Wrath of Con 2: Into the the Dorkness Exceeds Expectations!

Dad’s Garage Theater Company Premieres the Godfather II of Convention-Themed Plays

The sequel to 2012’s Wrath of Con blends comedy with raw emotion to recast the story of convention goers as a tale of generational shift and succeeds on every level.

Photo Courtesy of Dad’s Garage

Dad’s Garage Theater Company, arguably Atlanta’s leader in comedy theatrics, has changed a bit since 2012. So has the convention scene in Atlanta.  The original 2012 Wrath of Con represented a world where “The Con,” a fictional analog to Dragon Con, was a place for outsiders to find common ground and escape the world. “The Con” of Wrath of Con: Into Dorkness is a place where those who have been attending for decades are confronted by the changing younger demographic. The younger characters are there for immersive gaming, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Anime; while the older characters are there to recapture memories of The Greatest American Hero and Deep Space 9. This generational clash is a theme through the play and offers the best laughs and the most touching moments.

This is a play for adults, by adults.  The language is rough, the situations can be sexual. It is clearly intended, as most shows at Dad’s, for those old enough to vote. 

Writing on the play was begun by John Carr, Ed Morgan, and Z Gillispie in early January. The three produced a tight and hilarious script. The locale is a convention, but the story is universal enough that a theater goer would not need to see the original production or even be a convention veteran to appreciate the play.  It draws specifically on events and convention situations that were not addressed in the first play, makes subtle changes to the characters that are returning to address the passing of years, and introduces new characters organically into the situations.

After the show I heard one of the actors credit Dan Triandiflou’s direction for bringing out his character’s pathos without stopping the comedy.  And, from the audience we saw the effect of solid directing all night.  Each character is given a chance to bring out a purpose in their action, and an authenticity in their performance that never hits buffoonery, except in the character of Eric, where the buffoonery is the message.

The cast includes two actors returning from the summer production of the 2012 play: Taylor Roy as the aging Hank and Ronnie Johnson-Lopez as the unstoppable party-animal Eric.  Hank’s neice, who is attending The Con for the first time, is played by Hannah Morris.  A new African-American family is introduced with Avery Sharp as father Tim, an eternal member who had been coming longer than Hank, and Anthony Nash as his son, who wishes to go by his online name of “Switch-Knight.”  Rounding out the cast are Justin “4th ” Geer, and Karen Cassady playing mulitple characters.

Before discussing the action of the show, a special note must be made about Dad’s longtime performer Karen Cassady. Playing multiple roles she excelled as the Sipowicz-like character who works for the hotel while pursuing a secret cabal who controls the convention.  She had the audience in raucous laughter with each of her characters. If any complaint could be made about the show, it is this, her other main character, April, was not fully developed and ended up seeming like a trophy or “MacGuffin.” But, the real praise is for how easily she switched between characters.

To the left of the stage, the audience’s left, not stage left, was a monitor that displayed everything from the opening Star Wars-based scroll to various scene change notes, to fake commercials in the style of  Dragon Con’s DCTV and finally, to the closing credits.  The credits are important, remember them.

After the Star Wars scroll tells everyone to watch the play, the cast came out for a song we can assume was called “It’s the Con, Say what?” with each of the leads singing a few versus and with a hilarious line about what is most important at a con for an adult: “disposible income.”  We then are re-aquainted with Hank and introduced to his niece Sara.  Hank wants to show Sara “his” convention, while Sara wants to create new memories. This starts the struggle between them, and is a pre-cursor to Hank’s eventual decline into despair that the things he loves most about the convention are fading memories of favorite shows and experiences, which are also becoming fading memories. Sara is also here to meet a gaming-chat crush.

Tim and Switch reveal their own generational struggle.  For Tim the convention was a place of inclusion and a place of friendship and extended family. He wishes to bring his son to the convention to give it to him as a legacy, and to give his son the chance to find his own way in the con. But, Switch is here for gaming and not Battlestar Galactica.  Switch is a hardcore gamer who struggles with discomfort  in the real world. He is also here to meet his gaming-crush who, to no one’s surprise, is Sara.

