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The Rites of Spring '99

Slanted Fedora Convention

Buffalo, New York
April 10-11, 1999

Convention Report

by Judith Jankowski

On April 10/11, 1999, I attended the Slanted Fedora, Rites of Spring convention held in Buffalo, New York at the Radisson Hotel. I missed Richard Herd, Anne Lockhart and Mary Kay Adams, but I did get there in time to see Alice Kriege. This was her first convention appearance and I think the audience was pleased. She is a fascinating woman and went into just the right amount of detail when describing the technical aspects of playing the Borg Queen. She explained that much of a character can be found in how they walk, how they carry themselves. She found the queen's walk as a result of the costume being so tight. She had to stand straight up and walking was difficult, so she developed the slow pace you see on film. Seems to be common for women in Trek productions. One day they're going to strangle someone.

Ms. Kriege indicated she was raised in England but was not allowed to watch television. For this reason she was not knowledgeable about the popular British science fiction programs such as Red Dwarf. She said she has lived in the United States for nine years. I noted she has already lost much of her British accent. She could easily pass for a Yank.

During her talk she discussed the many roles she has played; many more than I was aware of. The one I remember, which was not mentioned, was a television movie I believe she did with Amanda Plummer called Rose White.

Also, she said she did not see the portrayal of the other Borg Queen (can't recall the name of the actor) who recently appeared in Voyager. As I'm not really an autograph collector, I gave my signing tickets to the women sitting next to me. I noticed that Ms. Kriege not only signed for quite a while after her talk, but also the next day, even though she was not scheduled to talk. In fact, I was impressed that she participated in the entire convention and was very accessible and seemed to enjoy it. She attended the dinner and, unlike the other stars who left, she stayed for the play and RenÚ's short talk afterward. So, if you have a chance to see her I think you'd find it worthwhile.

Saturday evening was the play. I had attended the Slanted Fedora Champaign, Illinois "Lovers of Star Trek" con in February and was just amazed by RenÚ and Nana's performance. I couldn't believe they could do such a wonderful job with so little rehearsal. I had imagined that to perform a play like this would take much practice.

At Champaign, I was seated fairly far away, but this time I was just one table away from the stage, front and center. The play was wonderful, as expected. Sitting up closer really enabled me to watch the expressive acting occurring on stage. I found myself watching the silent actor, the one not reading a letter, to gauge his/her reaction, more than the one who was reading aloud. In Champaign, someone mentioned that they couldn't look at the actors' faces due to the intensity of the performance, but I couldn't take my eyes away. These two actors truly do have great chemistry.

As for comparing the two performances, I did find them different. Neither one was better or worse, just different. Some of this may be because I picked up on a lot of little details in the characters' stories, as anyone normally does on a second viewing. Also, I thought the comic lines had more impact in Champaign. Again, this may be because I already knew the jokes, but I think the delivery in Champaign was more... hmm... perky? Or maybe we were all just in a giddy mood there. But overall, I liked this second performance better.

For me, the main difference in the play was Nana's performance. RenÚ was superb, as he was in Champaign. This is very difficult to explain... This time what stood out for me were the darker moments of the play. During RenÚ's brunch, someone mentioned that Nana seemed more animated this time. I particularly thought she nailed the angst part. No surprise, as I think she is a master at expressing this emotion. She did an extraordinary job of portraying the despair of Melissa losing her children to her ex-husband Darwin, and when she talked of "trying to get back to some of these odd old feelings I had in the homeland." Also, you could just hear the desperation in her voice near the end of the play as Melissa begged RenÚ's Andy to see her again. Nana has a way of approaching near hysteria in her voice in these situations. Much like in DS9's "The Darkness and the Light," where the deformed Cardassian was about to cut O'Brien's baby out of her; very raw. And dripping sarcasm, as Melissa ended her last letter with, "We who are about to die salute you." Overall, I found this performance more gut-wrenching than the first, if that is possible.

