LAKEVIEW — A sci-fi and fantasy theater company that’s been closed most of the pandemic is ramping up its in-person events again and will stage a “Star Trek”-themed show this weekend.
Otherworld Theatre Company, 3914 N. Clark St., will host actor Doug Jones, who plays Captain Saru in “Star Trek Discovery,” 7 p.m. Sunday. Jones will be a guest for a “Star Trek” improv show and a live taping of the company’s upcoming podcast, “The Nerd Therapy Podcast,” which launches April 22. The episode featuring Jones is scheduled to air in June.
“We’re super excited to have Doug Jones here, and he’s super jazzed, too, because he really appreciates our mission as a nonprofit,” said Tiffany Keane Schaefer, Otherworld’s founder and artistic director. “He’s coming out to support us in our reopening.”
Jones, who is also known for playing El Fauno and the Pale Man in “Pan’s Labyrinth,” will perform alongside Otherworld’s improv actors during Portal-Prov and will help decide the theme of next week’s show, Keane Schaefer said.
After the improv show, Jones will join clinical social worker Eric Koll of Keystone Mental Health and licensed counselor Natalie Jeung of Skylight Counseling Center for a live taping of “The Nerd Therapy Podcast.” The episode will focus on how “Star Trek” deals with loss and family trauma, two themes that are significant to Jones’ character in “Star Trek Discovery.”
“We’re going to get really fun with Doug Jones in Portal Prov, and then we’re going to get really deep in discussion about science fiction and why it matters,” Keane Schaefer said.
Tickets to the evening with Doug Jones cost $50 and are available on Otherworld’s website.
Keane Schaefer founded Otherworld in 2012 to create a theatrical space for people who are nerdy about fantasy and science fiction, she said.
Keane Schaefer conceived of the theater company’s idea while waiting in line at midnight for the release of “Skyrim,” a video game set in a fantasy world with dragons and other magical creatures.
“I was in line with all these people who were so excited to finally play this video game and explore this world,” Keane Schaefer said. “We were talking about all the game’s lore, and I realized we needed a theater for these people, where we can do science fiction and fantasy on stage.”
In keeping with its name, stepping into Otherworld is like being transported to an alternate universe. Its space is decorated with plants and other foliage, tchotchkes from various TV shows or movies and ornate frames displaying photos from its past plays.
On some nights, the theater company adopts the identity of the Horizon Space Station, the set of Otherworld’s interactive “Murder on Horizon” show, in which eight audience members help actors solve a murder mystery aboard the space craft. Other nights, Otherworld is home to nerdy improv shows, tabletop gaming meetups and other immersive experiences.
“We’re a genre-specific theater company, so you’re going to see everything from steampunk to mythology to vampires here,” Keane Schaefer said. “Celebrating genres and community is really at the heart of what we like to do here.”
Otherworld has been sidelined much of the past two years due to the pandemic, but it recently resumed having shows every weekend. “Murder on Horizon” runs through May 1, and it has its weekly “Portal-Prov,” a nerd-themed improv show held on Sundays.
Keane Schaefer said it feels “very good and surreal” to be reopening, especially as the theater company prepares to celebrate its 10th anniversary.
“I sit in the lobby after Portal-Prov, for instance, and see all these people coming out of our shows, having this joyous celebration of a fandom that they love, and I just take it all in,” Keane Schaefer said. “This is what we’ve fought so long for, and it was worth it, so I just want to live in that moment for our celebration of a decade — celebrate that special relationship we were able to cultivate and even still have after a dark time.”
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: