by Mary Kuntz

Convennnnnnnnnnnnnnnntion time!!! Yes! Yes! Yes!

Let's see, what'll it be this year?? Hm... :::rummaging through the closet::: Klingon? Vulcan? Bajoran? Ferengi... what about Ferengi??

So now you know what goes through my head when convention time approaches. Decisions, decisions. But I usually end up going as myself [no jokes please], and this year I did again, not because I was out of ideas, nor because some introverted alter-ego suddenly surfaced, but because our local Star Trek International Shuttle, Shuttle Fearless, was hosting Armin Shimerman, Quark of Deep Space 9, for breakfast before the convention. You can imagine our excitement, the build-up of expectations, not to mention the nervousness. Well, I certainly made sure I had plenty of extra batteries for the tape recorder, a generous supply of paper and lead for the ol' pencil, my ST comm badge engraved with the Shuttle's NCC number, and my gold MasterCard, then shuttled ...er, drove over to the local Hilton where the convention was being held.

Dramatic entrance? How about a genuine smile and a, "Hi. I'm Armin," in answer to the surprise on our faces. But our embarrassment quickly dissipated as he chuckled, shook hands all around, and explained, "I have no jealousy at the fact that other people are recognized in the street and I'm not. Believe me, I'm more than thankful for my anonymity."

Now that the formalities were over, I began to wonder how to break the ice. I mean, how do you talk to someone you've admired for years on DS9, now you see him face-to-face? But Armin settled back in his chair, looked to our CO, Becky Norris, and asked, "So - tell me about this shuttle. How did you get started?" And that was the first lesson I learned about Armin Shimerman. He's a genuine, personable, down-to-earth type guy who's just as interested in your life as you are in his. The next forty-five minutes were pure enjoyment as questions ran the gamut from makeup to characterization and Shakespeare.

Shakespeare? As with many Star Trek actors, Armin's roots lie in Shakespeare. "One of the things that Star Trek deals with is larger-than-life issues, and usually classical theater deals with that kind of acting and approach, so they look to the theater for their actors."

Letek, the first Ferengi he played in TNG's Last Outpost, was based a little on Richard III, he confides. Richard is a ferocious, blood-thirsty, awkwardly-built character, and the Ferengi were originally a ferocious species. "They were meant to be short Klingons who ate their young. Well... ate their enemies, anyway," he modified as we gasped. "I've actually been ridden with guilt about that first episode. Roddenberry was enough of a visionary to believe that height didn't make any difference, it was what was inside the soul and the mind. But the director looked at these three short guys wearing fur, and just thought these are the Three Stooges, so he shot it that way. What the director and I created was a rather comic race, and the actors who followed in my footsteps were left with those parameters, and we went off on a line that was never meant to be."

Later on he delighted the convention audience with a demonstration. At first, a few titters passed through the crowd when he turned his back and assumed an awkward pose. They expected more of his lighthearted banter, or perhaps another quick anecdote. But as he turned with one shoulder hunched, arms dangling, occasional spastic gestures punctuating a pronounced limp as he stumbled forward and faced us down with an accusatory stare, the titters died away. He paused in emphasis, then spoke with a rich, un-miked tone that filled the auditorium, "Say there is no kingdom, then for Richard . . . what other pleasure can the world afford? I'll make my heaven in a lady's lap, and deck my body in gay ornaments, and witch sweet ladies with my words and looks. O miserable thoughts! And more unlikely than to accomplish twenty golden crowns! Why...love forswore me in my mother's womb; and, for I should not deal in her soft laws, she did corrupt frail nature with some bribe, to shrink mine arm up like a wither'd shrub; to make an envious mountain on my back, where sits deformity to mock my body; to shape my legs of an unequal size; to disproportion me in every part, like to a CHAOSsssssss . . . ."

Their reaction? Thunderous applause that grew to a standing ovation. But in true form, he turned quickly back to grin and quip, "That's where the Ferengi [Letek] came from. If you look at him, his shoulder is slightly up and he walks with a limp."

Armin's agenda with Quark is to develop the Ferengi into richer characters. "I watched TNG for years and saw that the Ferengi never got any better than when I played them. No race is just one dimensional; that's why Worf was created, and now the Klingons are much more three-dimensional, and so I thought I could do with [the Ferengi] what Michael Dorn had done with the Klingons."

In his quest for character enrichment, Armin pitched some of his own story ideas to management this past week. And as Quark's popularity increases, there will be more episodes surrounding him, giving us more Ferengi culture. "We're like a great big myth, and as the story-tellers sit around the campfires in their office and begin to expand the tale, we the audience find out more and more. Having gone to the home world a couple months ago, we now know that their homes are rather short and it rains all the time. [Cultural development] is a growing process."

How else does he accomplish his objective? The impish grin returns. "Well... the way I pull is in front of the camera where they can't touch me. I'm going to work at three o'clock in the morning . . . they're not. And so when I get in front of the camera at seven, they're still asleep . . . and I make choices." Then he's quick to add, "They give me a line and I'm sure they hear it a certain way in their heads, and most of the time I try to echo that sound, but sometimes I have my own agenda and I play with the line reading so I make the Ferengi a little bit more or a little bit less than what it was. And that way it's a creative relationship."

In this regard, full credit goes to him for the Ferengi two-for-one sign, Quark's answer to the Vulcan Live long and prosper, and the Ferengi scream. The latter developed out of exasperation, as you might imagine, after having waited all day in costume and makeup for one scene with Bashir and a dying trill in sick bay. The script called for him to sob over the trill, but by that point all he felt like doing was screaming. Voila!

Of course, the inevitable questions about makeup arose - whose is worse, the Ferengi or the Klingon. Ferengi win, hands down, two and a half hours to one. And, yes, the teeth hurt terribly. And, no, he can't hear. But that can be an advantage, he's quick to point out, especially when he's going towards the trailer at the end of the day and they shout, "Armin!" for him to come back, he has an excuse to ignore them. Problem is, it carries over into his home life, and his wife doesn't react the same as the film crew.

And now the part you've all been waiting for. . .

Michael Dorn? "I'll tell you exactly what he's going to do on the show, and you can put it on AOL. He will be a permanent presence on our show; he's signed on for the duration. There's going to be a rift between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. The Klingon Empire is going to secede from the Federation, and Worf is going to be in the middle of that rift. He doesn't know whether he should stay Federation or follow in the footsteps of his ancestors."

Alexander? "He's brought up in the text in the script, where they've said he's staying on Earth. Whether he'll come to stay with his father or not, I don't know."

More Ferengi culture? "Probably. They've made the set of my home world and they'll probably go back to that. I think they're very happy with Andrea Martin playing my mother, and we may see more of that. The real question is whether Andrea wants to get back in all the makeup, which was really a problem for her."

And the crowning glory: Commander Sisko is promoted to Captain (and you thought it took you a long time for that promo!), and Nog goes off to Starfleet Academy!

An exciting day, to say the least. Besides spending time with my favorite Ferengi, I now have a personally autographed copy of the Communiqué DS9 issue. But I always like to present our convention speakers with something special to remember the occasion, so Armin Shimerman is now the proud owner of two copies of our illustrious Communiqué: the May 28th DS9 issue, of course, and the most current issue with WWW and up-to-date scheduling information, just in case he'd like to join a sim. And since I know he will be reading this, I'd like to thank him for his time, for allowing me to do this article, and for generously traveling across the country to Star Trek conventions . . .

~keeping the dream alive~


The Third Part of Henry VI; Act III, scene 2

by William Shakespeare

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