Then there is Eric. Eric was introduced in the original Wrath of Con as clueless and wasted.  Eric is reintroduced as wasted and clueless, but this time he carries a secret.

To find out how each of the characters resolves their burning questions, one must attend the play.  This is a review not a spoiler. But, all actors bring their own vision to the characters and bring out the laughs and the feelings in the audience from the opening song to the curtain call.

But, there are some set pieces that bear calling out:

  • Young Sara finding the freedom to curse in front of her uncle, finally ending with “Turtle Dick” had the audience cheering
  • A brief image of Doctor Who’s Tardis with a Lyft sign combined reality and fantasy and showed how attendees arrive
  • Hank’s viral video of his breakdown at the masquerade
  • Young Sara asking who William Shatner was
  • Switch and Sara discovering their true relationship
  • J.K. Rowling re-writing the world
  • Tim’s first costume

There is a brilliant longer segment where Switch is stuck in an elevator due to his choice to “go up to go down” while Sara is moving towards him through a sky bridge traffic jam.  The entire scene is done in the motif of Ken Burn’s Civil War. All of the dialogue is done via texts such as, “My dearest Switch, I long to find respite in your arms again.”  (Note: that might be the wrong verb, but that certainly captures the feel.)

And finally, remember when closing credits were mentioned?  This is where they fit into the review. This is a play with a post-credit scene. The post-credit scene was one of the funniest things I have ever seen on stage.  It was a sendup of the MCU, the Matrix, Kill Bill Part I, and so many other action movies carefully choreographed by Kevin Stilwell. There is nothing more that I can say that would not be a spoiler except that Eric’s secret is revealed.

In summary, if you are a nerd who has attended conventions, you will love Wrath of Con 2. If you are not a nerd who attends conventions and likes a good story about generational shift and love to laugh, you will love Wrath of Con 2.


Wrath of Con 2: Into Dorkness runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. from September 6 to October 5.

Where:

Dad’s Garage and Theater Company
569 Ezzard St. SE
Atlanta,GA 30312
PHONE (404) 523-3141


Disclaimer: Dan Carroll is the Spokesperson and Media Engagement Director for Dragon Con, but he has also been writing theater and comedy reviews since 2011 and keeps a wall between his Dragon Con responsibilities and his reviews. He loves both Dragon Con and live performances.

 

 

Dragon Con 2018 – Diversity in Speculative Fiction & Literature Fandom Track

Interview with Jarvis Sheffield
“It is essential that fandom is represented positively, diversely, and fairly.  An important part of understanding diversity is that it includes similarities as well as differences. Understanding that we have similar interests or beliefs can encourage cooperation and cohesion within our community.”
~ an excerpt from the DSFL Mission Statement, adapted from the Luther College diversity center in Iowa.

Dragon Con has always had panels to promote critical thinking about diversity. In 2015, the con hosted a round table discussion panel titled Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Contemporary Comics. Writer Brynna Owens wrote a great, in-depth article about that panel titled Contemporary Comics Face, and Overcome, Diversity Missteps, published in the convention’s Daily Dragon newsletter. In 1999, there was the Women in Gaming panel writer Jason Mitchell wrote about in his article of the same name. That’s just a couple of examples, but there have many diversity panels throughout the years.

Dragon CON 2018 introduced a new track for fans titled Diversity in Speculative Fiction & Literature Fandom, organized under the direction of Jarvis Sheffield whose passion, unique insight, and experience helped make the track a huge success this year.

For the last 10 years, Sheffield has been the administrator of the Black Science Fiction Society, a “social network for black people around the planet who like science fiction” with more than 5,000 registered members worldwide and around 12,000 on the Facebook group. The society also has a Genesis anthology series (Book I & Book II), and the Genesis Science Fiction Radio Show—it’s a lot to manage.

