By Published: Oct. 9, 2023

Patrick Stewart of Star Trek (and Shakespeare) fame shared his wit and wisdom Saturday with attendees at the Glenn Miller Ballroom on the CU Boulder campus as part of national book tour

Whether you knew it or not, Saturday was a special day in Colorado. That’s because Colorado Gov. Jared Polis issued an official proclamation naming Oct. 7 as “Patrick Stewart Day.”

The governor presented the citation to the actor of stage and screen fame on Saturday before a capacity crowd at the Glenn Miller Ballroom on the University of Colorado Boulder campus, where Stewart was appearing as part of a national book tour to promote his new memoir, Making It So.

Polis told the audience he issued the proclamation because of Stewart’s accomplishments as an actor and philanthropist, as well as an advocate against domestic violence and for women’s rights and the LGBT community.

“When it comes to declaring a day in honor of a true icon and hero to many, we must ‘Make It So,’” declared the governor, who is widely known for his love of science fiction and fantasy books and movies. His proclamation drew cheers from the capacity audience.

Attendees at Patrick Stewart appearance

At the conclusion of Patrick Stewart’s talk at the Glenn Miller Ballroom on Saturday, fans of Stewart’s posed for a picture in front of the stage holding free copies of his memoir provided by the Boulder Book Store.

Tim Orr, producing artistic director of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, led Stewart through a 45-plus-minute conversation touching on his upbringing in rural Yorkshire, England; how he got started in regional theater and his time performing as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company; his success in TV and films; and his decision to write a memoir.

“I read your book and I loved it,” Orr said, then asked Stewart, 83, why he wrote it.

“COVID,” the actor deadpanned, to laughter from the audience. He explained that he had previously been asked to write his memoir but had always begged off, saying he was too busy with work.

Seated on a cushioned chair onstage with Orr, Stewart said his prior excuses about being too busy to write a memoir were only partially accurate. In truth, he left school at age 15 to become a full-time actor and said he wasn’t sure he was up to the challenge of writing a book.

Still, he said he always loved reading, and he dedicated his book to the memory of Ruth Wynn Owen and Cecil Dormand, whom he credited as being two inspirational teachers of English and of theater who helped start him on his professional journey.

Stewart’s role in regional theater paved the way for him to join the Royal Theater Company, where he studied and performed with such veterans of the stage as Judi Dench, Ben Kingsley and Ian McKellen.

Orr asked what it was like being a star in the company of such famed thespians, to which Stewart responded, “We didn’t see ourselves that way.”

In retrospect, being timid at that time is one of his deep regrets, Stewart said. If he could today give advice to his 40-year-old self, it would be to “be braver.” That’s also the advice he said he gives today to younger actors, telling them to “be fearless.”

Because of his timidness, Stewart said he didn’t get to know McKellen until much later, when they were in the first X-Men film together. On the studio set, they had adjacent trailers, and went on to become great friends. Stewart added that he considers his performances with McKellen in the plays No Man’s Land and Waiting for Godot personal highlights of his career.

Orr peppered Stewart with questions about Star Trek, including his first thoughts about the TV project (Stewart said he initially believed the show might end after just six months), about Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s thoughts on casting him in the role as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard (Roddenberry was not a fan, initially, Stewart later learned), regarding famous admirers of the show (which included Frank Sinatra and a former U.S. joint chiefs of staff who asked for permission to sit in the captain’s chair on set), his interactions with his co-stars; and why, after seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation and four movies, he was coaxed back into the captain’s chair in 2020 for the Picard TV series (because he came to believe there was still room to tell new stories about the famous starship captain).

As for his future, Stewart said he is still open to taking on roles, including in Shakespearean theater. That prompted Orr to say that he knew of a Shakespearian theater in Colorado.

“Do you have a small theater?” Stewart asked.

“Four hundred seats,” Orr replied.

“Egggggh,” Stewart responded, to laughter. He said that these days he is primarily interested in performing in small, intimate venues.

Stewart’s visit to Boulder was part of a seven-city, cross-country book tour, with most stops in bigger cities, including New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

So, why Boulder?

Stewart told the crowd that the decision was deliberate, because his wife, singer-songwriter Sunny Ozell, attended the University of Colorado and had previously performed in the Glenn Miller Ballroom. She sang in various bands while in college.

“She was educated here in Boulder. And that is one of the reasons that we are here, because I know what a great impact it had upon her life and how much she loved this place, and the lasting relationships that it created,” he said.

Saturday’s event was sponsored by the Boulder Book Store and the Center of Student Involvement, part of CU student government. Students had the opportunity earlier in the week to sign up for free tickets.

While there were college-age men and women wearing CU attire in attendance, the biggest fans seated in the front rows tended to skew a bit older.

Kristol Cummings and her husband, Craig, drove six hours from Nebraska to attend the event, even though they didn’t have tickets. They said they felt extremely lucky to score additional tickets from people they met by chance in line.

Self-described Trekkies Liz Star, Alice Slaikeu and Stephanie Peterson came from even farther afield, flying from their hometown of Minneapolis to Denver on Thursday. On Friday, they each got matching Star Trek insignia arm tattoos, and on Saturday they arrived at the Glenn Miller Ballroom at 1:30 p.m. for the 6:30 p.m. event to be some of the first people in line for the general-seating event.

The only person to arrive earlier was Dan Valentine of Greeley, who showed up at 8:30 a.m. Valentine said it was an evening he will not soon forget after Stewart personally answered the question he submitted in writing in advance about what advice Stewart would give his younger self, while Valentine was sitting in the front row and was acknowledged by Stewart. Still, did he really need to arrive so early Saturday morning?

Said Valentine, “It was totally, totally worth it.”

Top image: Sarah Coulter/Paramount+

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