The full cast of Trek in the Park: Journey to Babel
  • photo by Kenna Conklin
  • The full cast of Trek in the Park: Journey to Babel

So, you're thinking of attending the nationally-recognized theater phenomenon that is Trek in the Park, produced by Atomic Arts, but you're a little daunted at the prospect of driving out to St. Johns, and navigating the crowd of thousands who show up every weekend to witness the loving adaptation of the next best thing to Shakespeare: Star Trek.

Well, you've come to the right place! First, watch this segment from the CBS Sunday Morning News, and then, once you're finished, warp past the jump to discover how to both maximize your viewing experience, and minimize heatstroke and exposure to douchebaggery, unintentional or otherwise.

What time should I show up?

In previous years, when the show was at the smaller Woodlawn Park, the answer was usually "around noon," because showing up any later than that meant you were likely going to consume the play as a series of pajama'd asses shuffling around and clenching in front of you. Attendees who thought they were planning ahead by arriving around 3pm often found themselves in a park with no proper seating left, and chose to spread out in concentric circles behind the company, straining to hear dialog as it reflected back off the 200-300 people who had camped out 5-6 hours beforehand.

This was not optimal for anyone. Not the troupe, nor 2/3rds of the audience watching "Pants Trek: The Stage Play," nor the 200-300 people who paid for their prime real estate by having their skin turned into a fleshy, blood-filled feast for Woodlawn's voracious mosquito population.

But now that the show is at Cathedral Park, where nobody can sit behind the stage, there are no mosquitoes to speak of, and there is ample space for 1000-2000 people to assemble; audiences can show up anytime between 3:30pm and 4:30pm and find themselves a great vantage point from which to view the performance.

But what about the sun? The burny thing in the sky hurts me if I'm outside for too long.

Well, since Cathedral Park is basically split down the middle by the St. Johns bridge, plenty of shade is cast. Lots of people have adopted the strategy of arriving at 3pm, plunking down their lawnchairs and coolers directly in the shade available at that time. It keeps them cool and skin-cancer free, but it also places them at a roughly 90 degree angle to the stage, meaning almost everything they see happens in profile, and the speakers wired to amplify the stage sound are aimed away from them, towards the people gathered more centrally in front of the stage.

If you arrive at 4pm, there are plenty of seats available in the center portions of the natural amphitheater, but they are in direct sunlight at that time. But one of the properties of shade is that often, it moves: If you prepare yourself for the hour or so you will need to withstand that sun (sunblock, a hat, a cooler full of ice water, more sunblock, a functional stillsuit, maybe an umbrella) by the time the play begins at 5pm - 5:10pm, the sun will have dived behind the St. Johns bridge, and you will be shaded for the rest of the show, with maybe one five-minute sunbreak as the blazing ball of celestial misery moves between pillars.

If you're a weird sort of Portlander who can be in the sun for upwards of two or three hours without whipping off your shirt and/or wailing to the heavens about what a sweaty uncomfortable mess you are - the seats to the center-right and right of the stage don't really ever get any shade. Also, pretty much nobody sits over there.

Can I bring a tent, or one of those big beach umbrellas? What if I build myself a blanket-fort?

Go right ahead! Since absolutely nothing is happening on the stage for the 2-3 hours before the show, nothing is being obstructed. So long as you remember to take down your giant-ass umbrella, or your four-person vinyl igloo of a tent around 4:55pm. Some have taken to making handmade signs to reassure fellow attendees who might otherwise sit there passive-aggressively stewing, chewing on their lower lip, repeatedly sighing with all the subtlety of a log truck jackknifing, tweeting obsessively about the fucking dickshits who have the unmitigated gall to bring their motherfucking umbrella to the park in lieu of just asking the person in question if they're going to put their umbrella away before the play starts.

So far as blanket-forts go? Always awesome, at any age. Again, just make sure you take it down just before the play starts, so as to be courteous to the other attendees. If the chair you are bringing is larger than the captain's chair they're using on the stage, you might want to stay near the back, because otherwise you're definitely going to obscure the view of a good 15-30 people behind you.

It's a big nerd gathering, so that means much more relaxed rules of social interaction and behavioral norms, yes?

No. Just because a bunch of nerds are at a gathering together doesn't mean you should act like self-involved pre-teens who've been let loose on a field trip with no adult supervision. It might seem like a safe place to indulge all your social inadequacies, but it is actually the opposite. Shouting back at the stage is considered a big no-no. Responding to the heavy-handed 60s-era innuendo onstage with lines from NBC's subpar adaptation of The Office is fucking annoying and disruptive. If you're going to have a heated discussion with the other occupiers of your handcrafted TARDIS beach blanket as to the political machinations of your vampire LARP guild, please try to keep it relatively civil, and not so shouty.

And try not to leave all your trash on the grass before you go. It's not like a night at Lloyd Cinemas where nobody cares if you put out your joint in a half full popcorn bucket, shit in it, and upend the whole thing onto the floor before striding towards the exits with purpose and pride. It's a city park, and members of the theater company are responsible for making sure the park is taken care of after each performance. So if you just scatter your empties from that sixer of Simpler Times all across the grass before stumbling to your Zipcar, you're essentially rewarding the Atomic Arts crew with a glorious evening of cleaning up your bullshit before going home. Also, that would make you a drunk driver, and thus, an asshole of the highest order. So don't do that, either.

Trek in the Park: Journey to Babel runs two more weekends, August 18-19, and 25-26.