April 14th - 16th, 2000
Krystle Strand Petersen
Original photos copyright Krystle Strand Petersen
Please do not repost or reproduce
The feeling of euphoria contrived from Kate's and John's masterfully moving performances of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning in "The Lion and the Portuguese" continued well into Sunday afternoon as the masses congregated once again in the main events room to hear first from the omnipotent, wise and witty John de Lancie. John retold the saga of the play's creation and spoke of his quest to locate its original author, Susan Rivers, in order to bestow due credit, in the event the play would ever be recorded for public sale. (If anyone has information about Ms. Rivers please contact Mr. de Lancie at the "Alien Voices" website) As John's question and answer period wound down, a stir of excitement and anxious anticipation swelled in the main events room. Many people elected to stay for the subsequent Star Trek Play Parody, while others wandered into the lobby in search of an early morsel of dinner. The hour before Kate was to take the floor seemed to pass by extraordinarily more slowly than even the period of corridor congestion before the play the evening prior. But it did pass, and soon it was time to assume our seats again in preparation for welcoming, in our minds, the star of the weekend, Kate Mulgrew.
The MC polled the audience to enumerate those who attended the play Saturday night. The response of applause, whistles and cheers nearly raised the roof. Had Kate been in Iowa she would have heard that welcome. Then, with no further ado, Kate stepped briskly onto the stage and bid the audience a fond hello with her characteristic full-arm wave and brilliant smile. In an instant it seemed that she had only gone back stage after the play mere minutes ago to change out of costume: it surely hadn't been an entire day since we last saw her.
In the same moment that Kate reached center stage, a boisterous gentleman from the back of the room bellowed; "You're gorgeous!" With a sly grin and pretending not to have understood, Kate teasingly asked; "Would you repeat that please?" Laughter and applause crescendoed once again.
Kate interrupted the cheers to inform us that the Voyager crew had just wrapped filming of season six. She depicted the set as a war zone. Roxanne Dawson had been on crutches after having surgery, and according to Kate she was more dangerous than a stun rifle. One of the male techs injured his shoulder and Jeri Ryan reportedly broke or sprained her ankle. Kate suggested with a wink and a naughty smile that Jeri's injury was perpetrated by climbing out on the wrong side of the bed. Much of the audience assumed she was so surreptitiously referring to Jeri's newly developed relationship with Executive Producer Brannon Braga. Kate characterized the remainder of the crew as sick with colds or the flu, which sent them into "various states of catatonia". She quipped on the amazing ability Voyager actors possess which allows them to accurately block scenes and deliver lines, all while sleeping in a vertical position.
There was a short pause for laughter and then Kate interjected with the surprising announcement that Voyager will be going home next season. I do believe she rendered the audience speechless, if only for a brief moment. I think the surprise was less in the fact that Voyager would make it back to the alpha quadrant (after all, they do have a female Captain) and more in Kate's freedom to proclaim it to a few thousand fans who would no doubt spread the message throughout cyberspace as soon as their fingers found themselves caressing a keyboard and cradling a mouse. The prospect of returning home and filming the last season evoked an emotional response in Kate, prompting her to sit down on the wooden chair preset on the stage. In a deeper, slower voice, Kate spoke of the complexity that awaits Tom Paris, the Maquis, Seven of Nine and others when the crew reunites with the Federation once again. She promised the seventh season would be filled with many wonderful episodes, several guaranteed to bring viewers to tears. One only had to glance into Kate's soft, slightly swelled eyes to find assurance that tears shed by Janeway in the seventh season will hardly be a product of acting. The crew has developed into a closely-knit family and saying good-bye will no doubt be difficult for everyone.
Kate also began to speak familiarly about an episode involving the return of Jennifer Lien's character, Kes. Kate went on for a few more seconds referencing scenes in the episode until one kind gentleman verbally pointed out that that particular episode hadn't aired yet. Kate stopped suddenly, gave an innocent shrug of her shoulders and quickly covered by saying; "Ah, well, you'll see it soon." There was an unexpected humor in Kate's cavalier manner of leaking information about the series, suggesting that the light at the end of the wormhole is indeed in sight.
On the note of family, Kate composed a picture of life as Robert Duncan McNeil's trailer neighbor at Paramount. "I know everything about the man", she stated, putting on a pretend moue and wincing her brow. She recited every onerous time and action imaginable involving his newborn from feedings and changings to the rare quietude of naps. Her attempted facade of annoyance was ephemeral at best, as the mellifluous tone in her voice could not be masked.
