‘Star Trek’ star brings night of entertainment to Mesa

William Shatner, commonly known as Captain Kirk from the sci-fi hit “Star Trek,” hammed it up for Valley residents at the Mesa Arts Center on Sunday night.

The sleek designs of the Ikeda Theater were transformed to accommodate Shatner’s arrival. A projector screen drawn from the ceiling over the stage displayed a galaxy in a bluish hue. The black background behind the screen sparkled with sapphire-colored lights.

The lights briefly dimmed around 7:30 p.m. and flashed back to reveal Shatner’s setup. Two small tables on each side flanked a chair situated in the center of the stage. The screen lit up to show various pictures and brief video clips.

Shatner proved that he was not susceptible to stage fright. He swept across the stage and lamented, “You know, I usually like to enter with a rocket on my a–, but this will do.”

Despite his dramatic and attention-grabbing persona, his ensemble of a white-collared shirt, black tuxedo jacket and jeans remained somewhat casual.

He paced the stage, revealing tidbits of his childhood.

Shatner, a Montreal native, described himself as an adventurous and boisterous child. He was involved in theater from a young age but wasn’t exactly concerned with academics, he said.

While his energetic nature never dissipated, age provided opportunities that required more somber notes.

Shatner spent a great deal of time divulging about his role as Alexander the Great. He became close with his character’s horse, Bucephalus. He later purchased a horse and named it after the true Bucephalus.

His eyes twinkled while he explained the immense joy he experienced around horses. In order to stay true to the show’s comedic roots, he recounted his process of getting onto the horse without stirrups by pretending to vigorously ride on the ergonomic chair.

The laughter routinely generated by Shatner died down during the anecdote about his horse’s death. Bucephalus had to be euthanized. He painfully described the sorrow he felt upon Bucephalus’s last day. However, his passion for horses never left him.

Shatner quickly switched gears and discussed his experiences in “Star Trek” as Captain Kirk. The pleasure he received that stemmed from the show made it difficult for him to bid it adieu.

“When I was told that Captain Kirk was to be killed off with a shot in the back, I knew that I had to give the death scene the same amount of energy that I portrayed in earlier episodes. Honestly, though, ‘Star Trek’ ended for me when it was canceled after three years,” Shatner said.

However, “Star Trek” had a big impact on the Canadian actor, even after its unfortunate demise.

A 6-year-old child once appeared at Shatner’s doorstep early one morning, asking if he was Captain Kirk. After Shatner confirmed it, the little boy asked if he could go inside his spaceship, a.k.a. his house. Shatner explained that he couldn’t say no since there was such great awe and wonder in the child’s eyes.

On a larger scale, NASA admired “Star Trek” and asked Shatner to do the last wake-up call on the space shuttle Discovery.

Of all of the stories that Shatner shared with the audience, the kidney stone story was definitely the strangest. After a kidney stone was found in Shatner and later removed, he decided to sell it. The amount of money obtained from the sale enabled the star to buy a family a house in New Orleans. The audience approved of the decision by whistling and clapping enthusiastically.

Shatner also embedded inspiration into his one-man show. The years following his acting career involved a short singing career. People sneered at the change and called Shatner a “has been.” Instead of letting it affect him personally, Shatner created a comedic song about it.

His discussion about his career change transitioned into the end of his show. A slideshow of family pictures was set to a soothing instrumental piece. Shatner narrated it and told the audience that, regardless of his presence on television and movies, he is still real and ordinary.

After the slideshow and narration, the audience gave a standing ovation and filled the theater with loud applause.

May he live long and prosper.

 

Reach the reporter at lrogoff@asu.edu