Blog 2015

Radio Leigh: Leonard Nimoy: Live Long and Prosper




I guess many people, if not most, think of Leonard Nimoy as SPOCK, the Vulcan of Star Trek, but there are others who might also recall him for his stage performances.


I was very lucky to see Nimoy perform as THEO VAN GOGH at the Guthrie Theater in 1979, back when the Guthrie was on Vineland Place.  A guy I knew—a would-be lover who failed to reach that status with me the minute he called me “princess”— this friend of a friend suggested we hop a bus to the Guthrie one afternoon and get in line for Student Rush, something that made such theater events affordable for people like us who were in college, and otherwise didn’t have any money.  We got in.


I have to say, in the first minutes of the solo show, also written by Nimoy, the Spock character was hard to erase from my mind.


But after some 10 minutes or so, the character of Theo was very present and Spock was gone.  A second suspension of disbelief had overwritten the first, if you will.  Nimoy’s one-man show, VINCENT, was a beautiful portrayal of two brothers, of Theo’s love for Vincent that incorporated excerpts of actual letters from Vincent to Theo.  There was a magical realism to the show that was a moving tribute to both men, and I remember feeling very touched not only by Nimoy’s performance but by the light it shed on the real Vincent Van Gogh.  I also remember how the absence of Vincent was far from an absence onstage, but played out as a real presence, a kind of negative space of character who, though unseen, was seen.  Overall, it changed my mind forever about Leonard Nimoy as merely Spock. 


I haven’t thought of that play in a long time, but I found out it was filmed at the Guthrie.  Diehard Trekkies might shudder at it, but if you’re a theater buff you might really enjoy Nimoy’s performance as brother Theo in VINCENT. 


To hear Nimoy talk about theater and the roots of the famous Vulcan hand sign, check out Part 2 of a 2012 dialogue between him and Geoff Boucher.  The hand sign talk comes in around 13:19.


Finally, dear Trekkies I think you should know: I’ve still got my T-shirt from the early 80’s that reads: “Beam me up Scotty.  There’s no intelligent life here.”