arts & entertainment
— a voyage
his life and
wiiiiam Shatner brings signature
Special to the Jewish News
illiam Shatner has audi-
ences leaping to their feet and
cheering. These are not aging
Trekkers at the latest Star Trek convention,
but theater-goers at New Yorks Music Box
Theater responding to his one-person
show, Shatner's World: We Just Live in It.
Shatner's World ended its Broadway run
on March 4 then hit the road for a 14-city
tour, including an April 19 performance at
the Detroit Opera House.
The octogenarian actor's latest project
has him recounting stories from his profes-
sional and personal life, remembering as far
back as his childhood in Montreal, Quebec,
as the son of Jewish immigrant parents.
"There was a large Jewish community
in Montreal;' Shatner said during a phone
interview."But I grew up in the part of town
that didn't have that many Jews, especially
at that time, so there was a great deal of
feeling of being an outsider. The local shul
that we went to was near enough to the
house and the public school that I went to,
and anti-Semitism had a triangular effect
there through the house, the school and the
Shatner talked about the role his Jewish
heritage has played in his life, but as with
many topics, he found it difficult to sup-
press his chronic sense of humor: "Judaism
was a very large part of my life. I was born
Jewish, and the circumcision hurt like hell;'
"It was an original hurt that I never
overcame. I was bar mitzvahed and went to
storytelling, video dips and his inimitable
musical style to his - one-man show,
Shatners World: We Just Live In It.
shul, every week, with my parents and my
uncle, so there was no question about what
I was going to do every Saturday morning':
he said. "We kept a somewhat conveniently
kosher home, but all in all it was as much
cultural as it was religious."
He described his mother, Anne, as "a nice
lady who kept a decent home and made a
good wife for my father. If that was a typical
Jewish mother, then she was typical."
In his show, Shatner includes some
Jewish-mother jokes. There are also sto-
ries about his father, Joseph, who ran a
small clothing business on Montreal's
St. Lawrence Street. Shatner recounts his
father's ambition for him to follow in the
family business and his father's surprise to
find his son had a far different calling.
"He couldn't believe it',' Shatner said.
"Being an actor was as foreign to him as the
far side of the moon:'
As a teenager, Shatner had the opportu-
nity to explore his ambition in its most pri-
mal form while working as a counselor at a
B'nai B'rith camp in southern Quebec.
"I loved to tell stories around the camp-
fire,' Shatner said. "The original storytell-
ers in mankind's history were around the
campfire. And the storyteller, the shaman,
would stand in the firelight and the rest
of the tribe would listen, whether it was a
story or a law or the word from God, and
that was the original drama.
"I often felt that there was nothing more
chilling, more horror striking, than sitting
around a campfire telling a ghost story that
might be just out of-reach of the campfire
light. And that kind of feeling is what I seek
to evoke in this one-man show:'
One of the stories in the show that
Shatner calls, "a good, fun story that has a
great deal of entertainment to it': revolves
around a road trip he took from Vancouver
to Chicago with a rabbi and his wife and
the race to get them to their destination in
time for Friday night services.
Shatner's World brings the Canadian
actor full circle, back to his roots in live
theater. In his 20s, Shatner performed at the
Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada,
playing a wide range of roles, and was once
an understudy for Christopher Plummer.
He later moved on to the Broadway stage,
where he performed in Christopher
Marlowe's Tamburlaine, The Great, Richard
Mason's The World of Suzie Wong and, final-
ly, a 1961 production of A Shot in the Dark,
with Julie Harris and Walter Matthau.
By the late 1950s, Shatner began appear-
ing in a variety of films, including The
Brothers Karamazov and Judgment at
Nuremberg. The ambitious actor also found
steady work in both live and filmed televi-
sion dramas, among them Studio One,
Alfred Hitchcock Presents, 77 Sunset Strip
and The Twilight Zone.
In 1966, Shatner won the role that would
catapult him to pop-culture icon status —
Capt. James T. Kirk on the sci-fi series Star
Trek. He would go on to work in several
other series, most notably T.J. Hooker and
as egomaniac Denny Crane in David E.
Kelly's genre-mashing lawyer show Boston
Few actors' careers can match the diver-
sity of Shatner's. Over the years, he has
worked in a multitude of mediums that
include his infamous musical recordings,
authoring sci-fi novels and comic books,
hosting talk shows and doing TV commer-
cials. When asked if there was any creative
area left that he would like to work in, he
replies dryly, "Sky writing. I hear it's quite a
"This one-man show has preoccupied
me for months, if not years': he added. "And
I have struggled to perfect it. Dreamed
about it, had nightmares about it, had
great fear about it and struggled with it for
the longest time. And only when I heard
that the reviews, especially the New York
Times, loved it, and the audience rose and
cheered, did I, fighting back blubbery tears,
acknowledge that maybe the work that I
had done was accepted in the manner that I
hoped it would be
Shatner's future plans include everything
from making documentaries to developing
an app and hosting a game show, and he
displays no signs of retiring. He explains his
need to keep moving forward as a "fear of
failure, fear that I'm not good enough, that
I've got to do more'
"My expectation is that when I do this
tour, that audiences will like it as much as
the New York audiences do here,' he said.
"This is my baby — this thing is me, and if
you like it, then you like what I've done" CI
Shatner's World: We Just Live in It
comes to the Detroit Opera House -
at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 19.1526
Broadway, Detroit. $55-$300. (313)
or www.ticketmaster.org .
April 5 • 2012