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Tag: Orion Couling

A Klingon Christmas Carol Delivers Geeky Fun!

A Klingon Christmas Carol takes a holiday classic into decidedly geeky territory. Not withstanding some shortcomings in terms of costuming, EDGE of Orion Productions and director John Gleason Teske have delivered an interesting and entertaining view of the holiday season’s good spirits.

Predating the Dickens version of the tale by several hundred years, as we are told by a Vulcan Narrator (Elise Soeder), the play follows SQuja (Scrooge, played by Tony Bunnel) through the events of the annual, Klingon winter solstice celebration, tlhIngan ram nI’ bom (Klingon Long Night’s Song). A cowardly money lender, the ghost of his old partner, marlI’ (Marley, played by Kent Joseph) and three Spirits of Kahless lead SQuja through an exploration of his life and the discovery of his courage, passion, and honor.

Tony Bunnel as SQuja,

Tony Bunnel as SQuja,

Returning for his second year at the titular character, SQuja, Tony Bunnel delivers a transformation the role deserves. The character seems small at the beginning of the play, shoulders hunched, gestures small. A money lender who cheated during his ascension ceremony, SQuja stands empty of honor and all too full of spite, apathy, and jealousy. Bunnel, under the direction of Gleason Teske, slowly grows the character as the Ghosts of Kahless guide him through his life. By the last moments, SQuja stands larger, full of Klingon passion, without the cowardice the character displays at the beginning of the production. He has not yet claimed the full honor due to him, but ritual fights with his nephew, vreD (Justin Blankenship) and his guests, and a commitment to train along with tImHom (Liam Walsh) leaves the audience with a sense that SQuja will make a warrior, yet.

Justin Blankenship’s portrayal of vreD (Scrooge’s nephew Fred in the Dickens’ version),  delivered with exuberance and enthusiasm, provides a solid yardstick against which to measure SQuja’s progress. The effervescent vreD dominates the stage with his boisterous laughter and swagger, and never-ending confidence in his uncle.

The entire company of performers, each cast for “heart,” deliver solid performances, deftly negotiating around the Klingon language. Coach Dr. Jeremy Cowan spent extra time with the actors to ensure their understanding of this fictional language; pronunciation and syntax. It was not enough to merely recount the words phonetically. The cast honed their Klingon to speak with knowledge of words and often deliver meaning through gestures and reaction. For those who don’t speak conversational Klingon, the production also projects super-titles in English.

In this third year with EDGE of Orion, the costuming and makeup efforts disappoint. Compared to the Commedia Beauregard production from 2010 to 2014, outfits look amateurish, not quite the level of common con cosplay. I heard another member of the audience refer to the Klingon ridges worn by the actors as “Looking like a flesh toupee.”

It provides a stark contrast with the well designed, minimalist set. The sparsely appointed stage, and excellent if unobtrusive light design, draws the audience’s attention to the characters and the action.

Director John Gleason Teske stressed the cross-cultural appeal to the work when I had a chance to talk with him at the press preview. “Star Trek fans should come. Christmas Carol fans should come. People who want to see something different should come. Fans of staged combat should come. It’s an old story told in a new way.”

Language coach Dr. Cowan added, “It’s a show for the people that always get dragged to the nerdy stuff. Even they will have a good time.”

Having seen a preview of the show, I’m inclined to agree. By the end of the show, I was ready for some blood wine! (But I will pass on the gagh!)


A Klingon Christmas Carol runs November 29th-December 16th at the Edge Theater. Purchase tickets at edgeoforion.com/purchase-tickets/ for $22.

On December 15, Star Trek fan band Five Year Mission will visit The EDGEfor a pre-show concert. Learn more about the group at  http://fiveyearmission.net/.

Photos courtesy of Jennifer Photography and Photography with Heart.

A Klingon Christmas Carol Opens Tonight!

A Klingon Christmas Carol opens tonight at EDGE Theater in Edgewater. Produced by EDGE of Orion and directed by John Gleason Teske, A Klingon Christmas Carol returns to the Edge Theater for its third year, continuing what’s become a Chicago tradition.

A Klingon Christmas Carol is the first play to be performed entirely in Klingon, a constructed language first appearing in Star Trek. It is the Charles Dickens classic tale of ghosts and redemption, adapted to reflect the Klingon values of courage and honor, and then translated into Klingon (performed with English supertitles).

Director John Gleason Teske talks with local bloggers.

Director John Gleason Teske stressed the cross-cultural appeal to the work when I had a chance to talk with him at the press preview, last night. “Star Trek fans should come. Christmas Carol fans should come. People who want to see something different should come. Fans of staged combat should come. It’s an old story told in a new way.”

