Skip to main content

Family Affair Explores Star Trek Final Frontier

Video by Matthew Bowler

The play "Klingon Lifestyles," which will stage its 23rd production Friday, has become a classic at Comic-Con in San Diego. Meet the family behind it.

Debbie Fadigan-Hanon and Dennis Hanon work in accounting. But in their spare time, they embody an extraterrestrial humanoid species known as Klingon. They have been doing so for about 30 years.

The Hanons began dressing up in "Star Trek" costume before getting married. Debbie recalls their first time cosplaying was at a "Star Trek" Convention in Anaheim. She says that was where they “got the bug” and decided to form their own fan group, "The Imperial Klingon Vessel, the Stranglehold."

“This group started out as a fan club dedicated to Klingons from Star Trek,” Hanon said. “Then we were doing community service work because fan clubs would do that. Then we started the acting.”

Their “Klingon Lifestyles” stage play has become a classic at San Diego’s Comic-Con. This year, they will celebrate their 23rd performance and "Star Trek"’s 50th anniversary.

“Comic-Con to me is just this one big special thing a year that my family can all be part of that’s part of a bigger thing but we’re just a little niche of it,” Fadigan-Hanon said.

The Klingon stage group meets twice a week, six months prior to the convention to practice. Daughter Denise Simons says the group members are very close.

“They are like a family to me, actually the one who plays my father in the play has been like a father to me since I was little,” Simons said, adding that he also helped Hanon walk her down the aisle for her wedding.

Simons wore her first Starfleet uniform when she was 6 months old. At 7 years old, Klingon became her favorite cosplay. She has attended every single Comic-Con since she was born. She says she was often teased by classmates for being a Trekkie as she was growing up.

“Now it’s becoming normal to be a cosplayer, but when I was growing up. It wasn’t,” Simons said. “[Cosplaying] helped me get over the fact that people are making fun of me, but this is what I love to do, and no one is going to stop me from doing what I want to do.”

The Klingon stage group will perform inside Room 6A at the San Diego Convention Center on Friday at 8:30 p.m. Hanon says he is excited to do the show, but eager to be done with it.

“My favorite part is when it’s done," Hanon says. "After the last line is given, after the applause. And after we put the room back together. That sense of accomplishment, that all the work that we put in, for the months involved. All the work on the props and whatever else came together and we gave the audience a good show. That’s the biggest thrill for me.”

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.