Little: When did you first start watching Star Trek?
Kris Hambrick: I grew up watching The Next Generation, and I didn’t do a lot of casual television watching, so it was definitely something I tuned in to regularly. But I didn’t get into Star Trek until I was twenty-five or so. It was when William Shatner released his album Has Been. I heard a few tracks and realized this guy was fascinating and both more serious and more ridiculous than I’d thought. And somehow that led me to overlook the fact that he’s seen as a joke by a lot of
people. I started watching the original series from my interest in that album, and it was all over.
Joy DeLyria: I, too, grew up watching Next Gen. We had this family ritual centered around it: order Domino’s Pizza on a Saturday night, eat, get bored, hide behind the couch when peanut butter head (that was Worf) came on the screen. I still begin salivating when I hear the Next Gen theme.
SL: What keeps you hooked on Star Trek?
KH: I’ve got a superficial and a more serious answer to that one. Star Trek, to me, represents the ideal of a bright future where we’ve solved many of our problems and learned how to get along with greater understanding and tolerance. Don’t get me wrong, I love dystopian fiction. But I’ve never seen anything quite as hopeful as Star Trek, even though in many cases they fell down on actually showing the advances they were claiming. I think partly I just like having that hopeful vision to look back on and remember that these people, people who had seen and been through war, were able to create it. It reminds me of the Space Needle, for some reason. It’s there because someone thought that future was beautiful.
And then there’s William Shatner.
SL: Who is your favorite character in the classic Star Trek episodes?
JD: What’s interesting is that Kirk is in tune with his emotions and is reasonable when logic is what’s required. You don’t often see (particularly male) characters who are balance in that way, that’s not the character that popular culture makes Kirk out to be. Though Kirk does have his own flaws, I like him because he does have that balance. Meanwhile, I like Spock because in some ways, the conflict between emotion and reason is a central human struggle. I like Spock because in some ways he’s so much more human, and he’s supposed to be the alien.
SL: What inspired you to create Hello Earth Productions?
KH: We were inspired by Atomic Arts’ production of Trek in the Park three years ago. They’re a group that puts on a very well-done show in Portland. We drove down to see their adaptation of “Amok Time,” and it was so delightful that on the way home, we decided we should do
something in Seattle. And we quickly decided that we weren’t going to try to mimic either Atomic Arts or the original show, but treat it like any other script, and cast without regard to the gender, race, ethnicity, or any other quality of the original crew, aside from talent and the rapport needed between the characters. We wanted to play with what this text—and others—means to our culture, in the same way any other “classic” is carried over and reinvented.
JD: I would add to what Kris said that we’re interested in the accessibility of theater. For lots of people, theater is dressing up, going out, paying a lot of money, and seeing something abstruse. I don’t mean that Shakespeare is abstruse, but I do think that theater is sometimes seen as this highfalutin thing only a certain subset of people can enjoy. Hello Earth is interested in bringing theater to non-traditional venues, charging as little as possible, and staging productions in ways that people can relate to.
SL: What are some of the most memorable moments during an Outdoor Star Trek performance?
JD: The outdoor ambiance adds a lot. Both years we performed while the Blue Angels flew overhead; both years ice cream trucks passed by during performances (and this year some people definitely left and came back with popsicles), and this year a car alarm started going off right
when a character was talking about how the planet Starfleet was exploring lived in harmony and perfect peace.
SL: What obstacles have you faced creating free plays of Star Trek episodes?
JD: Not having costumes and props people adds a considerable amount of stress—who would have thought it would be so hard to find unisex shirts in yellow, red, and blue in Extra Small to Extra Extra Large? Just imagining what the Hello Earth correlate to some of the sets and props on the show will be can sometimes break my brain. How do you make a transporter? How do you suggest a Captain’s chair without building one? What does a phaser blast look like; what does sickbay look like; and how do you get flowers that shoot pollen at people? These are things that keep me up at night.
SL: Has the cast or crew developed any traditions?
KH: It may be early yet to talk about tradition, but we do have a few things we like to do. Some are just tongue twisters we’ve carried over from the year before. Or traveling together to watch Trek in the Park in Portland. But we do have a tradition before the first performance of standing in a circle, holding hands, and each of us speaking a little about our favorite part of the process, or something we want the rest of the cast and crew to know. We tend to get pretty close, during the rehearsal period. Both years we’ve had a fantastic troupe which is also delightfully geeky, so we enjoy our time socially as much as professionally.
SL: What are you excited to discuss at GeekGirlCon’s panel, Star Trek: Then and Now?
KH: I’m mostly excited about discussing the place of gender in established science fiction stories. The way that putting women (or men) in certain roles affects the work, and the varied reactions that causes in the public. When you’re playing against something that’s already established, it raises different questions than when you create something new.
JD: Besides what Kris says, I’m interested in the ways the role of women has changed, both in our society and in our fiction. Uhura was a big deal in the 1960s, because Nichelle Nichols got to play someone who wasn’t a love interest and wasn’t a secretary. Even though her job on
the Enterprise looks negligible, Uhura was doing a lot more than many female characters in television at the time. So for the 1960s, Star Trek in some ways had some advanced gender politics—are more recent productions of Star Trek as far ahead of their times as the original series was? Are the leaps the role of women has made in fiction greater than, equivalent to, or somewhat behind the leaps of the role of women in society?
SL: What are you excited to experience at GeekGirlCon?
KH: Mostly to meet like-minded people and see what everyone else is up to. Hello Earth is very committed to community building culture, and I want to be part of that overall discussion. It’s also exciting to be part of something new, and entirely different from any other event I’ve been to.
JD: Like Kris, I’m really excited to meet others who are interested in issues that concern me, and others who just like geeky things. I was the eleven-year-old reading three inch sword and sorcery novels that everyone just thought I was a freak; these days, I think those eleven-year-olds are a lot less unusual, but I still delight in meeting like-minded people. I feel like I only ever really get good ideas—or any ideas at all—when inspired by others, and GeekGirlCon seems like the perfect venue for such inspiration.