Kate recounted some of the salient, more exasperating moments of working with her dear friend, the insatiable Robert Picardo (the Doctor). Naturally, these moments frequently presented themselves in the wee hours of the morning, just before the threshold of sanity when all things become hysterically amusing. Hunching her shoulders forward and furrowing her forehead, Kate imitated Bob analyzing the scene at hand; "...if I hold the tricorder precisely like this and move my right hand like so..." "Bob", Kate interrupted with a desperate plea, "do...you...want...to... finish this scene tonight?"
Kate opened the floor to inquiries from audience members who had already formed two long lines at the microphones. Several young children asked Kate similar questions. One girl wanted to know what Kate considered the best part about being on Voyager. Kate replied; "I get to be the Captain!", which seemed like a perfectly logical and acceptable answer to the young questioner. On a similar theme, another youngster asked what the best thing was about being Captain. Kate half-jokingly explained that it was being the boss. More seriously, though, Kate brought up her duty as a role model, spurred by the enormous support and reception Janeway (and we all know Kate) has received for portraying and living as a strong leader, talented scientist/actress and compassionate, sensible woman. Kate takes that duty very seriously and is gladly determined to use Janeway's position of Captain as an opportunity to set a positive precedent for her fans, especially young girls. This opened itself to the undying topic of Janeway and Chakotay, and the in-the-flesh romance so many fans hope to see develop each season. Interestingly, Kate asked the audience whether they would like to see such a relationship and without hesitation, the answer was a refreshing and hardy "No!" that drowned out any sporadic "yes" votes. Kate appeared pleased, especially since she took a firm and definitive stance against Janeway pursuing a sexual relationship with Chakotay. After all, the Captain of a real ship would not fraternize with her first officer. Snapping back from her tangent, Kate realized that the young child who originally asked the question had been waiting ever so patiently at the microphone, and probably did not understand the mature message of her soap-box discussion, which prompted Kate to summarize her reply in an enthusiastic "...because she's the Captain!"
The popular topic of coffee presented itself early as one person asked Kate's favorite blend, to which she answered French Roast, and then a young lady gave Kate a bag of chocolate covered coffee beans, which Kate gladly accepted and munched on between the question and answer session and autograph signing.
One young man wondered whether Kate enjoyed filming the episode in which she played Arachnia, Queen of the Spider People. Kate responded emphatically that yes, she enjoyed that role very much. It gave Janeway a chance to laugh, over-dramatize and get out of uniform. Then she turned the question to the audience to see if they liked the episode and to ask if it seemed an appropriate indulgence for the Captain to let her hair down and behave a bit silly with the other members of her crew. Unanimously, the audience approved and did not think it took anything away from the authority or leadership role of the Captain. Even Captains have to play sometimes!
Returning to the topic of Janeway's relationships, another inquisitive fan brought up the episode "Counterpoint", which Kate did not immediately recognize by name, which I found completely understandable considering the long hours of constant filming and the disjointed nature of shooting episodes in piecework. Kate did enjoy her brief relationship with the persuasively handsome Kashyk, the alien inspector, but when asked about the episode "Fair Haven" Kate was less than enthused. As she so frankly stated, that was her "love affair with air".
Having only very few complaints for such a draining season, Kate did trust the audience enough to permit herself a few comments on the motivation behind replacing Kes with Seven of Nine. Clearly, Kate felt a great loss when Jennifer Lien left the show to make way for the curvaceous Jeri Ryan, although Kate did concede that the change resulted in improved ratings, which she assumed, must be important to someone. Another sore spot was the disrespectful habit the Voyager staff perpetuated of leaving last-minute script changes under the actors' doors very late at night or even early the next morning - changes that must be mastered and integrated into the previously rehearsed and learned material. All Kate requested was that the changes be given to the actors by 7 or 8pm so that they could have time to do their homework and arrive prepared for the next day's scenes.
One young lady stepped up to the microphone professing her desire to be an actress and wondered what advice Kate had for her. Kate asked the girl's age and if she was serious about acting. The girl was seventeen and assured her that yes, she was very serious. Kate inquired whether she was involved in any current acting projects, and the young lady said yes, as much as high school would allow. Kate strongly suggested that the girl act as much as possible and above all, read, read, read! Then Kate asked if the girl's mother was in the audience. She was. Almost apologetically and perhaps empathetically, Kate encouraged the girl's mother not to worry, there was a bar in the lobby she could visit when Kate was finished with the rest of her response. Kate said she believes our society tends to overeducate our youth much too much. Youth who are truly determined and serious about the arts or any other career must devote all their time and energy into that career from a very young age. Kate told the girl to finish high school as quickly as possible, because society requires it. After high school, however, she must act and only act. "If you want to be an actor, you can't do anything else."
