My Inner Klingon Takes Charge of God’s Man in Texas
April 10, 2013
My work as an actor since 1982 has often meant playing tough, assertive characters, including Captain Kolana of the Ch’Tang, a Klingon commander on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The episode was called “Once More Unto the Breach.” I had my own ship. I loved flying my own ship.
Age has not mellowed my inner Klingon. I like to yell. I like big choices. Although the calm, political mediator required to thrive as a theater director is not my natural metier, when a board member of the Sierra Madre Playhouse called me last December and asked if I was interested in helming the next play, I jumped on board. Since then, I have tried desperately to sublimate my inner Klingon.
David Rambo‘s wonderful play, God’s Man in Texas, is set in “the Baptist Superbowl” — a mega-church in Texas. The cast consists of three strong male characters. The board at Sierra Madre thought maybe a female perspective might be interesting.
Now Klingon Commanders, especially the elite females, have a a couple of traits that come in handy for a director. They take no flak from anyone — male, female or alien. Klingons demand respect. They also aren’t afraid to blow things apart if the occasion warrants. So I felt my Star Trek acting gig had prepared me for a return to directing this play. My only regret is that I’d be working without the ridged forehead, high hair, elevated boots with toe spikes and ray gun, but sometimes you just have to “make do.”
Immediately after reading David’s play, I went on iTunes and started researching choral music. I have always had an affinity for vocal music, and back on Deep Space Nine I learned to sing a drinking song in Klingon. I found some of these sci-fi memories invaluable in navigating the alien sub-strata of our musical universe known as “Praise Music”.
Southern Baptist church choirs in Texas are not traditional gospel choirs, but another animal entirely. I called up an old friend, Scot Q. Merry, who had produced music for years in Nashville and asked if he’d be my sound designer. I knew we spoke the same language, and he would understand my commander mentality. In the same vein, I enlisted D Martyn Bookwalter on both sets and lights. He’s a genius. I trusted these guys “to boldly go where no man has gone before,” even if led by a woman.
I have three powerful and scary men acting in this piece: Paul Perri, Ted Heyck and Christian Lebano. None of these guys will easily back down from a creative fight, so my inner Klingon did lead to a few confrontations. I initially wanted to be all Steppenwolfy as a director, and let the trio of men work things out a bit, but I couldn’t keep my commander’s mouth shut.
My director methodology of acting all the parts in the play led to some skirmishes. I would give the guys “bits” and “business” and “motivation” instead of letting it come out of their choices and bodies. I wanted lots of action, movement, big voices and I wanted it last week. I thank God that David Rambo came to an early run and advised me that his play can really stand up to just “sitting and talking” a bit. This has resulted in less carnage and fewer bodies flailing about.
Finally, during tech week on God’s Man in Texas, I have discovered that in spite of my yapping away and blowing up a lot of early blocking, my trusty band of brothers has learned to fly this ship as a team. A play is, after all, a bit like a battlefield, full of maneuvers and skirmishes and lines drawn. As my inner Klingon would yell, “Q’apla!”
God’s Man in Texas, Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre 91024. Opens Friday. Fri-Sat 8 pm, Sun 2:30 pm. Through May 18. Tickets: $12-$25. www.sierramadreplayhouse.org. 626-355-4318.
Nancy Youngblut is the recipient of an MFA in directing from the University of Georgia. She has worked primarily as an actor on stage, screen, and especially on television in more than 300 (!) commercials and, most recently on Weeds, Shameless, Bones, CSI and much more. She previously appeared at Sierra Madre Playhouse in Our Town.