By Judy Thorburn
Owner/Editor in Chief/writer - Las Vegas Round The Clock
Owner/Editor in Chief/writer - The Flick Chicks
Director of Communications - Nevada Film Alliance
Star Trek Convention Beams Into The Las Vegas Hilton
Star Trek fans, aka, Trekkies, from all over the planet convened in Las Vegas for the annual Star Trek Convention which was held Thursday through Sunday, August 5-8 at the Las Vegas Hilton.
The daily schedule of events included an exhibitor and vendor room featuring Star Trek memorabilia available for purchase and live booth appearances with some of the actors who were featured in episodes of the iconic TV series and its spinoffs, a collectible and sci fi genre no minimum bid auction, a trivia challenge, and nightly after parties.
Of course, for avid fans (many who showed up decked out in make up and costume as one of their favorite Star Trek characters) highlights of the convention was the opportunity to see the actors in person, purchase a ticket for an up close, meet and greet/autograph session as well experiencing several panel discussions with Star Trek superstars, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Walter Koenig and George Takei and several actors from its spinoffs, The Next Generation, Deep Space 9 and Voyager that included a special appearance this year by Sir Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner.
Due to my hectic schedule, I was only able to attend two panel discussions. On Friday, August 6th I attended the Deep Space 9 panel featuring James Darren, (Vic Fontaine), Armin Shimerman (Quark), Rene Auberjonios (Odo), Nana Visitor (Maj. Kira), and Aron Eisenberg (Nog). Below are some highlights from their discussion.
In regards to his character Quark, Armin said, “The Ferengi represents the 'others' in a culture. I based my character as being the 'other' – the rest a (particular) culture doesn't understand. It is about being the outsider and having to espouse your own culture (he gave an example: like Jews in America). I never saw the Ferengi as comic characters.”
James Darren - “My DS9 character of Vic was different than anyone else. Vic was totally an earthbound character within a community of aliens. My favorite scene was with Odo in a bar telling him the facts of life. As Vic, I never looked at Odo as someone who didn't look like me. I loved playing Vic because it reminded me of people I was friendly with, like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. I thought of Vic as a combination of both. To me, Vic was my idol, like looking at Frank and Dean.”
Rene Auberjonios - “I was jealous (he said, jokingly) when the arc of James' character was with others. We were soul mates.”
James Darren - “I had a wonderful time doing the show and wish it were still going on.”
Nana Visitor- My alien character, Kira was a B'joran. It was an interesting concept to include spirituality in a one hour show. I helped make sense of who Kira was.”
Rene Auberjonios - Regarding Odo's makeup: “It was challenging. The face was a mask. People normally think its something you hide behind. I studied mask work. Contrary to covering emotion, I was able to project (emotions) through the tilt of my head, adjustment of my body. I knew I would be able express everything I needed to express.”
What failure did each of you experience and what did you learn from it that helped define you as an actor?
Rene Auberjonios - “For me, it takes me back to broadway musicals...the stress. Everyone is so panicked. I did about 5 musicals on Broadway. I did a musical called 'Dance of the Vampires'. It was the biggest flop up to that point. I learned so much about keeping cool when the ship is going down. It's important to stay true to yourself and not let others' egos affect you.”
James Darren - “When I was 16 years old I went to New York. Dick Roman and myself both went into the studio. He sounded great. I sounded like trash. When I tried out for Broadway I was dreadful. I learned that failure is not being ready for what you want to achieve. At 94 (obviously joking) I am ready.”
Nana Visitor - “When I was performing in the musical 'Chicago' in Detroit, I had to come face to face with the fact I wasn't good enough. I knew it, and its and ugly awful feeling, but I climbed out of it and accepted it. It's important when you know what 'you' think.”
Aron Eisenberg - “The fear of failure pushed me forward. Someone told me 'dare to fail', that encouraged me. I made a decision to pursue acting after a kidney transplant at age 19.
Sir Patrick Stewart (Captain Picard) and Brent Spiner (Data) were the featured celebrities at Sunday's afternoon panel discussion followed by a Q&A session.
Stewart and Spiner first appeared separately before joining each other on stage. They showed great camaraderie and consistently joked with each other. Below are the highlights from the audience Q&A:
When asked if he plans on appearing in any future Star Trek movie, Brent Spiner replied: “No, I don't think I will be playing Data again. I am open to play other things, but I don't want to see Data with white hair. I have several things in the fire that I can't talk about...writing a novel, short pilot for a series, nightclub act ready to tour, and I will be shooting a feature film by the end of the year.”
How has his perspective on Data and the Star Trek world changed over the years?
Brent Spiner: “I am not in it any more, he said with a laugh then got more serious. “I am not very philosophical. Star Trek was a great gift I was a part of that keeps on giving (which brings me) here today. Star Trek is the biggest thing that ever happened in entertainment in America. I am part of something that is essentially a part of American history.
When asked why he didn't direct an episode, Spiner kidded with the person who asked the question by replying, “Why didn't you? It requires a huge amount of energy. Its all I can do to get up in the morning. I don't even like to stand.” Seating himself on a nearby chair, he added “I don't have the energy.”
Stewart, posing as a fan, got up to the microphone and asked: “Is it true, on the set, you were called 'Spiner the whiner'?”
Spiner went on to do a great vocal impression of his fellow actor and good friend. If I had played Picard, he said, I would be Sir Brent today (referring to Patrick Stewart's British title).
When asked if either had any audition stories to share, Stewart said he was planning to put together a book. “I need to write to everybody (fellow actors) and ask them to give me one horror story to prove that it happens to everyone.”
Spiner answered the question by saying, “I was called by my agent to try for a part, but I read in the paper that the role had already been cast.”
That just about completes my coverage of this year's Star Trek Convention. Next year marks the 45th anniversary of Star Trek and it has been announced that the 2011 Convention will be held at the Rio Las Vegas Hotel and Casino.
For additional insight on this year's convention check out the below photo gallery.
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn
Rene Aberjonios, James Darrren, Nana Visitor, Aron Eisenberg and Armin Shimmerman
Sir Patrick Stewart
Brent Spiner and Sir Patrick Stewart
Celeste Yarnell and Judy Thorburn