Another young woman told Kate that she was once mistaken for Kate by a gentleman, I believe in a restaurant. She relayed all of the man's compliments to Kate, while Kate appeared to be attempting to find the physical likeness between the two of them. It "must" have been the inadequate lighting over the audience that rendered Kate unsuccessful, yet she adroitly conceded; "you do look like me". The audience was not quite as tactful in their response of tittering undertones.
Later, a young man wondered how Kate's family has responded to her success. Kate recounted out loud, but as if realizing to herself for the first time, that her father has never seen her perform. After further contemplation, she thought perhaps he had seen her on stage once. Neither parent watches Voyager. They don't purposely boycott the show, they just don't watch any television, she explained.
A young boy skeptically wondered whether Kate had ever played a nun. Smiling, Kate remembered her role as Elizabeth Ann Seton in "Time for Miracles". Kate explained that Elizabeth resembled Mother Theresa in that she educated children, guided by love without prejudice. She asked the boy if he knew who Mother Theresa was, and he cautiously, but with courage, replied slowly, "a Saint ?" Grinning approvingly Kate affirmed his answer with, "that's right" and begged an even more difficult question from the boy. "Would you rather be a hero or a saint?" she persisted. The boy considered the question thoughtfully for a couple of moments and sweetly replied without inflection, "a saint". Two small words which flew straight to Kate's heart, drawing a tender smile that amplified across her lips and prefacing a comment that the boy must surely be a great kid.
In another poignant interaction, a woman came to the microphone to give Kate a picture of her kids and to express gratitude for the inspiration and courage Kate impresses on so many women. Kate graciously accepted the picture, looked long at the children in the photo and with intuitive and concerned acumen asked the woman; "What is your malady?" The woman said she was a survivor of abuse. It troubled Kate a bit that such a strong woman would dare bestow thanks on her for displaying courage when "there is courage ladies and gentlemen", Kate insisted while directing a gesture toward the woman. The audience applauded while Kate seemed to hug the woman through a lingering glance of encouragement across the stage.
From the opposite side of the floor, a gentleman asked Kate how she prepares and researches the characters she portrays. Reflectively, Kate replied that she really relies on her own experiences for many of the characters, evidenced in that most of the roles she's accepted have strong parallels to her own life, centering around the Irish, Catholicism and strong leading ladies.
In a related question, one person asked what types of novels she enjoys. Kate responded that she mainly reads biographies and autobiographies, explaining that the lives of real human beings are often more intriguing and touching than fictional characters, although she does pick up a great novel now and again. Kate referenced one biography, by Eva Le Gallienne entitled; "The Mystic in the Theatre: Eleonore Duse", which having read, I can personally recommend with enthusiasm. Duse was an Italian actress in the early 1900s, who performed several times in the United States. As a fellow actress and later confidant of Duse, Le Gallienne offers a unique and honest perspective into the life and philosophy of this extraordinary woman, who is regarded by many as the greatest actress of all time. Throughout the book, I underlined and marked several quotes and comments by Duse that for me, could have just as easily been said by Kate herself. In my mind, Kate brings to theatre and film everything described of Duse.
Toward the end of the hour, someone posed the question "what about life after Star Trek?" Kate firmly stated that she plans to take a couple of years to actually live with her husband of nearly one year, Tim Hagen, and spend time launching her youngest son off to college. After that she intends to maintain an apartment in New York and return to the stage, "if the theatre will have me." I can't think of one that wouldn't.
At some point, perhaps on the topic of her husband the politician, Kate voiced her allegiance to the liberal democrats and adamantly campaigned against the death penalty.
In closing, Kate recognized the audience for their heart-felt support and encouragement for both Janeway and Voyager. With sincerity, she spoke of Star Trek fans: "You are the best fans, you know that, right?" By applause the audience agreed; by a standing ovation they returned exponential praise, grateful for the opportunity to convey affectionate appreciation for the strength and brilliance of character Kate brings on and off the stage. By the tenderness in her smile and the glistening tint in her eyes, there is no hesitancy in my mind that Kate received the message loud and clear.