After the play, RenÚ came back out and held a brief discussion with the audience. I thought this was better than the loud dance that took place after the play in February, which the con organizers skipped this time. RenÚ explained that Nana offered to return with him, but he told her that if she did she would be stuck for awhile. He said that she was completely exhausted and begged off to get some sleep. Apparently, she worked on Friday until 2:00 AM Saturday morning and then picked up RenÚ for their 7:00 AM Saturday flight to Buffalo. They arrived around 5:00 PM, did a sound check and did the play. On top of this, Nana had a 5:30 AM call for Monday morning. This time RenÚ wasn't tired because he hadn't worked that late on Friday and wasn't due to return to work until the following Friday. He is mainly done with what he has to do with the last episode.

I am still amazed that an actor could do such a fine job under these circumstances. Perhaps her exhausted state had something to do with the edge on Nana's performance. If it did, it had a great result. But then, when I think about it, I remember instances in my own work of being pushed to the limits of exhaustion. I guess we can all find instances where we have been pushed to the limits for our job and have actually found that we've done our best work. We used to say we were running on adrenaline.

Back to the subject. RenÚ didn't talk about anything Trek after the play; rather, he talked about theater. He said Love Letters was a play designed to be read aloud by actors of roughly the same age. At this point he did one of his comic doubletakes as he looked over to Nana's empty desk on stage, resulting in much laughter in the audience. He said, "Maybe that's why she didn't want to come back out." He did another doubletake when he read off the description of how the actors were to be dressed; the actor in a dark gray suit and the actress in a simple, expensive-looking dress. He laughed and said, "I got closer." (RenÚ was in brown slacks, white shirt and tie. Unlike the sweater/skirt dress she wore in Champaign, Nana was more casual this time, wearing a red leather jacket, shirt and slacks. With her schedule, she probably didn't have time or desire to pack something more formal.)

RenÚ mentioned that he had seen Michael Tucker/Jill Eikenberry, William Devane/Matlock's daughter(actress's name?), and Robert Wagner/Stephanie Powers perform this play. Also, as I'm writing this the television movie version has just started, with Steven Weber and Laura Linney (Wow, directed by Stanley Donen). As I glanced at the television I felt Weber and Linney appeared too young, because the movie starts with Melissa's funeral when the characters are supposed to be quite old. It's funny how in a play the actual ages of the actors don't matter, but on TV we expect characters to look right. Weber and Linney also look so.... so.... Midwestern (not a put-down, but the only way I can describe what I'm thinking). I think RenÚ and Nana fit the material perfectly, because I find them believable as preppy upper class or wealthy New Yorkers. RenÚ has the prep school style and attitude down perfectly, and Nana has pegged the spoiled rich girl, the "ladies who lunch."

RenÚ said they might do the play ten or a hundred more times. I'd advise anyone who hasn't had a chance to see them to catch it when it comes near you.

The next day RenÚ planned to have brunch with the RAFL/RAILers. Nine of us gathered in front of the hotel restaurant. The manager said he would set up a table for us in a private room. RenÚ arrived and we waited there about 20 minutes before the manager led us to our table. RenÚ looked at the set-up -- four separate tables not conducive to talking -- and told the manager this was not acceptable. There were several other empty, larger tables around us, but another employee kept insisting they were reserved ages ago. While some of us meeker people said we could make do, RenÚ wouldn't hear of it. He firmly told the waiter that he wanted to see the hotel manager and whisked him away. When they came back, the waiter gave us one of the better tables and we were all able to sit at one table. The whole episode was really funny. And, by the time we left, no one had showed up to claim those long-ago reserved seats.

The brunch went very nicely, although I can't remember everything that was actually discussed. Oh yes, we talked a bit about the house RenÚ is building and some about various RAFL/RAILers' takes on the Odo/Kira relationship. At one point, one of our members sang a very lovely song. What was even more amazing was that she was able to sing over the piped-in Natalie Cole music. The food was good and certainly plentiful. The Radisson's buffet was almost obscene.

