Have you ever met someone you idolized, in real life? Or at least been in the same room with them? I had a girl crush on Megan Follows after her performance in Anne of Green Gables. I could recite ever one of her lines and totally wanted to be her. So when my parents found out she was going to be appearing as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet at the Stratford Festivals, my birthday present that year was EASILY resolved.
I sat in that theatre and when she appeared on stage, I cried. Yes, I cried. I was SO excited to be near her that I wiggled like a demented octopus, all arms and legs and little else. Though I never met or spoke with her, I just knew we were kindred spirits.
Many years later, I assumed myself to be immune to that kind of glowing excitement, that fandom that causes us to clap and scream and act like 14 year old girls at a One Direction concert. I really thought that at almost 43, this was behind me. Apparently not.
O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
~ Walt Whitman
Kate Mulgrew (as Captain Kathryn Janeway), in one of the greatest acting roles, brought her fiesty no-nonsense character to life on “Star Trek: Voyager”:
“Ironically, Janeway’s inaugural mission aboard Voyager was to be her last in the Alpha quadrant. While attempting to capture the crew of a renegade Maquis vessel, both her ship and that of the Maquis were pulled into the distant Delta quadrant by powerful alien technology. Unfortunately, there would be no similar “express” route to take them home again. Stranded 70,000 light-years from Earth, Janeway convinced the Maquis to join her Starfleet crew and serve together during the long voyage back to Federation space.”1
Yet when I think of Captain Janeway, or more specifically of the actress Kate Mulgrew, I will now and forevermore think: “Oh Captain! My Captain!”
I had the privilege the other evening to sit in the Bluma Appel theatre at the Toronto Reference Library and listen to a sold out conversation with Kate Mulgrew and the Globe and Mail’s Elizabeth Renzetti. Myself and at least 100 or more other people stood in line and sat in the theatre and cheered deafeningly when she arrived, me as much as anyone. It’s not like I really followed her career closely before reading her book but being in the room, a few feet away from her, I got totally carried away! It was Megan all over again.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable and inspiring evening. Anyone who thought that acting was merely her ‘job’ was wrong. She IS a consummate actress; it’s part and parcel of her very DNA and watching that unfold on stage on the last stop of what must have been a seemingly endless book tour for her new memoir ‘Born with Teeth’ made her words seem all the more compelling. She was funny, articulate and completely enjoyable to experience in real life and on the printed page.
She has lived and worked and lived because of her work. She has triumphed and she has failed but now at the age of 60, which she proudly proclaims, she is choosing a new life. I am ever awed by people who can make these choices, regardless of age or experience or position in life. I am awed by the sheer will power it takes to fly in the face of what seems perfectly reasonable and put into action that which seems perfectly crazy and make it work. Kudos to you, Kate!