Language coach Dr. Jeremy Cowan added, “It’s a show for the people that always get dragged to the nerdy stuff. Even they will have a good time.”

Having seen a preview of the show, I’m inclined to agree.

To celebrate opening week, EDGE Theater is offering a host of entertainment and informative sessions:

Thursday Night Nov 29th

Join the Klingon Pop Warrior for a special mini-concert before the show begins! Meet board and troupe members as we mingle over drinks in the beautiful EDGE Theater Lobby before the show! 7:15 doors open! Learn more about The Klingon Pop Warrior here: https://www.klingonpopwarrior.com/

Orion Couling will lead a class on Klingon Martial Arts.

Friday, November 30th

Watch the nationally renown Raks Geek take the stage in our pre-show entertainment. Raks Geek is legendary in blending nerd with belly dance and burlesque. You’ve seen them with their belly dancing Wookie, now catch an all-new Star Trek Inspired dance! 7:30 doors open! More about Raks Geek here: http://raksgeek.com/

Saturday, December 1st

Klingon Curse Warfare with Dr. Jeremy Cowan! To Klingons, cursing is an art form. To truly understand the Klingon culture, you must understand Klingon curses. Our Klingon Language Coach will teach you a few prime curses! Doors open at 7:15 pm

Sunday, December 2nd

The Bat’leth and Martial Arts. Join EDGE of Orion’s Executive Director and international stunt coordinator, Orion Couling, as we explore the martial components of the sacred Klingon Weapon. Learn its deadly secrets and revel in a live demonstration! Doors open at 2:15 pm

On December 15, Star Trek fan band Five Year Mission will visit The EDGEfor a pre-show concert. Learn more about the group at  http://fiveyearmission.net/.

A Klingon Christmas Carol runs November 29th-December 16th at the Edge Theater. Purchase tickets at edgeoforion.com/purchase-tickets/ for $22.

Orion Couling: At the Intersection of Geek and Activism

His name is Orion Couling.

Orion CoulingHis very first memories are of The Empire Strikes Back. His hard working, often absent, police officer father tried to make up for lost time with a string of presents: Star Wars toys. He spent his childhood in the boondocks of Michigan looking for a lost father figure he knew was fighting for justice. As he grew, so did his love of sci-fi: A Wrinkle in Time, Narina, Ray Bradbury, Star Trek. The genre provided excitement the rural area where he lived lacked.

At college, he discovered activism. He learned he could use this love of science fiction and theater to help drive social change.

His name is Orion Couling. On Saturday, September 2, he’ll combine his love of all things geek and his activism to lead Hope and Light: A Chicago Nerd Vigil Against White Supremacy. The Chicago Geek Guy had a chance to chat with Orion about the intersection of nerd and social justice.

CGG: What is it that you do now and how did your love of sci-fi shape your day job?

Orion: I run a mid-sized, not for profit theatre company in Chicago. Our focus is on marginalized communities, primarily differently abled people and kids to learn in alternative ways. This work is augmented by our semi-professional troupe who performs to raise money for our educational work. I also run a cosplay company that works in libraries and a children’s hospital. You see a sci-fi theme in all of this work. From our Star Wars Shakespeare MacSith to Peter and the Starcatcher, we are the company embracing the imagination. I am blessed that this is my day job. So, whether I’m teaching light saber at a library or writing a play about Minecraft with homeschoolers I get to live my dorkiness.

Orion Couling“I’m always honored to play Captain America.”

CGG: What’s been your favorite cosplay experience?

Orion: Oh wow. I’m not sure. I love doing Bumblebee from Transformers. It’s stilted so I’m 10 feet tall. I’m always honored to play Captain America. The kids love him so much; him and Spidey. But I’m premiering a book based cosplay at the renaissance faire next week that I’m thrilled about. The character is an Abhorsen from Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom Trilogy

CGG: Can you remember a moment when you really made an impact with cosplay?

Orion: Nothing surprising. But when a 5-year-old looks at you and sees their hero in real life, it’s pretty amazing. When I get to teach nonviolent crisis resolution at a library while doing a light saber workshop I feel like I’m making a difference.

“Becoming a nationally recognized stage combat instructor gave my resume the boost needed to justify someone hiring me to teach wand or lightsaber.”

CGG: How did you make the transition from fan to a professional fan?

Orion: A combination of a really good network of friends and a lot of hope. Learning the history that was the foundation for my fandoms was essential. Becoming a nationally recognized stage combat instructor gave my resume the boost needed to justify someone hiring me to teach wand or lightsaber.

