Monday, December 16, 2019

An Evening with William Shatner, 1976

Going through a box of old things from long ago, most of which should have been tossed out with the trash long ago, I found this ticket stub from an event I attended at Texas A&M University in 1976: An Evening with William Shatner at Rudder Auditorium. The promoters made sure to include "Star Trek" on the ticket and probably on all the promotional material, too. But the show had little, if anything, to do with Star Trek as I remember it. Or maybe just not enough for my expectations.

Somehow, this little ticket stub survived in mint condition among a jumble of paper, books, and other objects. I wondered how Shatner's one-man show might have survived on the Internet and began to search for other memories to compare with mine.                                                                                                                                                I remember being disappointed, as I was expecting Star Trek talk (that false advertising thing on the ticket, no doubt!)--history of the show, the characters, maybe a Captain Kirk scene or two reprised. I seem to recall he mentioned the show once or twice, but the great majority of his performance involved dramatic readings and other talk long gone from memory.                                                                                                                                                                                        But thanks to the Internet, there are a few other memories about that tour, including an interesting one from William Shatner as he nervously launched his tour at none other than Texas A&M University. So my ticket appears to be from the very first performance of this one-man show. 
The Wikipedia page, William Shatner Live is about a live recording of Shatner's 1977 Hofstra University performance for a double album [archaic term now]. The liner notes [more archaic terminology] from that album indicate that Texas A&M University was the first stop on the tour and provide great insight to what Shatner was feeling as he prepared to take the stage.
The idea of a one man show had intrigued me for a long time. It's a well known fact that the film is a director's medium and the stage belongs to the actor. Once the curtain goes up nobody yells "cut." But the one man show is the ultimate of the actor's medium and it was this thought that led me back again and again to what I could do, alone, on the stage. It would be merciless, I knew. If I were good, it would be the actor's dream-- but if it failed I would be alone. Alone up there with thousands of eyes peering at me -- opera glasses raised for a closer look, and the unasked but heavily felt question "what's he going to do?"
All this was going through my head as I learned the lines -- all this was in front of my eyes as I lay down at night -- and when the day came that I was to open at Texas A&M University I was filled with fear.
A very primitive fear -- the fear of the actor. The nightmare that all actors have from time to time is appearing naked in front of an audience -- not knowing the lines, not knowing the play -- I was living the dream.
Thirty-five hundred people awaited me expectantly; the buzz of their voices reached me backstage, the lights dimmed, the M.C. announced my name and I walked out. The spotlight hit me like a physical force and I was on -- oh muse, be with me now -- I took a breath & started to speak...
A University of North Carolina blog contains a post about Shatner's stop there on his tour. From the UNC archives, there is an indication that Shatner's talk was about the history of science fiction. I don't remember that from the show I saw. I doubt he came up with different performances for different venues, but while I'm doubting I should also doubt the accuracy of my memory of the show I saw. It was a very long time ago and I honestly don't remember much content from his performance--just that he was there, hardly referenced Star Trek, and still got rousing applause. 

Regardless of what I remember from that evening's performance by a fine actor, or what disappointed me about the performance, I do know that I'd sure welcome an opportunity to experience it again in present day with the advantage of maturity and greater appreciation for such things. Perhaps there is a recording of it somewhere and it will get beamed up to YouTube one of these days.


  1. I believe I saw part of the tour. It was at rider college new jersey and I remember sitting through about an hour of Shatner doing Shakespeare. But he did spend some time after the show to answer our questions. Maybe he learned from his experience from previous shows that he needed to give something to the audience that was Star Trek related. That final segment made the evening.

    1. Thanks for commenting. Now that you mention Shakespeare, I believe he did that as well at the first show in Texas. I can't remember a Q&A afterward (he may have), but I'll bet you're right about him refining his routine as the tour evolved.