Stranglehold is a not-for-profit, San-Diego-based fan group that not only puts on the long running Klingon Lifestyles panel at San Diego Comic-Con (this year held 8:30 PM on Friday in Room 6A), they also cosplay as pirates, steampunk villains, and now Doctor Who. I spoke with Dennis Hanon, who portrays Fleet Admiral K'Han Den to learn more about the panel.
How did the fan group start?
It started as a fan group dedicated to the Star Trek aliens known as Klingons. Through the years it changed from being a fan group to a performance troupe and later adding other elements to it.
What led to the interest of your members cosplaying as Klingons? Did Worf and the characterization of other Klingons on The Next Generation have any impact? Any other media have an effect on your characters like the movies or books?
As stated it was a fan group like so many Star Trek-related fan groups that were doing Star Fleet. As to the media impact on what we do, we do cover all elements of the series so we do have Original Series Klingons as well as the more memorable TNG, DS9, and Voyager Klingons. We stop short of doing the revised ones from the movies and the new series. We do have people performing as the other aliens too (Ferengi, Ocampan, Borg, Andorian, Cardassian, etc.).
What led to the panel and how long has it been running at SDCC?
Long ago, there was a decision to perform the Klingon Rite of Ascension at the con, which we did for three years at SDCC, but by the third one, we changed it to a scripted play rather than have 20 Klingons go through and scream. Since then, it has been running years with this being the 24th performance.
How much and what type of prep work goes into the play's pre-production?
There is the brain session to come up with the possible plot, who will be the characters and what props are needed. Then the script has to be written with strict attention to the time limits that we have in the room. Next are rehearsals which start in May and are done twice a week, plus an extra rehearsal time for the fight[scene choreography. Any major props that are needed are also produced at this time with attention on how to transport in a crowded convention area to the room we are in.
Do members have a background in theater?
A few have taken courses in school but for the most part we all started out with no background, but after 24 years we have all become actors and the process of learning is constant.
Are the plays self-contained to the night or do stories cover multiple conventions?
Each performance is a new one. These are the adventures of the IKV Stranglehold so it is like a live-action Star Trek series from a Klingon point of view.
Can past plays be accessed online?
There are a few on YouTube and can be seen on our website as well.
Does the IKV Stranglehold crew put on plays elsewhere or just SDCC?
We had performed the plays at ConDor (a local SciFi convention) but have since altered our performing for that convention as college professors in a university in a Star Trek-themed universe. We have had courses in Klingon Food, which is superior smooth headed or ridged, Star Fleet security. and even a course on how to smuggle Tribbles past Klingons. We also do performances as the other parts of Stranglehold
I believe the panel has been on Fridays for quite a while. Do you have any say in the scheduling of when the panel occurs?
We have always been on Friday which is the decision of Comic Con as is the time we are on. We had originally (when we started) been earlier (6 pm) but as the popularity of the play grew so did the room and the placement of our time on stage. Placing panels in time slots is a difficult job (speaking as one who is doing that for other conventions) but you try to be fair in how things are scheduled.
Is there a concern having another Trek-related panel taking place at the same time?
That is always a concern but then so is being at a time when another popular panel from any genre is scheduled opposite.
Do you get the same group of folks attending the panel each year or do you draw a lot of new folks? Does it draw in new members to the fan club or is the club predominantly a local affair?
In the past we always would get a group of fans who had been to every show but when the ticket buying policy changed it made it difficult for all of our fans to get in. We have been able to draw in some new people to see it but that means we have to work on promoting more because not everyone looks at the program book what with all the other fantastic things that happen at the con. We do get new members, in fact a few are in this year’s play.
Are panel attendance numbers a concern, or does it not matter?
The panel-attendance numbers are always a concern for both as that judges whether a panel returns the following year.
Some long-time attendees have complained about the changes to Comic Con over the years. Is that something that has had any impact on your panel?
Again, the changes have made it hard for some of our die-hard fans of the show to see us each year.
Thanks for chatting with me. Break a leg.