In August of 2003, a dedicated bunch of Midwestern Farscape fans put on the fourth and last Scapercon1 at a hotel near Chicago's O'Hare Airport. Although I'd been a huge fan of Farscape since partway through its first season, a regular at Creation's Burbank conventions from the beginning (see my earlier pages for descriptions of the 2001 and 2002 Creation cons) and had long known about the Scapercons, this was the first time I managed to drag myself away from the Left Coast and visit what we Coasters think of as Flyover Country.
My main reason for breaking with tradition was an impressive lineup of guests: the organizers had managed to draw six members of the regular cast, plus one guest performer. The Burbank cons are primarily about listening to the cast and crew discuss their craft and their experiences making the show; they're secondarily a chance to hang out with folks who share the obsession, to marvel at the fact that there are others as hooked as we. But Scapercon had come from the opposite motivation. It had begun as a chance for Scapers who knew each other from chat rooms to meet in person and talk about things Farscape, to share examples of their fannish creativity. Over four years, amusing activities metamorphosed into traditions. And the informal party had become a slightly less informal gathering of several hundred fans from all over the country, with a few brave souls coming from even farther afield.
I didn't know any of this when I arrived. But it didn't take long to become acclimated. By the time I got on the shuttle from the airport to the convention hotel, I was surrounded by Scapers and getting little hints of what the weekend held. And those hints kept coming; the ladies who organize the con seem determined that newbies like me don't stay that way for long. Attending a Scapercon is a little like being adopted into a family. But in a good way.
The seven guest stars at this year's con may have been the big draw for me and some of the other newbies. But they were something new for Scapercon. The 2002 con had one guest star: former Delvian Priestess Virginia Hey. And the first two had no big names at all. I'm told those cons were all about attendee-generated entertainment. Like this year's two theatrical performances, the lead off events on Saturday and Sunday. Written and performed with enthusiasm2 by fans for an appreciative mob of other fans, they represent what's best and most appealing about the subculture that is Farscape fandom.
Never let it be said that Scapers shy away from big challenges.
Like putting on a full scale musical with only as much rehearsal as
you can have in the 24 hours between everybody arriving onsite and
performance. And with a cast whose vocal talents are all over the
map from American Idol wannabe to "couldn't hold a tune in a
bucket, but has so little range you'd have to be onstage to notice".
Not that it really matters. As with most fan activities, enthusiasm
is far more important than ability. And so it was with this
of Grease, with John and Aeryn taking over for
The staging was minimalism itself. But the Farscape lyrics were
often inspired. And the costumes! What can you say about 50s era
poodle skirts with DRDs, a Peacekeeper logo and, in the case of
Sikozu, a beautifully rendered cartoon Scorpy from Revenging
Angel? Now only if they'd found something to rhyme with
Turning Farscape into a rock musical would have been enough for
most people. But not for this Scaper crowd; one day after setting
fire to Grease this brave company would launch the Bard of Avon
into the nearest wormhole. Transitioning Twelfth Night to the
Uncharted Territories required taking a few liberties with the text;
I don't think Shakespeare imagined a duel with stuffed fish. And I
was left wondering whether the large number of male roles performed
by women was a demographic necessity or a subtle statement on the
Elizabethan practice of all male casts. In the fishfight at right
we have a woman pretending to be a man, battling with another woman
pretending to be a woman pretending to be a man. Sort of like a
Blake Edwards movie,
only with laughs.
Of course, Scaper creativity extends beyond the ability to adapt
great and not so great literature. I was amazed at the quality of
the costumes and makeup in these productions. Especially in
ScapeSpeare, where the characters had to fit the equally demanding
realms of 17th century England and 21st century galaxy far far
away. The costume for Pilot/Narrator at left is a nice example:
graceful and elegant while at the same time crablike. There were
the music videos, played at various times during the weekend.
