It is a ritual we have nurtured over the course of over three years. The curlers must start heating no less than 90 minutes prior to showtime. The rollers must be in by 7:10 PM, so that we can join the others in fight call and the traditional warmups. At 7:30, we return so that our director can put to use the hair tools – teasing comb, brush, hairspray, dry shampoo, and about 30-40 bobby pins per lady – to create combat-hardened 60’s hairstyles that can take the abuse of life on the improvised Enterprise. (It’s never the same twice, as my hair is a creature all its own, with desires and opinions each day about how it will and will not curl.)

One of many show posters for Where No Man Has Gone Before: An Improvised Star Trek Comedy. Poster: Nick Schell as Captain Kirk and Cheryl Platz as Nurse Chapel

“Where No Man Has Gone Before”, the improvised Star Trek parody that I’ve been performing in since its original premiere in 2011, has changed my life in many ways, large and small. It has made me a far better improviser, capable of walking the line between emotional honesty and parody with ease. It has given me a third family (my first being my biological family, my second being my fellow improvisors at Unexpected Productions), comprised of fellow actors and crew I trust completely, and whose company almost never fails to put a smile on my face. I now have a vocabulary of improvised stage combat fights and nearly a dozen actors who can perform them with me at a moment’s notice. I can honestly say I’ve kissed Captain James T. Kirk on many occasions (and Bones, and Spock, and Uhura for that matter…) I’ve learned, and re-learned, and re-learned, how to turn Facebook advertising into a steady audience for our productions. And naturally, I have a much deeper appreciation for the unexpected depth in the original Star Trek series and characters. I’m still delighting in discovering little details in the series several years into my periodic studies.

But the smaller ways are entertaining – I’m much more tolerant of height in my hair, and almost seek it out when it’s practical. I have finally learned how to put on false eyelashes, and how to wear the really ridiculous ones without blinking enough to create small breezes. I’ve become an old hand with liquid eyeliner, and extremely partial to a 60’s winged look, even during the day. I’ve learned to sleep as geishas did when circumstances require I maintain my beehive for 2 days to save precious time.

I wish I could remember every performance, but with so many over the years a few fall by the wayside. Still, many milestones stick out. I talked about some of them with the Examiner for an interview they published this week.

Last year, due to personal circumstances between cast and crew, No Man only performed twice, and for one of those performances I was in Africa. (The first and only Trek performance I’ve missed, and it pained me to do so, even with such a fantastic reason.) I still got to spend plenty of time with at least part of this family due to our D&D sessions – we truly enjoy each others’ company and it manifests in many geeky ways. But nothing really compares to the experience of us all in our Starfleet uniforms and alien garb, casually eating chocolate and practicing jargon backstage.

Today marks the end of a short but record-breaking run and return to action. Our audiences have been large and enthusiastic. We introduced 2 new cast members, but they fit right into our little family, and the performances have never been better. The fact that I get paid to spend this time almost seems too good to be true (though it’ll never be a living wage, we take pride in paying our cast and crew for their work.)

I end these evenings counting my lucky stars to have this continued opportunity, but also sending wishes into the universe for the next run, the next performance, the next excuse to bring the band back together. Here’s to many more years on this interstellar journey.