April, 2005, LOS ANGELES -- Early in the month of April, I'm always reminded of the approach of my birthday by the arrival of the first birthday card. Then, the birthday e-mails start up. These begin mounting, coming from all over the country and, in fact, from all parts of the world, until there is no way of ignoring the fact. I'm about to age again. On April 20, my age and birthday are announced to the world by the media - newspapers, radio, and television. The phone starts ringing with cheery congratulatory calls.

Thank you, to all my friends and fans for your good wishes. I appreciate your happy greetings. I am a year older and happier for it. I have reached that point in life when, instead of trying to avoid birthdays, I rejoice in them and hope to collect as many as I can. My grandmother was a great collector. She collected 105 of them!

This year, I received two wonderful and completely unexpected birthday presents. One is the publication of my autobiography, "To the Stars," in Japanese translation. It originally came out in 1994 in English and in 1997 in German. I had always hoped that it might be published in Japanese as well. I had talked to many Japan-based publishers with New York offices - all to no avail. I had almost given up on that dream. Then, last year, out of the clear blue sky, I got a phone call from Japan informing me that "To the Stars" was in the process of being translated into Japanese and would be out in the bookstores of Japan in April. Two weeks before my birthday, a copy of the book arrived hot off the press.

What a fantastic birthday present it was! The cover has an updated photo of me in a jet-black turtleneck shirt. The title is "Hoshi ni Mukatte," which translates as "toward the stars." The photos inside are the same ones as in "To the Stars" but, alas, I can't read the words. I speak Japanese fluently but reading and writing that language is something else. I will be flying to Japan in late May for a book signing tour in Tokyo and Kyoto. "Hoshi ni Mukatte" now has its proud place in my bookshelf alongside "To the Stars" and "Zu den Sternen," the German version. In the U.S., for those who read Japanese or collect all things Star Trek, "Hoshi ni Mukatte" will be available at the museum bookstore of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.

The second surprise birthday present came via another phone call - this one from the Producing Artistic Director of the East West Players, Tim Dang. He had been trying to secure the rights to Sir Peter Shaffer's powerful, award-winning drama "Equus" for some time. Alec McCowen had starred in the original production in London at the National Theater. On Broadway, it starred Anthony Hopkins, then Tony Perkins, and finally, my Star Trek colleague, Leonard Nimoy. In the film version, the great Richard Burton played the lead. Tim told me he had finally succeeded in securing the rights to "Equus" and that he would like to have me play the lead role. I was stunned!

The part of Martin Dysart, the psychiatrist who deals with a severely disturbed boy who commits a horrific act, is a role that I had secretly wished for, ever since I first saw the play in England. What a terrific and completely unexpected gift this was! I didn't hem and haw. Once I checked the dates on my calendar to make sure I was clear, I leaped at the offer. This would be a challenging and such a fulfilling opportunity. I won't be going into rehearsals until September but I've already begun working on the script. I can't wait to really get started working with the other actors. "Equus" opens at the East West Players on October 26 and runs through November. I hope you might be able to join us for the gala opening night in Los Angeles. If you can't, then do try to catch a performance sometime during our run. And, do come backstage to say hello and tell me what you think of my two surprising birthday presents.

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