The Valley Line: Caltech, JPL join forces for ‘Star Trek’ musical parody


Here in our fair city we have been basking in early spring sunshine, which has been lovely. Our inhabitants have been buzzing around like busy bees. The various school spring breaks have families traveling hither and thither.

As for me, I’m just cruising around town to see what is going on. Soon the Pasadena Showcase House will be opening (on April 17), so the industrious activity by designers and landscapers around this beautiful estate on the Flintridge side of our valley is practically nonstop. The finished product, an updated jewel of a home, promises to be spectacular. I can hardly wait to see the magic the designers and their assistants have wrought. I hope you plan on going to see this 1917 vintage estate during its month-long showcase.


JPL researchers and engineers, along with Caltech alums and students, were recently in the spotlight when the Caltech Theater Arts department presented a musical parody based upon “Star Trek” at Ramo Auditorium on the Caltech campus. The play written by brothers Cole and Grant Remmen was called “Boldly Go!”

The night I attended the play it was a fundraiser for the Caltech Theater Arts program. We first met at the school’s Chandler Cafe where we dined with Thomas Rosenbaum, president of Caltech and his wife, Katherine Faber. Also dining with us was Brian Brophy, director of the play and Caltech’s Lecturer in Theater-Performing and Creative Arts at TACIT (Theater Arts at Caltech).

Robert Picardo, Star Trek alum, also played a small part in the parody. When he wasn’t in the production, Steve Collins, a JPL guidance and control engineer, played the part of Barnett.

Just reading the bios of the players in this truly funny and fun musical made my head spin. Grant Remmen, co-author of the play, is a fourth-year Hertz Fellow and National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow at Caltech studying theoretical physics where he researches various problems in quantum gravity and cosmology, seemed to set the tone for the players. His co-author brother, Cole, is graduating this spring from the University of Minnesota with a major in theatre arts. He plans to pursue graduate school in directing.

I especially liked reading the bio for Teagan Wall, assistant choreographer an alumna of Caltech who received her Ph.D. in computation and neural systems. In it, she says her degree gives her the opportunity to focus on what’s really important: teaching scientists and engineers how to dance! Despite 25 years of dance and theater training, she quickly discovered choreography at Caltech “is best taught by describing the dance in terms of monotonically converging, twice differentiable functions over a given domain, and having the cast solve it together.”

Taking the lead on the stage as Capt. James T. Kirk was Kevin Bates, who is a grad student in his fourth-year at Caltech studying chemistry. Well, he was a fine specimen of a human being with his toned body that even went shirtless at one point showing off his impressive “six-pack.” He also had an amazing singing voice and accomplished stage presence.

Some of our JPL scientists and engineers playing at being actors and musicians taking part in this lively production were Holly Bender, an optical engineer who also sings for the Verdugo Swing Society and JPL’s Jazz Propulsion Band; David Coren, an engineer at JPL working on the Europa Clipper Mission and David Seal, who plans mission and new mission proposals at JPL. Rounding out the JPL people in the cast was Eric Ferguson, a musician who played piano in the band. He is a mission operations engineer at JPL.

I’ll be looking forward to the next play at Caltech, but for now I will follow the advice given by Capt. Kirk and Spock: “Live long and prosper.”


The La Cañada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce mixer was held March 17 at the recently opened Etc. Gourmet Kitchen in Montrose.

Pat Anderson, president and CEO of the chamber, was on hand to welcome the nearly 100 guests that came to taste the delights coming from the kitchen and to meet owner Robin Seifert, a longtime La Cañada resident. Robin’s husband Michael was also there to meet and greet.

As the event was held on St. Patrick’s Day, many guests were wearing green. I didn’t and received some pinches.

The shop’s side patio was a gathering place where I noted that Robin had created her own little garden of lettuce and tomatoes. The tomato bush was filled with little green fruit that will soon be bright red — I can hardly wait!

It was a festive evening and a great way to taste the delicious items from Robin’s kitchen. She was a gracious hostess and when she stepped to the mike to welcome everyone she mentioned that not only did they serve pastry delights but also sandwiches. Robin also gives cooking classes for adults at the shop and is planning a summer week-long cooking camp for kids.

I’m already thinking that I want to make sure to stop by some morning for a cappuccino and a divine pastry.


JANE NAPIER NEELY covers the La Cañada Flintridge social scene. She can be reached at