Music & Nightlife

Star Trek musical vegan dinner theater — just one of Charlotte’s fringe entertainment offerings

Charlotte musician and music instructor Molly Jay and vegan chef Julia Simon’s musical sendup of the ’80s Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi flick “Predator,” as staged at Petra’s last year.
Charlotte musician and music instructor Molly Jay and vegan chef Julia Simon’s musical sendup of the ’80s Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi flick “Predator,” as staged at Petra’s last year.

Charlotte isn’t well-known for avant-garde performance art or fringe performances, but off-kilter, outside-the-box entertainment does exist here, as last month’s Boom Festival demonstrated. From Goodyear Arts’ mixed-discipline events to troupes like Sinergismo, there’s a lot going on here.

In 2018, Charlotte musician and music instructor Molly Jay and vegan chef Julia Simon teamed up to create the city’s first vegan dinner theater experience: a musical sendup of the ’80s Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi flick “Predator.” They’re teaming up again for “St4r Tr3k: The Conway Maneuver Musical Dinner Theater,” which takes place twice over the next few weeks — on Thursday, June 6, and on June 20 at Petra’s.

“I’ve been on this kick of writing mini-musicals,” explains Jay, who writes the scripts and music. “Julia’s a big ‘Star Trek’ fan and was on me to do a ‘Star Trek’ one.”

Jay was up for the task. She started watching “Star Trek: The Next Generation” as a teenager and once co-hosted a podcast for Plaza-Midwood Community Radio called “Treklenburg.”

As with “Predator: The Musical,” Simon creates a vegan menu that reflects the show’s theme. “Predator” yielded a jungle curry and a dessert inspired by the trademark cigar Schwarzenegger had in the movie.

“The Conway Maneuver” centers around loose parody versions of “Voyager’s” Captain Janeway (Casey Livingston) and “Next Generation’s” Captain Will Riker (Ken Aguilar), and has fun with their conflicting command styles.

“I didn’t want to fall into a trap of having to be true to the ‘Star Trek’ universe, so I made up the characters as loose parodies to existing characters. We have references to the Enterprise and lots of nods to the series, and movie quotes,” Jay says. “‘Star Trek’ can be intimidating if you haven’t watched it. The story here is fairly accessible for people who aren’t super into ‘Star Trek.’ It touches on the cultural consciousness as far as being aware of ‘Star Trek.’”

“It’s incredibly silly, zany and low-budget and we’re embracing all of that,” she adds. “The audience buys into a lot of the setup because they’re willing to have fun with us. That initial trust is a really cool thing on the audience’s part — ‘Yes, we will pretend like this piece of cardboard is a spaceship.’”

More from the fringes

Here are some other places you find uncommon, unhinged, and fringe entertainment in Charlotte:

▪ Goodyear Arts thinks outside of the box. Now located at Camp Northend — which hosts everything from pop-up markets to cultural festivals — Goodyear Arts is a creativity incubator that showcases the arts. Saturday it hosts a variety of unconventional performances that combine theater, film, music, performance art and visual art from XOXO, Sarah Ingel, Liza Ortiz, de’Angelo Dia, Dylan Gilbert, Nakisa “Sista Sol” Glover and others. 7 p.m.

▪ Visart Video was reborn when it moved to Eastway Crossing, where it now hosts monthly film series and comedy nights. This week it launched the VHS Potluck Series, where viewers agree on a VHS tape in a given genre that they’ve never seen before. They also screen Cult Movies in the Cave (“Hard Ticket to Hawaii” is June 18), and have partnered with Charlotte Film Society to show limited-run theatrical releases that don’t normally hit Charlotte (like Elisabeth Moss’ “Her Smell”). They’ve even started their own version of “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” which sees comedians roasting movies; the next one is June 29. Pro-wrestler/standup comedian ManScout Jake Manning also hosts the monthly comedy series, Jokesploitation.

▪ C3Lab in Southend offers artist studios and work spaces, but also hosts a variety of events, from cooking competitions to WCCB’s on-air personality Jon Wilson’s Dudeapalooza market to Charlotte Film Society’s Back Alley Film Series, which welcomed cult movie critic Joe Bob Briggs in April. The event space is big enough for documentary screenings, speakers, poetry readings and art openings.

▪ Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte bookended its 30th season with two feminist LGBTQ-friendly productions, starting last August with a rock n’ roll period piece about Lizzie Borden and ending with the stage version of Alison Bechdel’s acclaimed graphic memoir of familial dysfunction “Fun Home” (which runs June 6-29). Next season follows suit, opening with “Silence! The Musical” (“Silence of the Lambs” as satirical comedy) on Aug. 15 and closing next year with “Head Over Heels,” a love story set to the music of the Go-Go’s.

▪ And furthermore: Petra’s — which hosts “St3r Tr4k: The Conway Maneuver” — regularly dishes out theme nights (from tiki and tropical to era-specific dance parties), gallery openings, movie nights, gaming, poetry slams, karaoke and its “buzzed spelling bee” competitions, as well as live music.

WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday, June 6 and June 20

WHERE: Petra’s, 1919 Commonwealth Ave.