The final frontier: ‘Star Trek’ the musical
‘U.S.S. Improvise the Musical’ features Lake Oswego actor Chris Thompson and The Unscriptables in a lost ‘Star Trek’ episode
BY BARB RANDALL
The Unscriptables, Portland’s newest unscripted theatre company, will present “U.S.S. Improvise: The Musical,” a live, unscripted “lost” episode of the original TV series “Star Trek,” set to music.
Billed as a show that “even a Klingon will love,” audiences will help create a truly unique theatrical experience on the spot based on their suggestions. It’s one part “Star Trek,” complete with props, costumes and sound effects, one part “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” and one part Broadway musical.
Appearing in the production is Lake Oswegan Chris Thompson, an information developer and seasoned improvisational actor, among other creative bents.
“The Unscriptables have only been together for about a year,” Thompson said. “I’m one of the first members to join. Trenton Shine (‘The Unscriptables’ artistic director) is new to Portland. He made quite a name for himself down in San Diego where he established a fairly unique style of improvisational theater where you really try to replicate certain genres and parody them.”
Thompson said the group recently performed Tennessee Williams’ plays with zombies and mash-ups — where you mix two things together. In preparation for the production, the group watched a lot of Tennessee Williams’ plays, studied the dialogue, put together costumes and came up with characters for themselves, and then, within that, improvised.
Usually improvisational theater does not include costumes or sets and is more free-form.
“We don’t do as much of that,” Thompson said.
The musical version of the “Star Trek” parody is their latest undertaking.
“I watched ‘Star Trek’ all the time when I was little,” Thompson said. “But when you start watching them when you are older, you realize how incredibly formulaic they are. Every single one starts with ‘Captain, we’re being hailed by such-and-such ambassador from the planet …’ and then the guy comes onscreen, like ‘you know what, we’ve got to beam down and see what’s going on.’ And then one of the red shirt guys gets killed — and that’s always the teaser and that always comes in the first minutes and then they always cut to “Where no man has gone before … and they’re all exactly the same!
“So there’s lots of fun things to play with the characters,” Thompson said. “Spock is always Mr. Logic, Mr. Analytical and then Bones, the doctor, is the polar opposite. He is all emotion, he’s always getting angry, he’s falling in in love, he is consumed with his emotions. They represent the two sides of Captain Kirk.
“Captain Kirk is so clearly the leader. It’s like the Enterprise is run just like a naval ship and he truly is the captain. And he makes every decision, he solves every problem, but he consults his logical side, which is Spock, and his emotional side, which is Bones. So there’s a lot of stuff to play with.”
When asked if the group had been in rehearsal long, Thompson explained that improvisational theater is very similar to jazz music.
“Improv is a lot like jazz music,” he said. “Think about jazz musicians — they have tons of experience and they know everything there is about music theory and listening to each other. With that structure and all those lessons that they have absorbed they can get together and sort of make it up, but its based on a lot of sound principals and lots of practice.”
“The Unscrip-tables” presented “Star Trek” about six months ago and now adding the musical twist for something new.
“The songs will definitely be, completely improvised … and made up,” Thompson laughed. “Again this is another mashup — for some reason the mashups just make everything new and kind of fun. So its going to be campy, Broadway, songs interspersed with fairly typical ‘Star Trek’ scenes. I think it’s guaranteed to be fairly hilarious!”
With eight performances Thompson says he will most likely play Spock, Bones and his favorite character, the Alien Leader.
Performances will be held each Friday and Saturday night in June at 8 p.m. at the Unscriptables Studio, 1121 N. Loring St., in Portland.
All shows are pay what you want.
“In a bold move, ‘The Unscriptables’ have made all of their shows ‘pay what you want.’ The idea is to make the theatre a more affordable option for someone looking to go out with friends, but also living on a budget. Everyone can pay what they’re comfortable with,” said managing director Andy Barrett.
“The previous show prices hovered around $10, and that’s what some people still pay, while others will pay $8, $5 or even $1. We’d rather have people experiencing our shows than not, and with the new pricing anybody can afford to laugh!”
For more details visit www.theunscriptables.com .