There was time to kill before RenÚ and Nana were scheduled for their talk at 3:30 PM. Some of us decided to walk over to McDonald's for a bite. It was fine when we went there, but naturally at around 2:30 PM it started to rain. We waited to around 3:00 PM, hoping it would stop. Of course, it didn't and we were forced to run back through the rain. So, we were drenched when we arrived for the talk.

A few highlights of RenÚ and Nana's talk session follow:

I'd like to note that RenÚ seemed really pleased to be able to call RAFL/RAIL members by name during the talk session. He specifically addressed two members who had attended the earlier brunch. Maybe this goes back to the teasing in Champaign about "my group" and the friendly competition between actors.

To start off RenÚ and Nana's talk session, Nana mentioned that she was familiar with Buffalo as she had visited before. She said, "Buffalo gets a bad rap, and I don't think the Radisson is helping. In the room they have, 'Discover Miami!' Why not, 'Discover Buffalo?' What is that? It's like, 'We don't talk about Buffalo. Let's talk about another city here.' " A great way to start off the session.  Talkative Nana

Nana apologized for bowing out after the play last night, explaining she was filming very late Friday, doing Cardassian scenes. She mentioned they took place in cellars and featured "blasts." Nana said she had slept ten hours and both she and RenÚ were very (what word?) chipper, exuberant, talkative. I think they could have stayed there and talked all night. Eventually, RenÚ did get a word in.

Both actors were very tight-lipped about their future plans and would give few specifics. Maybe they don't have any plans, but didn't seem particularly worried about it. Nana did mention that she planned to visit family on the East Coast for awhile. RenÚ also mentioned that he is building a house in Northern California. The only concrete plans they mentioned were that each will do audio recording work; Nana doing a series of Orson Scott Card audiobooks and RenÚ recording a radio play for Lucas Sound about a man lost in an Edgar Allen Poe thing where special effects keep coming into his head.

A fan gave a stuffed animal to Nana, which promoted RenÚ to announce that he was accepting all gifts from the audience. He mentioned that he had one of those little credit card slider things.

Nana was asked about the Intendent's headpiece, whether it was intended to be a halo. She answered, "I took it as a very 80s, Staying Alive kind of thing. This is the first time I thought of it as a halo. But if it is a dropped, which is totally appropriate for the Intendent."

RenÚ interjected, "You could keep the costume and do infomercials, with disco music."

Nana laughed and said, "You'll see me on Tae Bo. I knocked the hell out of Cardassians because of Tae Bo."

The actors were asked how they feel about each other and if they critique each other. Nana indicated that RenÚ always, without exception, cares very much about his work and is always prepared and focused. And for her that meant everything. She explained that they have become good friends over the years and truly know and trust each other, describing it as "a friendship that a man and woman don't usually get to have." She said she never had a friend like this, to know someone so well. As the tribute went on, RenÚ interrupted. Nana, who hadn't stopped talking got up out of her chair and jokingly attacked him. She said it was like a typical marriage.

RenÚ mentioned that while filming the last scene he had with Nana, he recalled that this was the exact location where they had filmed their first scene seven years ago. Nana remembered that RenÚ had gotten very angry with her that night. RenÚ didn't remember but was amazed she did as it was so long ago. He asked her why he was so angry that day. She told him she wouldn't tell him as she "didn't want to stir that up again." RenÚ obviously feels that things like this, remembering small details over the years, demonstrates the close friendship they have.

RenÚ talked about critiquing co-workers and giving suggestions on how to do a scene. He said he's gotten in trouble over it, but it's a habit he has. He told a story of a time when he offered to update a late-arriving Terry Farrell on some directions provided by the director. Apparently Terry snapped at him, "Would you stop it! I hate when you do that!" RenÚ indicated she cured him of that habit.

