Inside D.C. entertainment

Klingon Shakespeare 2: The Wrath of Khamlet

February 28, 2011 - 03:12 PM
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The BBC's Stephen Fry posted this picture of himself in Klingon regalia to his Twitter feed.

Congrats, nerds — but not the ones Franco lauded at the Academy Awards last night. This was an entirely different mingling of showbiz and geekery: The second iteration of the Washington Shakespeare Company's "An Evening of Klingon in Shakespeare," which earned the company a featured spot on a BBC documentary series about language, to premiere later this year. Though last September's Klingon Shakespeare featured George Takei, his schedule wouldn't permit him to return to Washington, so host Stephen Fry (famous for his portrayal of Oscar Wilde, and his many TV hosting gigs) dressed up in full Star Trek regalia to utter a few incomprehensible gurgles of Klingon in a scene from Hamlet, or "Khamlet," as he's called in Klingon.

And because Fry, not Takei, was onstage, there was a marked difference in the type of nerds that came to last night's show. In September, pasty, Klingon-speaking Trekkies in their favorite attire from the show filled the Spectrum theater for a chance to meet their idol. Last night, there were distinguished-looking older gentlemen in blazers and pocket squares. Only one man wore a Starfleet Federation pin on his lapel, and a few people wore the "Klingon Security" shirts available for sale in the lobby. The questions for Mark Okrand, creator of Klingon, were about the nature of linguistics, rather than the innerworkings of the Star Trek set, and the questions for Fry pertained to his role as Oscar Wilde.

It was noted that the fall Klingon Shakespeare was like a dress rehearsal for this, the main show. The performances, again from Much Ado about Nothing and Hamlet, were a little more fleshed-out this time for the TV cameras. And there were more Klingon costumes! You may recall a serious dearth of Klingons in September. WSC upped their total from four to 10, and the towering Fry wore his head-ridges well. A recap:

To my untrained ear, Klingon still sounds like: A cat yerking up a hairball.
Stephen Fry performed his Klingon line like: A cat yerking up a hairball. "That really hurts," he said, clearing his throat. He was supposed to play Hamlet, but was downgraded to the smaller role of Osric.
Reason Stephen Fry gave for not playing Hamlet on Twitter: "Too many lines to learn for the Dane himself!"
Reason Stephen Fry gave for not playing Hamlet in the post-show Q&A: "I can't fence."
Two out of three ain't bad: Host Joe Palka opened the show with his Oscar predictions: Natalie Portman, Colin Firth, Social Network. Well, he was close enough.
Why the show was held on Oscar Night: The BBC had hoped to come in the fall, but couldn't make it. So they chose the date, and the theater happily obliged.
A recycled joke that was just as good the second time around: "Some of you probably think 'The Wrath of Khan' is when you piss off Michael," said Christopher Henley, artistic director of the Washington Shakespeare Company. As in Michael Kahn, artistic director of the Shakespeare Theatre.

Stephen Fry
(Courtesy: Stephen Fry)

Kids, they grow so fast: Last fall's Star Trek Baby was back (her mom, Jenn Carlson, is the director of audience services for the WSC), but she had already outgrown her Starfleet shirt.
Lucky break: The Klingon Dictionary was supposed to come out at the same time as the film, but it was delayed, said Okrand. That turned out to be a good thing, because much of the language was changed in post-production, so the book would have been full of errors.
Weird things that have been translated to Klingon: The theme song from "Sesame Street," the Arlo Guthrie song "Alice's Restaurant," "Tradition" from Fiddler on the Roof.
"Goodnight, sweet prince," in Klingon, translated back to English: "Success, good sir."
We have Klingon to thank for Avatar: Arika Okrent, a linguist, thanked Marc Okrand for bringing her field to Hollywood. "You can't get away with not hiring a linguist [for your sci-fi movie], so thank you for that."
The second-best kisser Stephen Fry has ever known: Jude Law
The first? He joked that he was under a restraining order. "I can't go within 500 words of this person."
Stephen Fry, the Trekkie: Fry wrote an essay at Cambridge about Nietsche's theory of tragedy — "Niet-shee, as you all say" — and Star Trek. "I'm a Trekkie, quite."
Let's get poignant about Star Trek: Fry says it's a "Journey into the human heart and human brain. It was to find out about who we are."
Why no one's ever done a whole play in Klingon: "My feeling is that it would be boring after 10 minutes," said Marc Okrand.
An entrepreneurial opportunity from Stephen Fry: "You could have a Klingon Starbucks," said Fry, making the CHHHHHH sound of foam coming out of an espresso machine.
Work that Stephen Fry would like to see translated to Klingon: Wagner's Ring Cycle. "The only expense would be equipping the audience in the first five rows with umbrellas."
But don't translate Oscar Wilde, as one audience member suggested: "It would be like someone taking a jackhammer to a soufflé," said Fry.


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