William Shatner took the Benedum stage this week in his one man show, "SHATNER'S WORLD: WE JUST LIVE IN IT." Prior to the show, snippets of conversation floating through the audience revealed that the venue was full of Shatner fans - familiar with his many roles, including, perhaps most notably, that of Captain James T. Kirk. After all, the man (at least in my mind) is a cultural icon! As I anticipated the performance, I wondered what to expect.
Shatner stepped onto the stage, setup sparsely with a chair and a big screen, and proceeded to take the audience on a fascinating 100 minute journey chronicling his life, loves, successes and failures, and what he has learned along the way.
It was hard to believe that the man bounding and pacing back and forth across the stage is 81 years old. But, as Shatner's storytelling began to weave through the themes of laughter, love, and taking risks, we began to view Shatner as much more than Captain Kirk, Denny Crane or the Priceline negotiator, but rather as an incredibly interesting man with a lot of wise observations on life to share.
Shatner's delivery style was frequently fast-paced, almost with an edge of urgency; his familiar voice and enunciation often boomed majestically with emotion and emphasis. At times, though, in more poignant moments, he spoke with a sense of calm and quietness, and had the audience in the palm of his hand.
As would be expected, Shatner did spend a little time talking about his time on Star Trek and Boston Legal. He poked fun at the rift between he and his Star Trek co-star George Takei, and spoke of how he adored the famous 'balcony' scenes with James Spader at the end of Boston Legal.
He spent more, time, however, sharing stories from the early days of his career - his early love of vaudeville growing up in Montreal, and his experience of taking the stage with no rehearsal as Henry V while understudying Christopher Plummer. Shatner explained, "the muse was with him", and he brought the house down that evening. "Life is risk," Mr. Shatner reflected.
Shatner, a lifelong equestrian, explained that his love of horses began during his 1968 role as Alexander the Great and his experiences with an incredible horse that he rode during filming, Alexander's "Bucephalus ". In one of the most touching segments of the show, Shatner spoke of his almost spiritual relationship with horses, in particular, his legendary horse "Sultan's Great Day", and his regrets over the imprisoned life that the horse had to endure, which is typical for breeding horses. Shatner's emotion was evident as he spoke of the horse's death.
As Shatner also spoke of the death of his father, and the tragic drowning death of his third wife, he reflected that "Life doesn't have to end at death if love is present."
In past years, Shatner was not always known for having a great relationship Star Trek fans, but over time he has embraced their adoration. While showing a video clip of an interview that he did with Patrick Stewart, Shatner explained the personal revelation that he experienced when the classically-trained Shakespearean actor admitted that he would be just fine being remembered as Captain Picard (Star Trek: The Next Generation). In that moment, Shatner realized that he, too, felt the same way.
The evening was filled with many more of Shatner's unhesitatingly honest tales and his genuine sense of joy for life was evident. At the end of the evening, fans left with a broader understanding of Shatner the man, versus Shatner the cultural icon and entertainer.
Shatner aptly wrapped up the show performing his spoken word collaboration with Ben Folds, "Real," which was a perfect summarization of the essence of Shatner's revealing evening of storytelling. Mr. Shatner reflected on a conversation with Folds prior to the recording, in which he expressed the desire for their musical partnership to be taken seriously. Folds replied simply, "just tell the truth."
"Real" was the perfect ending to the evening; William Shatner is indeed real.
Excerpt from "Real"
And while there's a part of me
In that guy you've seen
Up there on that screen
I am so much more
And I wish I knew the things you think I do
I would change this world for sure
But I eat and sleep and breathe and bleed and feel
Sorry to disappoint you
But I'm real