by Bill Sencio
William Shatner took command of The Bushnell as the star of the 19th Annual Nite of Lite Laughter on Saturday night, sharing stories of his personal and professional life, some music, and lots of laughs.
While he’ll always be best known as Captain James T. Kirk from Star Trek, William Shatner’s experiences are even bigger and more diverse than the Final Frontier, and in Shatner’s World– his one-man performance which served as this year’s Nite of Lite Laughter– he brought the packed house at The Bushnell all the way back to his earliest days, as a hooligan in Montreal. Shatner recalled how he sort of happened in to acting, starting with local stage roles in Canada before moving on to movies and live TV.
The animated actor shared many stories of those early days– ironically, Star Trek (which he only spoke on briefly during the two hour performance) was a role he landed in the middle of his long career– performing everything from comedy to Shakespeare. Bill also had his share of more recent memories, from Boston Legal to his incredibly enjoyable music/ spoken word album “Has Been” (which was produced by alt rocker Ben Folds).
In between his often LOL-worthy acting tales, Bill also offered insight into his personal life and passions, most notably his love of horses. Riding and keeping horses has been a lifelong passion for Shatner, and while he obviously didn’t bring a live animal with him to The Bushnell, he did use his trusty, ever-present “Co-Chair” (an actual chair) to hilariously simulate getting on and off a horse with no saddle. The chair served Shatner well for the entire show, as he rolled enthusiastically across the stage in mid-sentence, and acted as whatever prop Bill needed at the moment, whether it was a car seat, a horse, a motorcycle, or even a toilet.
In the past, Bill Shatner has garnered a reputation as a prickly kind of celebrity, but seeing him live showed a very different side to the actor. Not only was he energetic and enthusiastic on stage, he was very, very funny. The entire audience at The Bushnell was a sea of perpetual laughter as Shatner guided us through his history and many of his viewpoints (including some shade thrown at former co-star George Takei… as well as Donald Trump. I’ll leave it to you to guess which comment got the only vocal boos of the night from the crowd).
But Bill was also poignant when he wanted to be. He talked of his discussion with fellow Star Trek Captain, Patrick Stewart, and how his fellow actor helped him appreciate his iconic and aggressively-loved role in a new, more positive light. And several of Shatner’s stories almost brought the audience to tears… in particular his tale of a stallion he owned, who was prevented from being the majestic animal Bill first fell in love with for the sake of his own protection. Things had a happy ending, and this and other stories Shatner shared all seemed to come back to one common theme, something he has always valued as an actor, and as a person– in life, sometimes it’s worth taking risks. Maybe things won’t work out, and it will blow up in your face (it has for all of us… Bill Shatner included). But maybe, just maybe, taking a risk is how you, too, will find yourself sitting in the Captain’s seat.
The 19th Annual Nite of Lite Laughter featuring Shatner’s World was hosted by WRCH and Hartford Hospital. Counting this year’s show, we have now surpassed the million dollar mark in proceeds to benefit the fight against Breast Cancer through the Hartford Heathcare Cancer Institute at Hartford Hospital!