In addition to running the BSFS, he is also the editor-in-chief for the society’s Genesis Science Fiction Magazine. “We also go to different events, the different cons—particularly the ethnic cons around the country. So, I get to be involved in all kinds of diverse environments,” said Sheffield. For his day job, he works in special collections for the Tennessee State University library and manages a 3-D Maker space there. And if that is not enough, he also manages the Universal Africana Literary Arts Movement Facebook page, and he is pursuing a doctorate in education with a focus on leadership.

Sheffield gave insight into how the track came into existence. “There had been some discussion between Mr. Pat Henry and one of my friends that I met in the Black Science Fiction Society, Glenn Paris. He mentioned a couple of years ago that they were thinking of adding some diversity to Dragon CON, and I was like ‘Well, if that happens, just let me know. I’d be more than happy to chip in were I can.,’ Sheffield said. “And so, we had that same discussion again last year at another con; he linked me up with Mr. Henry and we talked. Shortly thereafter, I became one of the directors and since January, I’ve been doing stuff in the background to prepare, learning all the processes behind Dragon CON and facilitating the different aspects that I wanted to bring to the track.”

He said that the reception to the track has been fantastic. “I think that more than half the panels that we’ve had have been standing room only,” said Sheffield. “I’ve been getting really good feedback. People are excited about being acknowledged and feel they are being embraced more by Dragon CON.” The track covers a wide range of topics, such as LGBT, Diversity in Comics, Women’s Issues, Race, and Disability, and others. “We’re trying to cover the entire spectrum of attendees,” said Sheffield.

The track was in the standard discussion format followed by a Q&A session, but there were also interactive workshops which also included a Q&A segment. Panelists were chosen from the list of pre-approved individuals in the Dragon CON directory for the first draft, and for the second draft, Sheffield connected with individuals he’s met over the past 10 years from attending different conventions. 2018 topics included the definition of diversity, diversity in cosplay, a woman’s perspective, gender and sexuality in writing, age and disability, and others. No diversity panels were offered on Thursday, but the track had full days for the rest of the convention, not closing until 2:30 p.m. on Monday.

“This has been a great opportunity and a great experience being a part of Dragon Con. I have a list of great things to add. We were able to have photographers cover the event; but, next year, we want to add video for documentation, so if someone misses something, they can pull it up and watch it,” Sheffield said. “Some of the people I wanted to add to the roster this year weren’t able to appear because of scheduling conflicts, or they weren’t an approved vendor. They didn’t have a badge and couldn’t pay to come, which is understandable.” Sheffield is hoping that those panelists who couldn’t come this year, will be able to participate in the track for Dragon CON 2019.

Sheffield is also encouraging everyone to use the Dragon CON app, which can be found on the convention’s website, iTunes, and Google Play, to rate events. He is hoping for a lot of fan feedback. “That’s one of our points of the group is to try to get input, so that we can grow this,” said Sheffield. “If there is something we didn’t do this year, that you are interested in seeing, or if there is something that we can do better, let us know.”

Those wanting to contact Director Sheffield can message him on Facebook.

Interview with NY Times Best-selling Author: Kim Harrison

I had a hard time not fan-girling over Kim Harrison when I met her at Dragon Con 2018 in Atlanta this Labor Day weekend. Harrison is best known for the Hollows books, a New York Times #1 best-selling paranormal fantasy series.

Harrison has written more than two-dozen books, some in the young adult genre (Madison Avery trilogy), and even accelerated-science thrillers (Peri Reed Chronicles). Her work can also be found in various anthologies, and she scripted two original graphic novels set in the Hollows universe. She has also published other traditional fantasy under Dawn Cook, her real name. Harrison said she began the Hollows series out of desperation to find reader, agent, and editor attention.

“The Hollows started as a short story. In the 1990’s, I was trying to break into print in the short story market. I looked at what was being published in the science fiction and fantasy area, and it was really weird stuff at the time,” Harrison said. “I knew I couldn’t match that; I couldn’t come close to it. But I said, you want weird? I’ll give you my kind of weird. So, I put a pixie, a vampire, and a witch in a bar. What happened was the first chapter of “Dead Witch Walking.”