Both actors indicated they would be willing to work in any possible DS9 movies, but appeared doubtful that any would materialize. They didn't want it to be watered down and become, "At home with the Siskos on the Lifetime Network." RenÚ described a conversation he had with Brent Spiner in which Brent had said, regarding Star Trek: The Next Generation, "We've spent seven years making what I feel is series television that was as good as a lot of feature films. My fear is that we're going to make feature films that are like television." RenÚ felt a better approach for DS9would be to do a series of television movies.  René and Nana in Buffalo

Much laughter occurred when RenÚ was asked if, as Odo, he was able to shapeshift or greatly enhance any of his human appendages. Nana looked over at him with a twinkle in her eye and said, "I want to hear this." RenÚ actually gave a serious answer to this. He talked about the DS9 episode "Chimera" where Odo returns to Kira at the end and dissolves into Odo particles around her. He felt we got to see, essentially, an indication of what the joining of two opposite alien species could be like. In terms of enhancing, it was done later in Special Effects. When Nana shot the scene, she had to respond to what she imagined it would be like to have that kind of intimate connection with someone that she loved. RenÚ watched off camera. Afterwards he told her, "Thanks for making me look like such a terrific lover."

The actors were asked which Dax they liked better. Both were diplomatic and RenÚ instead called for an audience vote. About 2/3 voted for Jadzia with the remainder preferring Ezri. RenÚ mentioned that was not bad considering Ezri only had one season compared to Jadzia's six. Later, in response to another question, RenÚ discussed the writer's season seven preoccupation with Ezri and Vic Fontaine. RenÚ feels that after six years of writing for the same characters, the writers were naturally attracted to the new. He said he's aware the seventh season has been called "The Ezri Season" by some fans and does wonder what the writers would have written about if Terry Farrell had decided to stay. But the situation also provided RenÚ opportunities to do other film and television work and he remarked he has no resentment about it.

On a related note, Nana indicated that she wished the show had a woman writer for a different perspective. She implied that she was disappointed with the Kira/Dax relationship as it seemed to be reduced to spending their time together drinking at Quark's and gossiping about men. She didn't like that image. She remarked that she wished the show could have portrayed female friendship in a more realistic way, with the friends discussing how they coped with work and with life, and much less about who they're dating. She also thought a woman writer would address concerns, such as how Kira dealt with the loss of Kirayoshi, the baby Kira carried to term for Keiko O'Brien.

A five-year-old who finally remembered his previously forgotten questioned called out to Nana. She asked how old he was and what was his name. He said he was five and his name was "Super Ricky."

Nana commented, "That's a child with confidence. Everything's okay. He's not just Ricky, he's Super Ricky. I like that." As usual, the audience enjoyed the actors' interaction with children.

In response to a question about the Great Link, RenÚ discussed the individual shapeshifters. RenÚ feels Odo instinctively chose to be male, just as the female shapeshifter chose her gender. He does believe they have gender. On a similar note, Nana discussed the relationship between the Prophets and the Bajorans. She feels the Bajorans are a simple agricultural society who still hang onto and accept the mysteries of life. They don't have to have it all scientifically laid out for them. The Prophets have a vested interest in the Bajorans and the Bajorans, in turn honor the Prophets and accept that they know more than they do.

Nana was asked about the Intendent's kiss with Alternate-Ezri. Nana replied that when the Intendent first came on the show, she was fascinated with Kira because they looked exactly alike. The Intendent's love relationship with Kira was always about narcissism, not about a life choice she was making. However, she feels that aspect became part of the Intendent over time, as she started to have female slaves around. Nana said to her it just didn't matter and she remarked about the Intendent, "As long as someone's rubbing her back, she doesn't care."

At this point RenÚ interjected, to much laughter, "Which is true about Nana, actually."

Nana laughed and continued on, that she thought the Intendent was a voracious person who will take someone and use them. But she did feel the Intendent fell in love with Alt-Ezri a little bit more than any one else.

RenÚ discussed what attracted him to the character Odo when he signed on seven years ago. He feels Odo was like a "wonderful, almost allegorical image of what I do as an actor. I'm a character actor. And I sort of think of myself as a changeling." He also wished he had gotten to explore Odo's shapeshifting ability more, especially to embody other humanoid forms. While "human," Odo did get to play a Klingon, but the only time Odo got to be another alien was when he played Curzon Dax. RenÚ discussed how much Ira Behr had hated the "Facets" episode where he played Curzon Dax. Apparently, Behr hated the ways all of the actors performed it and the way it was directed. But he never told the actors, rather he told a fan magazine.

