A Christmas Carol, with Klingons

A group of artists is bringing a sci-fi twist to the classic Dickens Christmas story.

Christina Romano left and and Zachary Serota right, rehearse for a fight scene in an upcoming production of “A Klingon Christmas Carol” in North Minneapolis on Saturday.

Simon Guerra

Christina Romano left and and Zachary Serota right, rehearse for a fight scene in an upcoming production of “A Klingon Christmas Carol” in North Minneapolis on Saturday.

by Andrew Penkalski

In a Brooklyn Park elementary school cafeteria, two Klingons, weapons in hand, fight to the death. The fluorescent lights hum. The backdrop is dominated by seating charts and grade school nutrition posters. ItâÄôs a foreign world for the Klingon race, but these two brutes with their ridged brows and perpetual grunting allow nothing to distract them from their courageous, honorable bloodlust, and when theyâÄôre done, the next two have a go.
ItâÄôs all part of the fight calls, the principal moments of rehearsal for Commedia BeauregardâÄôs fourth annual production of âÄúA Klingon Christmas Carol,âÄù a piece that has leapt from the realm of playful âÄúStar TrekâÄú fan fiction to legitimate theater.
âÄúAs each year has happened, weâÄôve gotten more of a reputation in the theater community for actually being a quality piece of theater that happens to be in Klingon and directed at sci-fi fans,âÄù show director and Commedia Beauregard company member Erin Schroeder said.
Over these four years âÄî which includes a Chicago production for this season âÄî that loyalty to the sci-fi source material has not wavered. Trading in ScroogeâÄôs poor expression of charity and mercy for failed attempts at courage and honor, and also replacing Christmas with the Feast of the Long Night, the performance really is a love song to that populous community of Trekkies. After all, the performance is entirely in Klingon âÄî a fact that conveniently reiterates Commedia BeauregardâÄôs focus on works of translation.
âÄúWeâÄôve worked very hard to stay true to the narrative elements and still stay true to what is Klingon,âÄù Schroeder said.
So what is being put together here is essentially one of the most universally known stories melded with one of the most esoteric phonetic systems in existence. It is a fact that breeds a bit of skepticism for the uninitiated. However, these two contrasting works seem to complement each other quite brilliantly.
âÄúThe Dickens story is about second chances and redemption,âÄù Schroeder said, âÄúand thatâÄôs exactly what this story is.âÄù
What may be more interesting is the Klingon contextâÄôs ability to elevate the subtleties of the original tale.
âÄúIn a strange way, everyone being Klingon almost humanizes the Scrooge character more,âÄù actor Kieran Adcock-Starr, who plays Scrooge in this yearâÄôs production, said. âÄúThe audience seeing that brings them almost closer to him.âÄù
And such a keen eye to these details seems to stem from a deeply involved cast, many of the members coming in with a prior passion for âÄúStar Trek.âÄù
âÄúI have always wanted to be an actor as a little kid,âÄù actress Laura Thurston, who also participates in the local IKV RakeHell Klingon club and assisted with translation, said. âÄúThis came along and I was like, âÄòYes!âÄô âÄù
So while it is likely a futile effort to try to follow the snarls and throat-clearings that define the Klingon language, Commedia Beauregard has at least made sure that you are hearing this unique tongue from the best. Not including the helpful English supertitles or the Vulcan narration, Schroeder truly hopes that the acting can speak for itself.
âÄúOne of the things weâÄôve done is to try and make the acting as obvious as possible,âÄù she said. âÄúWeâÄôve found that halfway through the show, the audience doesnâÄôt read as much, because they can understand whatâÄôs happening even though they donâÄôt know a word theyâÄôre hearing.âÄù
Klingon translation aside, this is a story everyone knows. While such a bizarre approach may stir a bit of resilience in the bellies of the non-Trekkies, Schroeder and company sound awfully sure that the holiday tale can be taken just as warmly as Charles.