A Night at the Theatre, Klingon Style
There is a holiday tradition in a far outpost of the Federation in a place called St. Paul, Minnesota – a night at the theatre, Klingon style.
By MJ Wilke
For over a decade, the theatre troupe at St. Paul’s Historic Mounds Theatre brought us a Star Trek Christmas gift of “A Klingon Christmas Carol.” This troupe of Trekkians are now continuing the traditional holiday-themed stage production with “It’s an Honorable Life,” a retelling of the classic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” from the point of view of Klingons. The play is performed in English and Klingon, with English subtitles projected onto a screen behind the stage.
In the classic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” an angel shows businessman George Bailey what the world would be like if he had never existed. In “It’s an Honorable Life,” Bailey is a great warrior. Both stories start out the same with both Baileys wanting to die, but for opposite reasons. Klingon Bailey fears he will die dishonorably of old age instead of honorably in battle. Q plays the part of the angel leading Bailey the warrior through a series of events that would have occurred differently had he died an honorable death during a battle early in his life. This is where things get interesting. The storytelling weaves through classic and modern holiday stories, including the Klingons performing a Christmas pageant in English, thus it is a play within a play. A very Star Trekkian thing to do. One unforgettable, hilarious scene is the musical parody of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” with the lyrics altered to refer to a Ferengi.
The first Klingon holiday play premiered in 2007 at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul campus, with “A Klingon Christmas Carol.” The premise of that play was the audience members were at a lecture on comparative literature about the Charles Dickens’ story “A Christmas Carol” and the Klingon story of “The Feast of the Long Night,” which predates it, at the Vulcan Institute of Cultural Anthropology. The Vulcan lecturer speaks in English. The Klingon story is told as a play, performed entirely in Klingon.
The Historic Mounds Theatre is an Art Deco landmark in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood of St. Paul. It’s a small theatre originally built in the 1920s for silent movies. The small, intimate setting means all the seats have a great view of the stage. The flapper design aesthetic, tales of hauntings and the resident TARDIS (yes, there is a TARDIS in the theatre that seems to be stuck in a time rift) all assist in transporting you to another time and place. Sipping on hot bloodwine completes the transport. The theatre also sells wine and beer from planet Earth.
Since “It’s an Honorable Life” is only performed at Christmas time with a December month-long run of performances at the Historic Mounds Theatre, some of the performances sell out in advance. Tickets typically go on sale in the fall.
Even if you don’t live in the north, this is a unique experience for any Trekkie and worth a weekend trip to St. Paul. All in one night, you can say that you attended a retelling of the classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” in Klingon, an original Klingon Christmas pageant in English, and sang the song of a Ferengi Grinch. A layered, nerdy holiday evening. Qapla’!
Bring a camera for TARDIS and cast photo ops after the performance.
Brush up on your Klingon before you go, the Duolingo language app now offers Klingon.
There’s currently a production in Chicago. Performances have occurred over the years in Cincinnati; Simi Valley, California; and Washington, D.C., as well.
For more information about the Mounds Theatre production of “It’s an Honorable Life”: http://moundstheatre.org/event/its-an-honorable-life/
MJ Wilke is the founder of Wayward Nerd. She is a road warrior. A nerd. A trekkie. A whovian. A Star Wars fanatic. She will go where no one has gone before, come back and post it here.