William Shatner Talks One-Man Show, Music And The Unity Of Man And Horse
Shatner’s World: We Just Live In It is screen and stage legend William Shatner’s one-man show, an evening of stories ranging from the humorous to the heartbreaking. In it he discusses music, his tenure on Star Trek and his love of horses. Shatner brings his solo performance to Wichita’s Orpheum Theatre Friday, November 3. Below, he discusses the show’s origins and previews some of what audience members can expect.
Jedd Beaudoin: I’m curious about inspired your one-man show, Shatner’s World.
William Shatner: I got a call from Australia, from some very creative people in Australia who said, "Would you be interested in doing a one-man show?" I’d thought about it over the years, but doing a one-man show is the pinnacle of entertainment. You’re on stage, in my case, for an hour-and-a-half to an hour-and-three-quarters. To hold an audience on stage, by yourself, is a tour-de-force. A lot of people have dancing girls and explosions and fire and effects. None of that. It’s me on stage making you laugh, making you cry.
So, in Australia, I thought, "Well, I’ll try it. And if I fail, who’ll know?" I didn’t fail.
I toured most of the cities in Australia, then I came to Canada and changed the show around and toured a lot of cities in Canada. When I got to Toronto, I got invited to come to Broadway. Then I re-wrote the show, restaged it. Opened on Broadway, great notices, a lot of people came. Then I toured a lot. A lot of cities in the States. Every year, I take the show out for a few weeks and that’s what I’m doing in Wichita.
I talk about Star Trek. I talk about many subjects. All of which are either amusing or meaningful. I talk about horses. I talk about the death of a great horse I owned and why he died and how he died and what he meant to me. It’s a one-man show that’s almost like stand-up comedy, but it has more meaning than standup comedy.
You had a book come out earlier this year about horses. I know that this has been a longtime passion for you. Where did it start?
In my book Spirit of the Horse, I delineate some of my spiritual experiences [with horses]. I’ve been at it 30-40 years now, riding in competition. Over time, I’ve become a better rider because I’ve begun to understand that in order to be a really good rider, to really have the experience of you and the horse, you’ve got to get inside the horse’s head. The horse has got to get inside your head. Really, there’s got to be a union. That doesn’t happen until you really, deeply understand the nature of a horse.
I began to realize that. I’ve become a better rider this year than last year and certainly a lot better than the years before, not only because I practice a lot but because I’ve begun to understand the unity of horse and rider.
And how did it start?
I bought some land in California and I didn’t know what to do with it. There was a house on it, and a guy was going to take care of it for me. He said, "Why don’t you buy a horse?" I thought, "OK. I’ll buy a horse."
Have you ever tried to eat one potato chip? That’s what it’s like buying one horse. So, gradually, I started buying more than one horse. That’s how it started.
You also mentioned music. In 2004 you made an album [Has Been, his third] which featured contributions from Ben Folds, Adrian Belew and Henry Rollins. What has music meant to you?
I’m filled with envy at people who sustain a note, hold a note and sing beautifully, whether it’s pop and country or opera. Music is a magical thing for human beings. Who else makes an instrument. Many animals can make sounds and communicate with sound. The first thing that comes to mind is elephants and whales. They make sounds; they sing sounds that have a meaning. But man is the only entity that fashions instruments and, using their voice and using the instruments, make a wavelength that pleases us and then it, more than pleases us, it sings to us, it talks us, it speaks to us of the spirit world of fun and life and love.
Music is a magical thing and I’ve always...I should have studied voice. I started to and then got too busy over the years.
My connection with music is…I love a great lyric and, because of my training, I’m able to take a great lyric and its poetry and make it meaningful to me while the melody sustains me. I’m able to participate in music without being able to sing that clarion song.
I’ve made several albums over the years and the one that I guess is the most popular and maybe even the best is Has Been. I did that with Ben Folds. I wrote several of the lyrics to music that he wrote and orchestrated. We worked with several artists on it.
I’m working right now on a Christmas album for 2018 but I want to make it particular to me. I’m trying to find that voice. How can I make these classic Christmas songs different enough that you’ll buy the album that has my imprint on it? That’s one of the things I’m doing in this period of time.
Did you find that interesting, Jedd?
That’s the kind of thing I talk about in the one-man show. I have music and visuals behind it. But it’s that kind of…"That’s an interesting question, let’s you and I discuss it. I’d like to talk about it and here’s a story about it." That’s the kind of entertainment I’m offering with a lot of laughter and some tears.
This brings you back to theatres. As you started working in television and then film, was there part of you that wished you’d stayed on the stage or did you see each of them as being the extension of one discipline, the discipline of acting?
That’s exactly right. I come from the theatre. I did many years of theatre in Canada, also on Broadway. If anything, I’m a theatre actor. But what you just said is true: They’re all extensions of trying to say the words meaningfully. In one medium, the focus is like by your nose–you’re sitting in front of me, and I’m talking to you, and it’s as intense, but the focus is less. In the theatre, you’re aiming at the balcony because you want to reach those people, and besides, to hold a large theatre–a theatre of 2500 people, there’s an energy that an actor needs to inject that you wouldn’t have in front of the camera.
You have this show, your book, an album in the works. What’s left?
I’m going to run a four-minute mile. If only I can walk to the starting line!
Jedd Beaudoin is the host of Strange Currency. Follow him on Twitter @JeddBeaudoin.
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