I’ve admired Linda Park for her performance as Ensign Hoshi Sato on Star Trek: Enterprise for a long time now. Imagine my joy when I got handed her phone number and told that she’s looking forward to chatting with me. Yeah… I was giggling like a typical Trek fanboy but the discovery of her classical acting background and her work with Antaeus Theatre Company in Los Angeles added an extra layer of enjoyment to my conversation.
The Antaeus Theatre Company is a cooperative ensemble theatre company dedicated to “reinvigorating the classics” for a contemporary audience, and it is a lofty ambition that requires passion, a great understanding of literature and high drama, and the vision to make these things more easily accessible to everyone. Recently, Antaeus began a Kickstarter campaign to find a new home in Glendale, California, and to increase awareness of its many different social outreach programs and educational initiatives.
PopMythology has a philosophy in that the expression of culture – notably, a great deal of the time, geek culture – can be used to improve peoples’ lives in many special ways. We call it Applied Geekism and it’s very similar to the purpose that Antaeus is achieving by utilizing the fame and appeal of notable actors like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Armin Shimerman, Next Generation’s Jonathan Frakes and others to draw support for the Kickstarter fundraiser.
Given that there has always been a relationship between classical theatrical actors and Star Trek, it is completely understandable why performers of this calibre would be involved in Antaeus.
“Antaeus has a reputation outside of Los Angeles for high quality,” Linda tells us. “The many actors who come from Star Trek have a strong interest in making the complex classics like Shakespeare accessible to everyone. Kate Mulgrew, Patrick Stewart – to see these actors perform… There’s a level of classical bent that reaches the mythological.” (Dare we say… pop mythological?)
Linda got involved with the Anteaus Theatre Company through a drama school friend. She needed to revisit her background in Shakespeare for an audition in 2011, and that prompted a reflection on the programs that Antaeus delivers to at-risk youth, incarcerated teens and people who would ordinarily be turned off by the works of Shakespeare until they realize that this material is something that can touch their lives in a poignant way.
“These are kids who have seen all kinds of s**t (pardon my language): at-risk youth, incarcerated young men – we teach them the classics but how to tell their own stories,” Linda says. “One year – we took King Lear and told it in an urban way for them to understand betrayal by family by parents and society and then write and perform their own stories about themselves. They created their own works for us. Our shows are phenomenal, but in my heart, their shows – to see their shows and their ferocity (they have so much s**t going on) – and to see them express the classics, it’s because they live these things. They discover that Shakespeare was writing for them.”
There’s a unique mentality about being a part of a theatre company: you are a part of something greater than yourself and this diverse gestalt entity can achieve greatness. This is how Linda feels, not just about acting in general but about how classical stagecraft can touch peoples’ lives and enrich them and the medium in this case is Antaeus.
“Everyone has their own talents. Is mine just to tell a story and make people feel better, or to forget their troubles for a while? Maybe, but Antaeus can actually make a difference in people’s lives. We’re actors dedicated to our craft and to change. I’m part of something that’s bigger and that is my way of participating and I like the responsibility that comes with that. There are so many bad things happening in the world, and this is my gift to give to help effect change in the world. To be part of a company that supports that is great.”
Recognizing the value of diversity is also an Antaeus value. Just like in Star Trek, which was one of the first television shows to imagine a future with a foundation of diverse people coming together to build something better for everyone, Antaeus casts productions with non-traditional players for classic productions. Linda recently performed the role of Yelena in Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya.
“Antaeus goes beyond the mind blocks that seem to happen when the classics get cast. It makes the classics accessible by changing the expectations of what they are supposed to be. Diversity is an important part of our mission. My husband, Daniel Bess, is Caucasian, but to have him play my half-brother in George Bernard Shaw’s Mrs.Warren’s Profession is very much what makes Anteaus stand out. “
But as much as Star Trek fanboys like myself love to see Ensign Hoshi communicate with alien species or to trailblaze new areas of the galaxy for Starfleet, it’s important to remember that Linda Park is an actress. It was the theatre that was her first love and that helped her to decide where she belonged.
“I can’t remember not wanting to be an actress,” she recalls. “Somehow I found it at the age of 7 at the Rainbow Community Centre and my parents hated it. But there was Anne of Green Gables, The Phantom Toll Booth – and by the time I was in high school, I got my school to build a black box theatre and I directed Agnes of God. Theatre saved my life and it made me feel like I belonged. That’s what Antaeus can do for others.”
Linda’s influence in the geekverse and her credit as a Star Trek veteran will certainly help to realize her desire to make a positive change in the world, and Antaeus is definitely a part of that. This is a cause that really resonates here at PopMythology. The use of geek culture in a way to benefit society is definitely what Antaeus is doing. The support of the Star Trek community is instrumental in getting the message of this vibrant, prestigious and exemplary theatre out there. Recognizable Star Trek actors like Patrick Stewart, Rene Auberjonois and Brent Spiner, who all got their start in the classics are all supporting Antaeus’s message of making theatre more accessible to everyone through its #ShakespeareInsultChallenge on YouTube.
This is a perfect fusion of geek culture being used to effect the positive social change that Linda referred to. Please, check out Antaeus’s Kickstarter campaign here and support them as they try to build a new home for their mission and many worthy… Enterprises.
Sorry, the geek inside me had to say that.