Sunday, October 10, 2021

LARPing: Brightest and Darkest Days

 Well, blog, you might have noticed a lapse of a couple of months in updates.  I opted to take a hiatus for August and September because of personal issues.  Namely, the crushing weight of grief that comes from losing friends and family.  

In my last update I see that I mentioned my hope that my friend would actually get vaccinated to protect herself.  Now that the vaccine is FDA approved she of course hasn't.  

I've run out of a sympathy, having just lost another family member recently due to Covid, and I don't think I can actually do anything to change her mind.  This saddens me.

I have been trying to focus less on that relationship, though, and more on building new, positive ones.

To that end I have immersed myself into two awesome new areas of interest.

The first is with Christmas performers. I love Christmas and have a natural elf-like quality. Combine that with an deep, instinctual desire to do whatever older men in white beards tell me, and it was inevitable I'd end up at a Christmas Con, or, more specifically, a Christmas Performers' Workshop, put on by Santa True, the same Santa I interviewed last December.

(A plurality of Santas is typically referred to as a "jolly" of Santas.)

There's a lot of emphasis on storytelling. This was an "advanced" workshop so it's assumed that the Santas there know the fundamentals. For advanced workshops, there's a focus on the performing aspect.

"Chair time" usually only involves 4 questions: What's your name, how old are you, have you been good, and what would you like for Christmas.

Home visits and corporate events are another plate of tamales. You're expected to be able to tell stories (memorizing and being able to act out "The Night Before Christmas" is only the tip of the iceberg), answer deep lore questions (Santa is canonically 1,751 years old; he was born in Myra, which is modern-day Turkey; Mrs. Claus was introduced in 1843; every reindeer has a backstory), dance with 35-50 pounds of Santa gear for the entirety of "All I Want For Christmas Is You." (This is the #1 intro song played at corporate events.)

There are facial and physical exercises. A lifted-cheek smile is called a Kringle, for example, and you literally do sets of Kringles to flex your facial muscles. Santa's movements are centered in the belly and there's a deliberate way of walking that Santas are expected to have. Even when stationary Santa is expected to have certain dynamic movements that keep him "interesting" (i.e., combing his beard, checking his pocket watch).

For photos and recorded phone videos (what we call "elfies"), there's a billion tricks to posing (and getting kids to pose).

The workshop involves a lot of storytelling, miming, singing, dancing, cracking dad jokes, and learning to interact with a variety of people: adults, kids, Mrs. Claus, elves, et cetera.

If you want to see an amazing Santa who embodies the Jolly Old Elf, check out this video of Santa being interrogated by ex-CIA folks. It's fun and you get a sense for how deeply the character can be explored.  I had a great time at the two-day workshop and it really got me in the spirit of the season!

The parking lot was overwhelmingly red cars. You can take the Santa out of Christmas but you can't take the Christmas out of Santa!

The second LARP experience I've delved into is a Vampire: The Masquerade LARP. I found this group because, back in 2019, they used to come by the Dragon and Meeple.  Wearing everything from fake fangs and scaley makeup to ballgowns and Adidas track suits, they were a fascinating bunch and I loved to serve them.  I wanted to join their game but of course, I was always working on the nights they were there.

Then the pandemic hit and the D&M closed down.  The LARP moved onto Discord and was played online for nearly two years.  That was sufficient time for me to join the group and create my character:

Name: James "Jimmy" Donahue
Nicknames: Jimmy, Dapper, "Slippin' Jimmy"
Clan: Ventrue
Eyes: One
Hair: Lustrous
Embraced: 1943.  He'll tell anyone who asks that his sire was begat by Vincent Day, making him a direct "descendant" of Mithras, and that he also boasts a connection to Ebles le Croisé.  Quite an impressive lineage, though no one's ever met his direct sire and no one seems to have ever actually known them.

A neonate with a flair of fashion, Jimmy is the friendliest Crusader you'll ever meet.  A WWII vet, he's still adjusting to immortality and the 21st century, but of one thing he's sure: loyalty is a purer currency than either money or blood.


The in-person games have been incredibly fun and, more importantly, I've found a group of people with the same interests as me in performance, cosplay, and world-building.  They are so supportive and friendly; my "clan" really does feel like a family and I've made some fast, close friends.  Daniel (aka Papa Niko) in particular has really become a close friend in real life, not just in the underworld of darkness.

Sometimes you find friends in the most unexpected places.  Although the pandemic has altered some friendships and created some distance between me and others (both literally and figuratively), it's also opened some doors to new experiences and given me some surprising opportunities to meet new people.  I guess that's the silver lining.  No great change can occur without there being a little silver of positive opportunity, if you;re willing to go looking for it.

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