Nerdville is not so much a place as it is an experience—and a familiar one, at that. The latest original show from Arts Garden in Hugo, just a 20-minute drive north of St. Paul, is the ultimate crossover between some of sci fi and fantasy’s most classic films and television shows, including Star Wars, Star Trek, The Princess Bride, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Harry Potter.
The show follows The Big Bang Theory characters Penny and Sheldon, who are recruited by the Doctor from Doctor Who to help retrieve some very important stolen artifacts, including Obi-Wan Kenobi’s lightsaber, Harry Potter’s Sorcerer’s Stone, and more. While actors recreate famous scenes such as King Arthur’s duel with the Black Knight, the time-traveling trio tiptoes around attempting to nab the items and avoid getting caught in the crossfire along the way. The show has blind-cast and double-cast many of the roles, which is why, depending on which performance you attend, you’ll see one of two Han Solos, and why both of them are female.
Arts Garden is the brainchild of show director Jill Whitney-Birk, who has been a theater director for more than 25 years and saw the need for a different approach to community theater. “The mission of this theater is to enrich people’s lives through the arts,” she said. “So it’s inclusion in arts, and exposure to arts. So that’s why we have a really open-door policy for anybody that wants to, even if they’ve never had experience before. I try really hard to make every show that I do flexible so that I can take whoever I get at the auditions and use them at their best advantage. So it’s true community theater.” (In the interest of full disclosure, your author is one of those community members involved with this particular production.)
A Trip to Nerdville will be highly interactive; it’s Whitney-Birk’s vision to give each audience member a few tools to participate before they go into the show. A few of the Star Trek scenes are taken from the episode “The Trouble with Tribbles,” in which the USS Enterprise and a nearby space station are infested with adorable but rapidly reproducing furry creatures. At one point the audience is invited to throw tribbles at the stage in order to egg on Captain Kirk’s frustration. Nerdville also includes a couple musical numbers, which will delight anyone familiar with Spamalot or Shrek the Musical.
The show’s intent is to pay homage to everyone’s inner geek, giving viewers a chance to cheer for their favorite good guys, quote along with the classic one-liners, and celebrate the material that has influenced the life of so many nerds around the world. “Nerds are overlooked,” Whitney-Birk said. “They’re just an overlooked demographic.”
She said it was difficult to whittle down which shows and movies she wanted included in the production, but she’s always had a strong respect for Star Wars and Star Trek and also remembered that The Princess Bride and Monty Python and the Holy Grail were favorites of hers when she was in college. She read Harry Potter to her kids while they were growing up, and one of her daughters is in the show currently. Though she was tempted to include other classics, such as The Lord of the Rings, there had to be a limit. “And there are so many things we could have done but couldn’t get in,” she said. “So who knows? Maybe there will be a Nerdville II.”
You can see A Trip to Nerdville March 31–April 1 at the Hugo American Legion (5383 140th Street South, Hugo). Performances are:
- March 31 at 7:00 p.m.
- April 1 at 2:00 and 7:00 p.m.
- April 2 at 2:00 p.m.
To learn more about the show or purchase tickets, click here. Auditions for Arts Garden’s next show, The Lion King at Calvary Church in Roseville, take place on March 24 and 25, and all are welcome to try out.