Rhonda Aldrich and Maury Sterling have a few things in common. First, they’re both Star Trek guest stars. She played Madeline, Dixon Hill's secretary, in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes "The Big Goodbye," Manhunt" and "Clues," while he portrayed the telepathic humanoid Tarquin in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode, "Exile." Now, they’re co-starring in Mayakovsky and Stalin, a new play by poet-playwright Murray Mednick. The show – which will end its run on August 19 at the Lounge Theater in Los Angeles -- is a dramatic character study incorporating historical footage and photos to explore two distantly connected relationships: Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin (Sterling) and his wife, Nadya, and Soviet poet Vladimir Mayakovsky and his married lover and “muse,” Lilya Brik. Aldrich plays Lilya’s mother, Yelena. StarTrek.com invited Aldrich and Sterling to interview each other about their Trek experiences and Mayakovsky and Stalin, and they obliged….
Maury, would you agree that Trek is like 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon, that there are 100s of people who worked on the shows/movies, and it’s inevitable that – like us – many of those people will eventually connect? Maury, your overlaps include Alice Krige, James Cromwell, Chris Pine, Ray Walston, Elizabeth Dennehy…
Maury: Yes, I love how the Star Trek world connects so many people. And, thanks for showing me my connections! I actually just recently worked with Scott Bakula again, on an episode of NCIS: New Orleans.
Rhonda, who are some of the Trek people you worked with?
Rhonda: I worked with William Shatner on TJ Hooker. And, yes, I played a hooker. I worked with John Laroquette on Night Court -- also as a hooker! I've also worked with numerous actors from the entire Star Trek world in theater around L.A., particularly in my theater company, Antaeus. And now I get to work with you, who I loved on Homeland.
Maury, you played Tarquin on Enterprise. How do you audition for a role like that, where you know you’ll be in full-on makeup? Had you done anything like that before or after?
Maury: I don't remember having a clear idea of what I was in for. I do remember loving the language and character, and getting to play two characters for the price of one.
Your character was so lonely. What was the challenge for you in putting that across through the prosthetics?
Maury: The writing was so strong I didn't have to do a lot of work. Seeing the final look in the mirror was inspiring. And, the makeup department did such a good job that acting behind the mask wasn't hard.
From an acting perspective, you had three other interesting elements. Tarquin was telepathic. Much of the episode, it was just you and Linda Park. Plus, Scott Bakula and John Billingsley briefly “played” Tarquin. Tell me a little about each of those elements.
Maury: I mostly remember working with Linda. It was a long time ago. I'm a big fan of both Scott and John. So, it was a pinch-myself kind of experience. And making telepathy believable is always a challenge.
Rhonda, my turn. First, were you a Star Trek fan?
Rhonda: Absolutely. I was thrilled to get the opportunity to do the show.
Maury, how about you? Were you a Trek fan?
Maury: I'll just say Shatner was a big influence in my life.
Rhonda, how did you win your role as Madeline?
Rhonda: I auditioned for the director and the producer, Rick Berman, with a scene with Captain Picard. Because the scene was set in the 40's, I modeled my character on Billie Dawn from the play Born Yesterday.
Did you know that it could be a recurring role?
Rhonda: I had no idea, but everybody loved playing the 40's characters. Patrick particularly enjoyed it.
How much fun did you have as Madeline to Patrick Stewart’s “Dix?”
Rhonda: I adored working with Patrick. He is such a gentleman and so kind. He was incredibly generous to me as a guest actor. He also tells great stories, so you are entertained the whole time.
You had a few seconds as well with Whoopi Goldberg, right?
Rhonda: The last episode I did was with Whoopi, and she was hilarious. She was also very generous and so smart.
You played a hologram in a colorful, playful holodeck program. How did you calibrate your performance, since Madeline wasn’t “real?”
Rhonda: I completely played it as a real person. I was in makeup, but how often do Trek fans recognize you? I get recognized by my voice a lot, I think because the period hair throws people off. And I get a lot of fan mail with people sending stills to autograph.
Maury, let’s talk about Mayakovsky and Stalin. You’d worked with Murry Mednick before, right?
Maury: I did. I was in a show he wrote called Fedunn that we did in 2002 at the Odyssey Theater.
What resonates most for you about this story?
Maury: Oh boy. I would say it's the power of an idea. The power of ideas. And how they can be used for good or evil. How they can be used to define our purpose in life.
Rhonda, let me ask you that same question. What resonates most for you about this story?
Rhonda: Stalin was a ruthless dictator and this is a play about power. Throughout history we are faced with the same problems. I also love Russian literature and the romance of it, and there is a romantic element to this story.
What interests you about Stalin as a character?
Maury: His fundamentalism. His paranoia. Exploring what goes on in the mind of a man who could affect the world on such a massive scale. He was nominated for two Nobel Peace Prizes. And he's responsible for the death of tens of millions of people.
Rhonda, what intrigues you about Yelena?
Rhonda: She is a very commanding presence as a mother. She is very practical, which is how I was brought up to be in Kansas. She is taking her daughter abroad to get an abortion. She is not sentimental. She just takes care of business.
Maury, last question: Your wife, Alexis, is in the show. Have you acted together before, and what’s it been like to share this experience?
Maury: We met doing All My Sons at the Ruskin Group Theatre in Santa Monica. We've loved it. We both love theater and it's special to get to do it together. She's a really talented lady and a good critic.
As noted, Mayakovsky and Stalin will be performed at the Lounge Theater in Los Angeles until August 19. The Lounge Theatre is located at 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90038 (just east of Vine). To purchase tickets, call (323) 960-4443 or go to www.plays411.com/stalin.