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Wednesday, 8 August, 2001, 10:23 GMT 11:23 UK
Star struck at the Fringe
I Am Star Trek
I Am Star Trek: Looks at the life and work of the series creator
By BBC News Online's Darren Waters in Edinburgh

Two very different productions at Edinburgh have both taken science fiction as their inspiration and starting point.

Opera Galactica is a piece of music theatre inspired by the Stars Wars saga while I Am Star Trek is a theatre piece examining the life and works of the creator of classic sci-fi TV series, Gene Roddenbery.

"We wanted to try and attract an audience that would not normally be attracted to opera," explains Richard Lewis, the composer and librettist of Opera Galactica.

Opera Galactica:
Opera Galactica: Star Wars for opera lovers

Star Wars, says Lewis, was the perfect inspiration for the production; it is both familiar and popular and contains many elements familiar to opera.

"I grew up with Star Wars and it was the big first film I remember as a child, loving the characters and it is something that has stuck with our generation.

"It was something that was such an early influence."

"The battle between Jedi Knights and the dark side of the force makes for perfect opera material," says Lewis.

"There is a lot of strangely and frighteningly similar comparisons between opera and Star Wars - the brother and sister relationship in Star Wars and the incestuous relationship in the Ring Cycle.

"The Ring Cycle is also full of epic battles, which are very similar to those in Star Wars."

Rocky Horror

Opera Galactica is also littered with musical operatic references, from Don Giovanni to Le Nozze di Figaro, as well as a number of less well-known operas.

Lewis, who is about to join the Mannheim Opera as a junior conductor, says: "I wanted to use the music for my purposes.


People recognise what you are doing 30 years after the first film came out

Richard Lewis, Opera Galactica

"I was determined not to have an opera gala evening with the same old pieces. It is a tired format and tends to reinforce people¿s prejudices about opera."

The production sends up the genre very well, becoming a sort of space opera Rocky Horror Show.

"It is actually very easy to send up in a sense because the characters have become classic.

"It means you can poke fun at them and it is absolutely clear what you are doing and there is no confusion, or contradiction.

"It has become contemporary folk lore and it is a great tribute to the series because people recognise what you are doing 30 years after the first film came out."

Elsewhere at The Fringe, Star Wars is also a source of success for a group of American students.

The group from the University of Southern California return year after year to put on The Star Wars Trilogy in 30 minutes.

As its name suggests, the show sees the actors rattle through the first three Star Wars films at breakneck speed.

It is tongue-in-cheek and cheap - rubbish bins, milk cartons and upturned chairs act as props - but like Opera Galactica it will be highly appreciated by Star Wars fans.

Genius

Yet, both Opera Galactica and I Am Star Trek will attract fans of science fiction but both productions are accessible and strong enough to attract those who have never seen an episode of Star Trek or one of the Star Wars films.

I Am Star Trek
Classic Star Trek scenes are re-enacted

I Am Star Trek takes a voyage through the life of the creator of Star Trek, a man who is revered by man as the father of TV science fiction.

"Gene was a very complicated man. He was a dark character and a bit of a genius; ideas poured out of him and he changed the way American television worked," explains Jonathan Hansler, who plays Gene Roddenberry.

"He was also something of a leach and ended up on drugs."

Nine actors play 51 characters in the production which follows the creation of Star Trek from script idea to world-wide phenomenon.

"Gene wanted to create a Western in space, a sort of Wagon Train," says Hansler.

Askew

With just a table and some chairs as props the actors keep the action moving and the bare nature of the production is never noticed.

The production even acts out some scenes from classic episodes and the Star Trek films.

Opera Galactica
Opera Galactica: Will appeal to those unfamiliar with Star Wars

"We do scenes from the original episode, Next Generation and the first film. But we change a few things," says Hansler

Due to the rigorously enforced copyright control on Star Trek and Star Wars both productions have avoided copying any material.

Costumes are slightly different and the vocabulary of the productions have been stripped of official Star Trek-ese.

"Everything is slightly tilted or askew," explained Hansler.

I Am Star Trek is on at the C Venue until 27 August. Opera Galactica is on at the Gateway Theatre until 27 August. The Star Wars Triology in 30 Minutes is at the Festival Theatre until 25 August .

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Opera Galactica composer Richard Lewis
"I grew up with Star Wars"
Opera Galactica
Listen to a clip of the production
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