CGG: What can you tell me about the path to becoming a nationally recognized stage combat instructor? What have you worked on?

Orion: I am an instructor through Dueling Arts International. It’s an international stage combat organization. I have been a recognized instructor since I was 26 (I think). I’m 39 now. I have over 50 professional production credits in mostly stage and some very limited film work. I have nearly 100 youth productions that I’ve worked on. Sci fi highlights include Predator-the Musical, Tammy (a coming of age story about a girl who was part T-Rex), Star Wars of the Roses, and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe

CGG: I first “met” you through the feminist Facebook group, The League of Ordinary Gentlemen. What drove the transition from fan to activist?

Orion: I started my journey as an activist during my sophomore year in college at Northern Michigan University. I took a class on the theater of cruelty. It focused largely on Central and South America. It basically used the theater to advocate for social change. I’ve been actively involved in that process since.

The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere, an album by Utah Phillips and Ani DiFranco from the 90’s, also spoke to me. It dealt with excepting the responsibility of privilege and action

“I felt it important to help push the cultural boundaries and responsibilities of Geekdom.”

CGG: When and how did you realize you could merge the two? Geekdom and activism?

Orion: That key element is relatively new. I’ve been thinking about this for a while. The proceeds from MacSith allowed me to support educational efforts. In some ways, that play was a soft sort of activism. Looking at Chicago’s growing geek culture and its organizations, like the inspirational Raks Geek, I felt it important to help push the cultural boundaries and responsibilities of Geekdom.

Orion Couling“Use light sabers instead of swords. Embrace the world of sci-fi but stay true to the script.”

CGG: Tell me a little bit about MacSith. Where did the idea come from and what challenges did you face implementing it?

Orion: MacSith sounds farcical. In reality, it was hard hitting Shakespearean action. It started out as a project to get kids excited about Shakespeare, about 10 years ago. It evolved into a professional production that received critical success. It was a simple concept: Use a very tight cutting of the play (75 minutes) without changing any of Shakespeare’s language. Use light sabers instead of swords. Embrace the world of sci-fi but stay true to the script.

CGG: After MacSith, what happened next in terms of geek activism?

Orion: Not enough. I continue my work in marginalized communities but this situation has really spoken to me about the need for much more.

I am in the process of planning a Wonder Woman styled workshop and all the proceeds will go to a local battered women’s shelter.

“…we are set into this world with all the elements that we need for fulfillment. We are like seeds. We must water the seeds of compassion and dialogue…”

CGG: What drove you to create The League of Ordinary Gentlemen?

Orion: I felt that men needed a positive community to discuss the transition from the version of masculinity most men I know grow up with, to a more supportive and equal place with women. I feel that important changes need nurturing. I hold to the Buddhist philosophy that we are set into this world with all the elements that we need for fulfillment. We are like seeds. We must water the seeds of compassion and dialogue and not water seeds of privilege. The fact is, I mess up, relentlessly, all the time. It has become a place where I can take my losses and stumbling blocks and seek advice from a group of people sworn to uplift the same values.

CGG: How do you think it’s working out?

Orion: It’s definitely been good for the sharing of resources and fellowship but I’d like to see us offering free workshops and lectures.League of Ordinary Gentlemen

CGG: Where and how did the idea for the Nerd Vigil emerge?

Orion: I was attending a candle vigil for Charlottesville and two quotes really stood out.

“Let our light of peace (candles) shine brighter than theirs of hate (torches)” -I put in the parenthetical words- but it got me thinking. What could I lift in peace that we shine light? Wands and light sabers were the clear answer. Who could I lift them with? My nerd sisters and brothers whom I care so dearly for in Chicago.

The other quote was “love is an action word.” It’s not enough to passive stand by or comment on social media. We also need time to grieve and grow.

I have three very dedicated speakers who will offer their peaceful perspective. I’m hoping to act on love

“If we even do one of those things it will be a success. If we do all of those things, it will be incredible.”

CGG: What are you hoping to achieve from the vigil?

Orion: Just as the description states. A peaceful resistance to white supremacy. To remember the fallen of Charlottesville and those who died before in this struggle. Finally, to encourage the nerd community to broaden their horizons in multicultural characters. If we even do one of those things it will be a success. If we do all of those things, it will be incredible.

CGG: What’s next for you after the vigil?

Orion: The Wonder Woman workshop! Most likely in October. Just got all the shields and swords!

Literally fighting for social change. Mixing high energy stage combat and stunt while raising money for women who have been put through hell.

Hope and Light: A Chicago Nerd Vigil Against White Supremacy occurs Saturday, September 2, 2017 at 7:30 pm at 50 W Adams, Chicago, IL 60603.

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