George Takei: Star Trek to Shakespeare (1969)

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George Takei cast for ‘IN’ Session

‘Star Trek’ to Shakespeare is challenge for actor

by guest columnist Judy Nelson – Senior, Narbonne High School

Charming, warm and infectiously enthusiastic George Takei describes himself as a “frustrated writer,” and says he hopes someday to play the Shakespearean characters Hamlet, Brutus and Richard III.

Takei will speak March 22 at “IN” Session, a self-improvement program for high school girls sponsored by the Independent Press-Telegram.

For the present, he is portraying Sulu, helmsman on the USS Enterprise on the television series, “Star Trek.” But, theatre is Mr Takei’s “first love, hobby, and livelihood.” He plays Ross in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” at the Inner City Cultural Center with the Inner City Repertory Company.

He is very enthusiastic about the purposes of this group. “Certain segments of the population are deprived both economically and culturally,” he said. “One purpose of the culture center is to fill the gap. Another is to give artists of minority groups a chance to show their talents.”

Every facet of the theatre is challenging to Takei. He enjoys directing and participates on the training level by teaching young actors and actresses the history of the American theatre. The group he teaches at the center covers a wide range of ages and types.

Takei’s advice to young performers: “If you enjoy the performing arts, look for the satisfaction in that itself. I suggest you get a good solid grounding in your craft. Know and polish it, then attack the professional world.”

He was born in the Boyle Heights district of Los Angeles. Before the war, the neighborhood was a mixture of Japanese, Jewish and Mexican people. “My mother learned to cook tacos, chicken soup and Jewish dishes while she taught others how to make sukiyaki,” Takei said.

When he was two, his family relocated in Arkansas during World War II. This confinement was made easier for the young boy by his parents telling him it was “a vacation.”

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His professional debut was made in a “Playhouse 90” Production. After living in New York for a time he traveled to Europe, and there became a part of a Shakespeare repertory group at Stratford-on-Avon.

His movie credits include “The Green Berets,” “Walk Don’t Run,” “Hell to Eternity” and “An American Dream.”

Architecture is the actor’s second love. He began his college education at the University of California at Berkeley as an architecture student. He received his master’s degree in Theatre Arts at the Los Angeles campus. Building his own theatre is one of his ambitions

Takei spends his spare time hiking, swimming, reading, cycling and painting. His adventurous spirit has taken him into the rugged Rocky Mountains, the Alaskan panhandle, and Baja California.

The most important quality in the girl he dates is for her to “know herself.” She must be able to communicate and concentrate on other people. A girl doesn’t need beautiful features to be attractive.

Takei says that if she has the basic core of security, it will show and produce a glow. As for today’s fashions for girls, Takei thinks “they’re great!”

The Japanese actor enjoys the challenge of working both in films and on stage. In the theatre, a person must be “bigger than life” with his expressions and voice projection.

“Unlike any other series (Star Trek) comes closest to repertory work,” he said. “The actors have a chance to play a wider variety of character types than on most television series. The characters change with the script and the scene. “Writers of ‘Star Trek’ are a literate, intelligent staff who have something to say about today’s world,” Takei added.

Takei said “Star Trek” has been unofficially cancelled for next season. Last year, the series was cancelled but a barrage of letters received by the network in California and New York influenced NBC executives to save the show.

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There is still a chance to induce the executives to give the show another chance if fans once again write letters.

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