RenÚ discussed how the concept of Odo was developed by Rick Berman and Michael Pillar, and how this changed as those two individuals drifted away from DS9 to other projects. Michael Pillar originally envisioned Odo as a "young John Wayne" kind of character. RenÚ is surprised that people still say how much they like the Odo/Quark relationship, as they hardly have any scenes together any more.

RenÚ discussed other roles he has played, in such shows as The Outer Limits, Poltergeist: The Legacy, and Police Academy 5. He particularly remembered how much fun shooting Police Academy 5 was. The character was, "this incredibly gross Mafioso character in a comic vein. And it was the silliest character I've ever played."

Nana discussed working while pregnant, an exhausting experience for her. She's amazed that some women describe it as "the most fabulous time." And it was challenging to work during early labor. She described how while filming in Ops one day, she hunched over and made a small sound. And Terry Farrell blurted out, "She's in labor! Let's get out of here! Quick! Quick!" Somehow, I could just imagine this. Apparently, Nana really was in early labor at that point. But she said if she had her druthers she'd have been pregnant with no worries and no work and nothing to accomplish other than creating the child. But she did feel fortunate to be able to be doing two things at once and that she was not written out of the series.

Nana also did a fine telling of the "milk bath" story that has been covered in prior talks. New highlights included her description of the bra pieces as being like the orange cones in the streets and her rendition of director David Livingston hysterically calling for more flowers. RenÚ appeared to have not heard it before and said he wished he had been there.

The actors were asked if they had much input on the Odo/Kira relationship. Both indicated they didn't want it to happen but seemed pleased with the way it has turned out. Nana mentioned that she was actually upset when she read the script for "His Way." She thought it was wonderful to have an adult male/female friendship that did not turn to romance. Once she did the show, she did find that she liked the way the romance was filmed. She feels the relationship is now a strong one. RenÚ stated he always thought it would remain a "Cyrano" situation, in that his love for her would always be unrequited and unacknowledged on her side. He described the actual filming of "The Kiss" scene from "His Way" and said that as professionals they would always try to make it work the best they could. He feels the producers went this way with the relationship "because they saw the way we worked together, and it was their choice to decide that it was going to be romantic rather than... Because we have a real chemistry together when we work together and we enjoy each other as actors. We trust each other, we respond to each other, and so they took it their way. It wasn't our way, particularly, but... I remember turning to Nana as we were about to shoot 'The Famous Kiss,' and itwas early in the shooting schedule of that episode because we shoot out of sequence, and so we hadn't even really been able to work our way toward that thing. We hadn't done the scene that led up to it, so we were getting ready to shoot it, and I was nervous about it and uncomfortable about it. And Nana was. And I looked at her. 'We're pros. We can do this.' And we did it and it was good. And the episode is good. People have responded to it positively. There's some people who didn't like that fact, that the relationship...and I know that. And there are some people who think it was inevitable and had to be, and want...that was the consummation devoutly to be wished. But that's, you know, some people like broccoli and some people don't. That's the wonderful thing about telling one of these epic tales that goes on and on."

Several questions centered on the ending of the DS9 television series. Regarding the finale, RenÚ felt there was positive and negative about it. He did reveal that the "Far Beyond the Stars" Benny Russell storyline is not resolved. He implied that this was a cheat as the question was raised earlier, whether DS9 was Benny's concept and the Niners were really all just figments of his imagination. He thought going that way would have been too bold a move and wondered if they had the guts to do it.

