News Column

5 Questions With William Shatner

April 19, 2012

B.J. Hammerstein

William Shatner has one final stop planned for his one-man show, "Shatner's World: We Just Live in It." It's tonight at the Detroit Opera House.

For the iconic performer, who will forever be remembered as Capt. James T. Kirk from "Star Trek," "Shatner's World" has become the perfect vehicle to connect intimately with audiences during the twilight of his career.

"This is it," says the Montreal-born Shatner, who turned 81 at the end of March. "This is everything from the philosophies I approach life with to testing my abilities and skills as an actor and performer on the stage.

"This is the show about me and my life," he adds. "There's no pressure for you to be there, but I would make sure to put in the paper that this is a show not to be missed."

QUESTION: You performed at Ontario's prestigious Stratford Shakespeare Festival before you landed on "Star Trek." Any experiences you care to share with the fest's neighbors in Detroit?

ANSWER: Yes, I sure did. I do share a funny story during the show about some moments I had at Stratford. There were some very interesting occurrences when I performed, but I don't want to tell you too much before I visit the Detroit Opera House.

I will say that I was the understudy to Christopher Plummer during a performance of "Henry V." Chris got sick, so I did go on as Henry V. Rehearsals, however, I didn't really have any of those.

As I say in my show, "I never said those lines out loud except when I was at home on the toilet."

Q: Your one-man show started in Australia and then went to Canada. Even though those shows were well-received, I hear you were pretty nervous about the three-week run you did in February on Broadway.

A: You're absolutely incorrect. I was beyond terrified about taking the show to Broadway. I couldn't even fathom that thought; there was just no way I could be good enough.

I was, for the first time since I was a kid in front of an audience, really scared about performing.

The show, I changed a lot of it. I'm always working on it. If you saw the show in Australia or Canada, you might only recognize about 50% of it; that's how much I changed it before opening on Broadway. There's such a high standard when it comes to having a successful Broadway show that I was adding and subtracting all these different stories.

I wasn't sure if I was capable of delivering that Broadway standard and that obsession of doing the show prior to the opening left me as though a cloak had been pulled off my head. I was freaking out. But in the end, I got standing ovations every night.

Q: Did you look at the idea of doing a one-man show as a risky move?

A: That's exactly it: My whole show is about taking chances.

There's this whole philosophy, this approach I've had with life and with the show, where I do want the show to be considered highly funny and I do go for laughs, but there's a lot more to it.

Life is about taking risks. The show is about me taking chances. And, in the end, if you don't go the safe route and you're not afraid to put it all on the line and say yes to being risky, your life will end up being richer as a result of that.

Q: On top of telling some stories, will you cover everything from Capt. Kirk to performing some of your spoken-word poetry and songs?

A: It's a one-man show! If you want dancing girls, you should just ask for them (laughs).

Truthfully, that's a yes to everything you asked. Well, not "T.J. Hooker." I was allowed only 90 minutes and now it's more like 100 minutes. But I can't quite get in everything for you.

But Detroit can be sure about this: It's a show about love, hate, music, comedy. It's about horses and "Star Trek" and "Boston Legal."

For the show, I've reread (Robert Pirsig's 1984 book) "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values." It's an extraordinary read. That book, there's no way of simply putting it, but it's really about the philosophy of staying in the moment. What it has really done for me is it reminds me to refresh the material. That's been a main reason to why I'm constantly changing things in the show.

So there's a lot of me talking about the things that I've learned along the way. There's a lot more than just the anecdotes in my life. I really try and paint a vivid picture that's full of color of these different experiences I've had.

Q: What are your plans with the show moving forward? Do you see yourself doing this a year from now?

A: I don't really know how to answer that. I can say that we're doing a TV special with a network like HBO where we would do the show from Canada, but we're not sure about all the details for that yet.

I really did this show as a legacy for my kids. It's for them and all the people who've liked me and the work I've done. For all the people who have any kind of fond feeling toward me and those who want to be entertained and laugh a lot and really see what I do, here's your chance and, honestly, I don't know when and if I'm going to be able to do it again.

At the end of the show when I'm standing there and the audience is applauding me after I've really opened myself up, there's an overwhelming feeling of love and acceptance.

Most of the time, I'm fighting back the tears, unsuccessfully, but it's an incredible feeling of expression and such a meaningful connection. The show's been incredible and I hope that people in Detroit will enjoy it ... and take that earlier cue about the standing ovation.

More Details: 'Shatner's World: We Just Live In It'

7:30 tonight

Detroit Opera House

1526 Broadway, Detroit



Source: (c) 2012 the Detroit Free Press

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