After shopping the story around and not finding a buyer, Harrison put it in a drawer while she worked on a traditional fantasy story she had in her head. She broke into print with that story as Dawn Cook. Later, when her editor asked if she had anything else, Harrison opened the drawer and pulled out the short story. “I think I called it ‘Life is a Bowl of Cereal,’ because of ‘Lucky Charms’,” said Harrison. “I beefed it up into a novel; it took a while, but it did sell. I’ve never looked back since.”

As for what is next for the Hollows series, Harrison said she is starting the series back up. “I kicked around a lot of ideas. Do I develop the demons, or do I concentrate on the elves? But I just kept gyrating back to Rachel when I started writing in the Hollows again,” said Harrison. “The next story is called “American Demon” and it starts just two months after “The Witch with No Name.” Harrison likes to make a play on Clint Eastwood movie titles when naming the Hollows books.

“In the new book, the church has been destroyed and there is a lot of political upheaval. Rachel is feeling very lost and alone, because the church is gone and she’s not sure where she’s going to be living. She doesn’t want to live with Trent. She wants to make it on her own. And when magic went down in the previous book, a lot of things in cages got out.”

Harrison is still working on the rough draft for “American Demon” and has no clue as to when it will be published. She said it’s going along really well and will be at least a year. But she is no longer publishing with HarperCollins and is exploring new avenues for publication. “I am free and clear to go with whomever I want at this point, and it’s an exciting place to be,” said Harrison.

As for the Young Adult Madison Avery trilogy, Harrison said she probably won’t continue the series. “I enjoy writing Young Adult. I was writing about a book and a half a year, but [HarperCollins] only wanted a book a year in urban fantasy, so I thought I’d try my hand at Young Adult. That is what I was reading at that time,” Harrison said. “I love it, because the stakes are higher. When you’re young, you don’t feel like you have any resources and you feel lost and alone. But you find out that isn’t the case, that you have an amazing number of resources, usually in the form of friends. I had a great time with the Madison Avery Series.”

Harrison doesn’t see a lot of difference between writing for the Young Adult reader and writing for older readers. “It depends on who you ask. In my Young Adult, I’m targeting high school and college age. They’re dealing with a lot of the same issues adults are. They have few resources. They’re backs are against the wall more. They’re learning about themselves more,” Harrison said. “It’s more fun, because I enjoy that part of the writing process, the learning about characters and how they grow and interact, what’s important to them and how their needs and wants motivates them. I try not to write any differently. I still use that wonderful, big vocabulary.”

“Perfunctory Affection” is a new book by Harrison that isn’t in the Hollows series. “If you squish it together, you get the short title “Perfection,” which is really what the book is all about. It’s a step away from Urban Fantasy for me, but I still have magic in it,” Harrison said. “Magic is not a tool in this one, it’s a kind of force. Things that happen are magical. It’s portal magic. It’s kind of a psychological thriller more than I’ve ever done before. I had a blast writing it and it’s coming out under Subterranean Press, late first quarter. I don’t have a date yet. It’s longer than a novella but shorter than a novel, so it was really hard to place; I didn’t want to beef it up with nothing, just to hit that magical mark.”

Harrison’s home and office

Harrison grew up in the mid-west but lived for a while in South Carolina before returning to Michigan. She started writing when they lived in Michigan originally, but she said she had a huge learning curve, because she didn’t take any classes in college for writing. “I have a degree in science engineering and technology, which I bring into my work all the time. My dad said, ‘she goes to school for that and now she’s writing,’ and I said ‘Dad, I use my degree every single time I sit down.’”

When she moved to South Carolina, she found a “fabulous, writers’ critique group” with an amazing amount of talent and dedication. “We met every week, face-to-face. Everybody got to read and critique. By the time we were ready to move up north again, I had found publication, mostly due to the people in there.” Once back in Michigan, she began “writing more and more with less input from other people.” She added, “I still look on those days as my Camelot. It was such an amazing time.”

In addition to writing full-time, Harrison also manages her website and social media, and writes a blog. After being a writer for 20 years, she said her schedule has become pretty static. “I am usually up in the morning; I have a light breakfast and I eat lunch at my desk. I try to be out of the office by three,” said Harrison.