(Including my own contributions to the
form, one of which had its first
public performance there.) And
then there were the entries in the art show. I particularly liked the
perspective diorama at right, which created a Farscape setting made
mostly from tiny beads. (As a Mac owner myself, I thought the
beaded iMac was a nice touch. And after all, what kind of computer
would a technologically advanced Sebacian use?) The
caption on this miniature monument to Aeryn Sun? You Can Bead More.
Gee, I wish I'd said that.
As I've already said, Creation cons are all about the guest stars; everything else is filler. But Scapercon is different; spending time with the cast is just another fun activity. And the organizers weren't trying to stretch it out. On the contrary: the cast appearances were mostly doubled up. Which led to some very funny exchanges, I must say. In fact, it's funny how much more entertaining these folks can be when they have somebody to play off of.
Our first presentation was by Bianca Chiminello, who appeared in
the three part Look At The Princess story as the prince's fiancee
and an undercover Peacekeeper assassin. This was Bianca's first
role, and she recounted her training in combat technique and harness
work. (Which has to do with cranes and wires and those Hong Kong
movie leaps that are so popular these days, not some shocking
Gosh, you've got a dirty mind.) As to what the audience most wanted
to know, her little underwater encounter with Ben Browder, Bianca
mostly laughed. And blushed. And allowed that she got through the
scene by repeating this mantra: "married with two
children... married with two children...". (Him, not her.)
Most of the women in the audience envied her no end for her close
encounter. We men envied him.
Bianca was it for the guest presentations on Friday. (Not that I'm
complaining. Nope, not a bit.) The rest of the case made their
appearances on Saturday. First up were Rebecca Riggs and David
Franklin, the maneating Commandant Grayza and her trusty Smithers,
Captain Braca. Rebecca demonstrated quickly that she was a good
sport, responding to her Commandant Cleavage onscreen persona with a
recitation of every euphemism for mammaries she and David could
think of. Her description of her reaction to her new, more open
costume was priceless. (The original all black ensemble left her
looking like a floating head.) And she mostly held her own against
David, who's a lot more vocal and a lot funnier than the character
he plays. No good little subordinate here; for a moment, Rebecca
looked ready to slug him!
Next up were Lani Tupu and Jonathan Hardy, the voices of Pilot and
Rygel respectively. I'd met Lani at the Creation cons and always
enjoyed his sense of humor. But I wasn't prepared for Jonathan, who
has more in common with his character than those caterpillar
eyebrows. (Technically speaking, Rygel's are more earbrows than
eyebrows. But I digress.) Jonathan is a classically trained actor
with a long and
distinguished career in theatre. He has a quick and devastating
wit, and no patience for those who lack his dedication to his
craft. He gave a fascinating description of the problems with
voicing his character: having to create a performance that responds
to the other characters while simultaneously matching the mouth
movements created by Rygel's puppeteers. As Jonathan put it, "The
puppeteers think they're actors. They're not." Somehow, I don't
think I'd enjoy having Jonathan's sense of humor aimed at me. Even
when he's having fun he's just the teeniest bit scary.
Last up on Saturday were Anthony and Wayne, D'Argo and Scorpius (and Harvey) respectively. I wondered how that pairing would work on stage; Wayne is quiet and straightforward, while Anthony is a human tornado, wiping out everything in his path. But no need to worry; Anthony is as generous as he is manic. And having them both onstage led to some funny moments. Like Anthony explaining the source of his bloodcurdling scheme in the last episode; he claimed he was inspired by a cast member grabbing his member. Wayne's followup was priceless. (I'd repeat it, but there's a Scapercon tradition that some stories ought to stay at the con. And you can't fight tradition. Right?)
