George Takei is known throughout the world as Mr. Sulu on "Star Trek," the popular television series celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. But for Mr. Takei, the "Star Trek" adventure is intertwined with a personal odyssey through adversity in which he, as a child, was forced with his family into internment camps during World War II. Now both an actor and activist, Mr. Takei will share this and other stories of his career when he visits MIT as artist-in-residence from October 20-23.
At MIT Mr. Takei will interact with students both in classes and in informal settings and make three public appearances:
On Monday, Oct. 21 at 8pm in Kresge Auditorium, Mr. Takei will discuss his experiences as one of the first Asian American actors to gain widespread exposure in television and film, offering insights into how his environment shaped him as an actor, writer, businessman, and political crusader. The talk, titled "Beyond Star Trek: An Evening with George Takei," will be followed by a question-and-answer session moderated by Professor Shigeru Miyagawa of the foreign languages and literatures section.
On Tuesday, Oct. 22 from 1-2pm in Rm 6-120, Mr. Takei will join Professor Miyagawa in a public preview of "Star Festival" (see below) an interactive CD-ROM/Internet travelogue based on life experiences of Professor Miyagawa and starring the voice of Mr. Takei.
On Wednesday, Oct. 23 at 7pm in Rm 10-250, Mr. Takei will participate in a discussion on "Racism in the Arts" with a panel of MIT students and faculty. Moderated by Henry Jenkins, associate professor of literature and director of MIT's Film and Media Studies Program, the panel will examine minority representation and racism in television, film and theater over the past thirty years. Dr. Jenkins was featured in a recent BBC documentary on the 30th anniversary of Star Trek and has written two books about the series.
Joining Mr. Takei on the panel will be Ayida Mthembu, assistant dean in the Office of Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs; Brenda Cotto-Escalera, assistant professor in the music and theater arts section; graduate student Kevin Michael Brooks (media arts and sciences); and Pam Prasarttongosoth, a senior in urban studies and planning.
Mr. Takei's appearance at MIT coincides with the completion of "Star Festival," an interactive CD-ROM project conceptualized and prototyped at MIT. It tells the story of Professor Miyagawa's journey to Japan, where he rediscovers his roots after a 30-year absence with the help of a high-tech electronic diary.
It was Mr. Takei, he said, who encouraged him to incorporate photographs from his youth. "`You must show the photos-they tell the story,' George said when he saw the images of my family and of me as a young boy," said Professor Miyagawa, professor of linguistics and the Kochi Prefecture-John Manjiro Professor of Japanese Language and Culture. "His words meant so much to me, as George Takei was one of the few Asian-American role models I had during my childhood in Alabama. I am thrilled and honored by his involvement in the project."
A Web site at letsone enter into Professor Miyagawa's journey and communicate his or her own stories about culture and heritage. The soon-to-be-released CD-ROM is produced by Ellen Sebring '86, a former fellow in MIT's Center for Advanced Visual Studies. Creative director of the project is Michael Roper '85, who studied film making and interactive media at the Media Lab.
In addition to his role as Mr. Sulu, helmsman of the Enterprise and captain of the Excelsior in the "Star Trek" TV shows and movies, Mr. Takei has more than 100 television guest-starring roles and 20 feature films to his credit. He has also done voice-over and narration work, appeared on stage, served in several capacities as a community activist, and written a science fiction novel and an autobiography.
Mr. Takei's MIT residency is sponsored by the MIT Office of the Arts, the MIT Foreign Languages and Literatures Section of the School of Humanities and Social Science, and numerous other MIT offices. Admission is free to the three public events. For more information, call x3-4003.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 9, 1996.