Friday, May 15, 2009
I owe a small but significant debt to Nellis, the man in the picture above.
In 1997, when I was finding my feet in Seattle I hooked up with the kids at AHA! Theatre in Belltown...not knowing that I was showing up at the tail-end of an era. The theater would end up shutting down shortly after I began working with everyone there.
During that brief intersection I was asked to be involved with the final STAR DREK show, a satire/parody of Star Trek which Nellis had put heart and soul into, taking something that could have been simple fannishness but mixing it up with real theatrical chops and a talent for martini-fueled fun to make something truly extreme. They would do one last show because now that the theater was shut down, it didn't matter if Paramount came after them with more legal letters.
Nellis was always a catastrophic sort of person, who would do everything or nothing—and somehow *I*, whom no one really knew, was suddenly tasked with writing the final show when Nellis got too drunk or didn't show up, I can't recall what happened.
It was a crazy task, and I felt dwarfed by the amount of work (a whole show to write in 48 hours) the legacy of STAR DREK (it had been insanely popular in its time) and my tender age and time in the community.
It happened, in the way of all theater: we made it happen, which is much like the lessons one learns on the original Star Trek. It wasn't pretty--in fact, it was kind of a hideous trainwreck. Like Omega Glory bad.
When Nellis saw it, he laughed and laughed. Afterward, I tried to apologize for the writing and he laughed some more.
Even though he was laughing in part at me, for needing his approval, it meant a lot to me then—even though he's the one who had thrust me into the position of having to suddenly make it happen, I knew in the end it was his mad vision I was trying to capture.
Throughout my Seattle years I continued to find a voice, and Nellis was there—at the bar after the show, outside the theaters, quick with a joke, onstage in someone else's sketch. He drank harder than almost anyone I knew, and lived fully in the garage theater world, with legions of friends...though he was hard to truly know, and a drinker, and difficult.
Nellis died today in Seattle.
I'll always be grateful because of the early push he gave me—by accident, unintended—but it was a great push.
Thank you, Nellis.
at 10:58 PM