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Home > Arts > Fringe File #3: INTERVIEW: Kevin T. Houle on <em>Star Trek</em>, Being Stuck in an Elevator, and Fandom Plays

Fringe File #3: INTERVIEW: Kevin T. Houle on Star Trek, Being Stuck in an Elevator, and Fandom Plays

George M. Calger, Travis Bedard, Ali Daniels, and Tanya E. Walker rehearse The Theatre Cosmic’s production of Stuck in an Elevator with Patrick Stewart II: The Wrath of Fandom, opening August 1 at the Minnesota Fringe Festival.

The religiosity of Star Trek fans is not just a joking matter – it’s been the topic of academic research for at least the last 25 years. Actors have made entire documentaries about how the modern concept fandom has been shaped by fans of the franchise. It’s inspired feature films, memoirs, and of course innumerable novels, short stories, and fan fiction. It’s also the object of The Theatre Cosmic’s Stuck in an Elevator with Patrick Stewart II: The Wrath of Fandom, one of more than a hundred theatrical productions at this year’s Minnesota Fringe Festival.

Director Kevin T. Houle spoke with the Arts Reader‘s Basil Considine about the directing side of fandom.

Director Kevin T. Houle.

You directed the original Stuck in an Elevator with Patrick Stewart in 2013. How did that show come to be, and how did you get involved with it?

I answered an ad that Brandon Taitt, the playwright, had placed looking for a director. He was a first-time playwright with a Fringe slot and the project sounded really intriguing. I had never done Fringe before and was also interested in working on more original plays.

When Brandon and I spoke on the phone the first time, we hit it off immediately. I was impressed by his enthusiasm and with my history of directing and producing plays, I thought I could be a helpful guide during his first attempt at creating something.

I did ask him if I could read the script before we made any decisions to work together. I loved all the Star Trek (I’d been a huge fan since I was a kid) and fandom references. Even in that early draft, I could see how funny and heartwarming the play was, and I knew right away it was something I’d really enjoy working on.

It also turns out that Brandon knew someone who I had worked with in the past and who gave him a ringing endorsement of me and my work, which helped seal the deal. This is now the fifth play Brandon and I have done together.

Besides yourself and the playwright, who from the original production is returning for the 2019 sequel?

George M. Calger is returning as Patrick Stewart, and Camille Isodora Smith, who played a couple of small roles in the original, is playing a new role in the sequel.

How did you go about casting this particular show?

We started by sitting down with people we wanted to work with to share the story of the show and to find out if they were interested and available. From that group, we were given the names of others who might fit the available roles and had meetings with those actors as well. From those interviews, we cast all the roles except one.

In addition, Brandon and I were at a show to see someone we knew who was performing and saw someone that we didn’t know whose presence onstage really got our attention. We were introduced after the performance and talked to her about our show and the available role. We later met with her for an interview and she became our final cast member.

An old-fashioned table read with newfangled electronic devices. Pictured: Kevin T. Houle, George M. Calger, Ali Daniels, Travis Bedard, Jeff Musch, Tanya E. Walker, Destiny A. Davison, and Camille Isodora Smith.

The Theatre Cosmic did a Kickstarter fundraiser for your 2013 Stuck in an Elevator with Patrick Stewart show. Crowd funding has come a long way into the mainstream since then – is this an avenue that you’re using again this type around?

We are not using Kickstarter or any crowd funding this time. After working on several Fringe shows since that first one, we have a much better sense of what it costs to mount a show and, after looking at a potential budget for this production, decided we would fund this one ourselves.

Given that CONvergence just wrapped up this past weekend, have you been working the flyer-distribution circuit down in Bloomington? 

Not for this production. Our postcards for this show just got printed this week – too late for CONvergence.

Fringe premieres often come together at the last minute. Did you have a mostly finalized script in hand when rehearsals began?

Yes, Brandon put in a lot of work and wrote several drafts before rehearsals started. We belong to a local playwriting group in which he was able to work on the development of the script over the course of several months.

We did have to do a lot of editing and cutting during rehearsals for the first production in order to fit the Fringe’s strict time limit, but, again, with several Fringe productions under our belts, he had a better sense of page counts and script length when he started writing this script. We were reassured when the first full script reading with the cast of this show came in under the 60-minute Fringe time limit.

A selection from the script of The Theatre Cosmic’s Stuck in an Elevator with Patrick Stewart II: The Wrath of Fandom, written by Brandon Taitt.

What is a favorite moment in this show and why?

It’s early in process, but one moment that stands out so far is when one of the characters describes her love of Star Trek and talks about playing with her father and pretending to be on Star Trek away missions when she was a little girl.

In a battle between Kirk, Picard, and Janeway, whose ship do you want to be on and why?

Kirk. Because I grew up watching the Original Series and that is the ship and crew I most identify with. I’d want to be present when Kirk attempts an audacious course of action, Spock makes it work logically and scientifically, and Dr. McCoy expresses his exasperation with them both.

Jeff Musch and Kevin T. Houle discuss the script.

Stuck in an Elevator with Patrick Stewart II: The Wrath of Fandom opens August 1 at the Rarig Center Arena in Minneapolis, MN.

Basil Considine