Later, when the audience expressed disappointment that we wouldn't
be able to hear Anthony and Wayne's band perform as they had done at
last year's Burbank con, Anthony
and Wayne agreed to a very impromptu performance. Using a borrowed
guitar that Anthony denounced as crap and a drum set Wayne muted
with a hotel tablecloth, the guys played one of their songs before
an adoring crowd. It wasn't a great performance, not even by the
amateur theatrics standard of the weekend. But it was enjoyed all
The last formal appearance by the cast was at a panel on Sunday
afternoon. Bad Boys they called it, but it was just an excuse to
bring all five male stars up on stage for another Q&A session.
There was a fair amount of mutual admiration, with Anthony leading
an appreciation of the con organizers and the attendees. Being a
guest at one of these things is difficult; either you're inundated
by the attention of the fans or you're kept at a distance. But
if these guys are to be believed (and if you can't trust Scorpius,
whom can you trust?), Scapercon was different. There was a fair
amount of sniping at the Creation events, especially by David. Poor
Braca; he never gets invited to their con. And that may make him the
only person who regrets not visiting Burbank!
Like a good percentage of the Friday attendees, I got on the
autograph line as soon as it opened. Eventually we arrived at the
front of the line and paid for our moments with the cast. The line
moved slowly enough that I was able to grab some pretty good candid
moments. Like Rebecca applying fresh lipstick for a picture with
the fellow ahead of me in line. And then it was my turn. I took
the picture at right while she shook her Sharpie. (That's not a
euphemism. It's a pen. They clog.) As soon as the flash went off,
Rebecca realized I'd caught her looking positively fierce. I showed
her the result, which got a laugh. She: "You'll have to delete that
one." Me: "Are you kidding? That's going on the website!"
Autograph sessions at Creation events are run with ruthless
efficiency. And fear. And surprise. And an almost fanatical
devotion to the Pope... Okay, the fear and surprise are out. But
the efficiency is real. Get in, hand your item to be signed, make
eye contact if you're lucky, move on. But Scapercon isn't nearly so
orderly. And that's a good thing. We didn't mind the long, slow
line. Because we knew that when our turn came we'd have a chance
for a little chat. And if a picture didn't come out, we could take
the time for another attempt. (Digital cameras are a wonderful
thing. Although for some reason, people seemed to have a great deal
of trouble with them. So many bad pictures of Bianca that just
had to be reshot. You don't think they were
trying to take bad pictures just to spend an extra few
seconds with a killer babe, do you? Would a fan be so devious?)
By now it should be obvious that the cast are all good sports and
that they aren't terribly concerned about their dignity. At
the end of each of their sessions, they were given a stack of
t-shirts and baseball caps to toss out to the crowd. (Why, I
wonder. Were they afraid we weren't having a good enough time?)
Those of us in
the front row had no chance at these souvenirs; these folks have
some serious reach! At left, Rebecca takes a moment to enjoy the
pandemonium she's caused in the auditorium. At right is a moment
before Saturday's musical. Things were delayed, with the organizers
debating who should get up and tell the crowd that it would be a few
more minutes before the entertainment began. And Bianca, sitting to
my right in the front row, volunteered to do the honors.
Personally, I'd have been happy with a few more "sorry about the
Traditions are a funny thing. One Scapercon tradition involves the wearing of Hawaiian shirts at the Friday night party. It began in honor of Harvey's famous Mambo shirt. But those were less enlightened times, when folks didn't know the difference between domestic fashion atrocities and the imported kind. So the tradition continues as it began, with those of us with proper shirts trying hard not to condescend to those less sartorially endowed.
None of which is relevant to the picture at right, beyond explaining
why so many of us were caught similarly attired on a Friday night.
As for the picture, that was all Wayne Pygram's idea. It seems
Wayne looked around the bar at all the Mambo shirts and decided that
he wanted a picture will all these Harvey wannabes. So one of the
volunteers came to each of us and invited us to participate. Which
led a few women in my immediate vicinity to offer to trade their
shirts for mine. It's a mark of my dedication to Farscape that I
didn't consider their offer for even a microt.
|Take me home:||
Comments to: Hank Shiffman, Mountain View, California