Our Summer Volunteer Project

Once upon a time, my wife and I drove down to Portland to see this amazing thing called “Trek in the Park,” a wonderful amateur outdoor theatre production put on by Atomic Arts.

We fell in love with it instantly and immediately made plans to attend the following year. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and Atomic Arts quit doing the shows soon after.

But we weren’t the only ones who fell in love with the idea. A few years previously, Joy DeLyria and Kris Hambrick had seen the Portland production as well and it inspired them to try the same thing here in Seattle. They formed Hello Earth Productions and debuted their own live Star Trek episode, “The Naked Time,” in 2010. Since then they’ve done a Trek adaptation running Saturdays and Sundays for four weeks every summer. Julie and I found them with their fifth effort, “Amok Time.”

They followed that up the next summer with “Space Seed” and we really enjoyed that one too. By this time we were following them on social media and when Joy put out a call for volunteers for the next summer’s production of “Day of the Dove,” Julie and I were agreed that the idea sounded like fun; and added to that, we had recently resolved that we were spending far too much time with people we did not like and not nearly enough time socializing with folks whose company we enjoyed, and it was making us sour old hermits. So we volunteered.

That was last year’s production of “Day of the Dove” and it was, indeed, ENORMOUS fun.

Julie and I weren’t in the show or anything, we just ushered and manned the merch table, but we really enjoyed ourselves. In particular, getting to know the cast and crew was a treat. We could sort of tell this already just as audience members but actually being a part of the production and seeing close-up how hard everyone worked– for no money, Hello Earth is all volunteer, from Joy and Kris on down– was awe-inspiring.

Because of copyright issues and so on, the productions have always been ‘significantly altered’ from the originals, to use the legal term, and attendance is free. In particular, Hello Earth is very committed to diversity and characters are often gender-flipped. For the Outdoor Trek adaptations, there was also a musical number thrown in.

Anyway. Preceding was preamble. This year Hello Earth changed it up a bit. As Joy puts it, “After seven years, we thought a little Rebellion was in order.”

It is impossible to overstate how much fun everyone involved is having. I honestly thought Star Wars would have been a completely unworkable story to mount as live theater in ANY context, let alone with Hello Earth’s low-fi, hand-crafted, no-budget approach. But they are making it work, mostly through the actors really selling it and extremely clever staging.

Here are some photos so you can see for yourself. (I’m afraid our camera crapped out so these were all taken by a gentleman named Mark Sebring.) Here’s James Lyle as Threepio and Jamie Constantino as Artoo.

Same as in the film, the two of them steal every scene they’re in, particularly Jamie as Artoo. It’s especially amazing considering Jamie’s doing the whole thing on roller skates. The roar of delighted applause when she first answers Threepio with a hand-held novelty whistle that exactly approximates the beep-boop-beep of the film version is never not awesome to see.

Another big crowd-pleaser is when Darth Vader (Shaina Ward Seigel) finds the soldier’s lack of faith disturbing, as Grand Moff Tarkin (Helen Tang) looks on.

And here is Kris herself as Luke Skywalker, during a pensive sunset on Tatooine.

Han Solo (Nathan Ureta) and Greedo (Kaysy Ostrom) discuss Han’s debt to Jabba. (Han shoots first. We are old-school.)

Obi-wan (Merri Ann Osborne) confronts Darth Vader.

Chewbacca (Ian Stone) and Luke.

The cheer that goes up when Ian first does Chewbacca’s throaty growl is almost as big as when Jamie debuts Artoo’s whistle.

Our heroes trapped in the Death Star’s garbage masher.

I haven’t mentioned Natalie Schmidt as Leia yet, but she is wonderful too. Honestly all the actors are; I especially have to single out Ryan Scheunemann and Kristin McLeod, who play multiple supporting characters throughout with tremendous versatility and panache, and also Julia Buck and Abigail Randall, who manage something the film never did — giving Imperial Stormtroopers individual personalities. (In the program they are credited as “Stormencrantz” and “Guildentrooper,” which should give you an idea of the approach.)

And here are Luke and Artoo preparing for the final assault on the Death Star.

I have neglected the musicians, but I assure you the backup band, “The Power Converters” (Vaughn Schnelle on accordion and flugelhorn, Amber Rogers on clarinet and the occasional vocal, James Sutter on guitar, and ‘Cacophanie’ on drums) are doing yeoman work as well. I’m afraid I don’t have a picture of them jamming in the Mos Eisley Cantina scene but it’s another showstopper.

So that’s what Julie and I have been doing with our weekends lately, and it’s why my column’s been a bit off schedule. We have three more shows– tonight, and then next Saturday and Sunday. Julie and I are taking tonight off because I’ve got a taping of Radio Vs. The Martians and Julie’s friend Marcia is going to be in town as well, but we’ll be back next week. Come by if you are within driving distance. I assure you it’s worth it. (Last night someone told us they’d driven up from Portland just for the show, which tickled me; it brings everything full circle, really.)

If you can’t make it, well, don’t despair; I saw someone filming last night and I daresay eventually something will make it up on YouTube.

And next year…. The Empire Strikes Back.

Back next week with something cool.

5 Comments

  1. M-Wolverine

    If I was on that coast it’d be so worth the trip. The Star Trek looked like a lot of fun, and this looks epic. Will have to settle for the Star Wars Power of Costume exhibit this weekend. But this looks funnier.

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