Nana explained she thought some fans may not be, and she was not, satisfied with the resolution of the Kira/Odo relationship. She seemed disappointed that the resolution of the major conflict between them during the season six war arc regarding Odo's temporary seduction by the female Founder was offscreen. The characters are in a mature, loving relationship and this situation brought up a huge question for them, and to resolve it "we came out of a closet." She remarked that the audience was supposed to decide that they talked about it offscreen and that the final resolution for these two characters "is a little like that, too." Nana said the audience doesn't really get to understand how Kira is truly feeling. She said, "I guess a lot of things will be supposed from how it ends, but I'd like it different."

RenÚ did reveal a bit of a spoiler when answering a question about Voyager. He said he did feel if Voyager returns through the wormhole they would be greeted by Quark as they were when they were leaving. This led into a discussion of the fate of other DS9 characters. He said there were three other characters beside Quark who could greet a returning Voyager, implying that all the others, including supporting characters "won't be there, anywhere there, to greet them." Another questioner asked if, based on Kira's previous history with friends and mates, Odo was doomed for entering a relationship with her. Nana related that there has been joking on the set about her being the Black Widow. After all, she befriends the nice old Bajoran played by Brian Keith and then ends up torching his house. And she befriends the Cardassian in "Duet" and he's stabbed to death and dies in her arms. RenÚ interjected that, in the final arc, there are times where there will be genuine concern that the old kiss of death is at work on Odo.

Nana mentioned that the next day Paramount was taking down the Quark's bar set. RenÚ laughed and said that he and Nana were walking around the set the other day going, "What can we steal? We gotta steal something." Apparently, RenÚ was breaking his fingernails trying to pry something off the walls. Nana preferred the skeleton of a fish that's been hanging over Odo's office. Or the star field that's on large rollers to make it look like the station is moving.

Continuing the Voyager question, the actors were asked if DS9 characters would guest on that show. Nana explained that Paramount/Voyager owns everything from DS9 and it would be a different financial experience for them. At this point RenÚ remarked that, "Yeah, they own us...they could make us dance with vacuum cleaners."

Nana had a look of horror on her face and replied, "You could BE the vacuum cleaner."

With perfect comic timing, RenÚ chimed in, "Talk about enhancements."

Later, RenÚ was asked if Terry Farrell would appear in the finale. He answered, "Well, yeah, but take that as a qualified answer. Just as I said we could be dancing with vacuum cleaners." And regarding if Morn played a key role in the finale, RenÚ answered, "As key as he does in any episode."

Nana discussed her late Friday night filming of Cardassian scenes for the finale. She was working with Andy Robinson and Casey Biggs. Apparently, Andy as Garak had this intense line stating, "Let's cut off the snake's head so the body will die" and Casey had a line about, "that feral dog." Nana said that at 1:30 in the morning this became really funny to her and she broke out in helpless laughter. She tried to get the crew to help her get her focus back by having them yell out how much they hated her at the moment for making them work so late. She tried, but it didn't work and she was off laughing again. This whole laughing episode was filmed and she wondered if anyone would ever see the out-take.

RenÚ discussed the reasons for ending the show after its seven-year run. He believes it's all a matter of money. Paramount and UPN has an investment in Voyager and they need that show to succeed. DS9 got the short shrift in that, with TNG still on the air and Voyager starting midway through their run, DS9 never had a chance to establish itself on its own. RenÚ feels the uniqueness of Star Trek is very important, that there should always be only one Star Trek. There can be lots of Star Treks, but don't have them all on at once. He indicated that many people who approach him cannot differentiate between the three later series. Nana remarked that she feels DS9 will be appreciated more at a later time while in reruns.

There is a wrap party planned, but the actors didn't seem enthused about it. Nana said, "Six hundred people are going to be there. So, I'm not sure it will be special for the cast and crew. It's going to be everybody that we never saw."

The last scene filmed is reportedly set in Vic's bar. All the regular cast will be there. And all the actors who worked in full makeup and the writers are going to be extras in the scene. Nana described it as, "Everybody's going to be in that scene with us. There's a song involved. And it's designed for hysterical crying." She said she was going to try hard not to go that way, but that it'll be a hard thing to say goodbye to.

And I agree.

Photos courtesy of
Donn Nottage

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