A very Klingon Christmas

By Amanda Murphy

‘oH ‘oH HochHom Dun poH vo’ DIS. No, that’s not gibberish. No, a cat didn’t walk across the keyboard. It’s Klingon for “Its the most wonderful time of the year.”

For the second holiday season, The Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., is putting on “A Klingon Christmas Carol,” a variation of the timeless Charles Dickens production based on the trademark sci-fi show “Star Trek.” With twists and changes unlike the original, the play sets out to be different than any other production. And with recognition from former Star Trek actors and Paramount, the first full-length play entirely in Klingon is expected to bring Chicagoans to an entirely new galaxy of nerdy.

Of all the plays to redo in Klingon, why “A Christmas Carol,” you ask? Christopher O. Kidder, art director of the company, said he chose to redo it because of its universal appeal and the fact that it’s a widely known play.

“It gave us a starting point that was familiar to people,” Kidder said. “If you’re going to tell a story in a foreign language that really almost no one speaks, you need to do it so people understand it without knowing what’s being said.”

But audiences don’t have to fret; translations are available throughout the play on a screen above the stage. Kidder and friends wrote the original screenplay and worked with Klingon experts twice per week to translate it. Five years later, the play is much different than it was at first and has grown in content and length.

One of the main complaints the play previously received was that it was too short, but with added scenes, Kidder said the play is now a standard 90 minutes.

All the cast members from 2010’s production, except for two, have returned. Eric Van Tassell, the new assistant director, said he was enamored of the show when a friend recommended he see it the year before. Now part of the production, he said that although the play has consumed his life, he is happy to spend every minute he can working on it.

Because Klingon culture varies from that of the average American and the human race, slight changes have been made to the play. Since Klingons don’t observe Christmas, the play is celebrating a variation of the winter solstice holiday called ram nI’ tay, or feast of the long night. In Klingon lore, they murdered their gods, so instead of being visited by ghosts, Scrooge is visited by three clones of a Klingon demi-god from the series. In another change, Kidder went to the creator of the Klingon language, Marc Okrand, and asked him to create two new words for characters “Apathy” and “Corruption.”

This year’s show will also feature a guest appearance by a local celebrity most nights. And although the play has gotten recognition from “Star Trek” actors, there are no plans to feature any of them in the show this year.

“A Klingon Christmas Carol” was originally shown through the theater company Commedia Beauregard in Minneapolis until Kidder moved it and himself to the Chicago area.

In fact, most of the cast still don’t fully grasp the complicated, fantasy language. But that hasn’t stopped them from enjoying the process of learning it, speaking it and acting out a 90-minute play using it.

Actor Clark Bender, who plays VeSIwIg, this year, was able to focus more on other aspects because he came in already knowing the majority of the script. In turn, it allowed him to have more fun with his character and focus more on his acting, he said. But even working through the language difficulties and hectic practices six days per week, Kidder, Bender and Van Tassell said the highlight of the show is always working with the cast.

“Everyone is just a fun group of nerds, in their own kind of way,” Bender said. “And it really shows for the audience. The audience comes, knowing what they’re getting into, and laugh and enjoy the show like we are.”

The play will run from Nov. 25–Dec. 31. For more information on “A Klingon Christmas Carol,” visit CBTheatre.org.