When she and her husband Tim moved back to Michigan, they bought an old Victorian house and slowly remodeled it, adding a new porch and a gazebo. “Tim said ‘you should move your office out to the gazebo.’ About a minute later, I’m lugging out my desk and I’ve been there ever since,” Harrison said, laughing. “I have a beautiful office. It’s in a gazebo in the middle of Michigan winters, and it’s enclosed on all sides. I can see everything, and no one can see in. The windows have a light tint.” The gazebo also has a heated floor. She showed a picture of the idyllic view from her office, which had a babbling brook, a statuette of a wading bird, and lots of beautiful, lush green foliage. Harrison loves to garden in her spare time. “I figured if I’m going to be looking at something for six hours a day, it’d better be nice,” she said. “I don’t know how some writer’s stare at a blank wall, but maybe they need that.”

She also enjoys cooking and made sugared pecans this year to keep up her energy, using her grandfather’s recipe. Harrison is full of surprises. She has two black belts, one in Hapkido and another in Taekwondo, but is thinking of moving to Tai Chi because the other forms have become too rough on her back. Now we know where Rachel gets her fabulous fighting moves.

For more on Kim Harrison, visit her website at www.kimharrison.net.

Live Review: Sublime Tribute Band Wrong Way with The Taj Motel Trio at Smith’s Olde Bar

Photos by Stephanie Heath (Facebook/Instagram) – Gallery Found Below

On August 17th Smith’s Olde Bar was bustling with the usual bar flies and concert goers that were partaking in their decompression from a stressful work week. Small hurdles of people crowded the stoop, getting their nicotine and breath of fresh air between shots and sets. Friends gathered around tables of libations, trading conversations of their weekly plights. Patrons were already queueing up to enter Smith’s iconic Music Room before the doors were even open for the night. And there was just cause for this pile up of music enthusiasts. Slated to play that night were Georgia’s own Wrong Way, a seasoned tribute band to Sublime,  and The Taj Motel Trio, a ska band slated to play at this year’s DragonCon.

After attendees got lubed up on drinks and conversation, the curtains in the Music Room drew back to reveal the first act of the night, The Taj Motel Trio. A band hailing from Habersham County, these guys are comprised of the standard trio of a vocalist and guitarist, bassist, and drummer but with the addition of two trumpets, two trombones, and a baritone sax. These guys boast the largest brass section I have even seen in a ska band. And if you didn’t notice, The Taj Motel Trio is not a trio, as their name comes from an inside joke with roots in the band’s hometown. However, names and jokes aside, these guys are the real deal when it comes to performing. Although they are stacked on the brass side, The Taj Motel Trio played a balanced set between all their musicians, with each member of the band given a chance at the spotlight.  Their songs had strong brass intros with harmonies that were sweet on the ears followed by wicked guitar melodies paired with an aligned drum and bass beat. On top of the technical expertise of the band to create a full sound, they show their nerdy side with what they sing about, including video games and Star Wars, with one of their songs literally called “Vader”. Overall, The Taj Motel Trio has the charisma and energy that embodies the spirit of ska music. I give a heavy stamp of approval and look forward to their debut at this year’s Dragon Con.

To continue the night, Atlanta’s own Wrong Way took to the stage with a cool vibe that holds true to their inspiration for their music, Sublime. A classic three piece act, with their lead guitarist on vocals, the band instantly stole the spotlight from the moment the curtains were drawn back, revealing a packed house. This being Wrong Way’s first show in Atlanta in a good while, as the band is constantly touring the southeast, the crowd in attendance really was a testament to the talent behind the band. Each musician had distinct melodies you could pick out in each of their songs that came together in a dovetail of pure delight to the ears. Their drummer has a timeshare in the pocket that he checked into from the first song of the night. He both held the set down and played around with complex melodies to give his drumming more character, something only seen with true masters of the kit. Wrong Way’s bassist kept it real with his impeccable taste in rhythmic beats that rock the soul. His groove could not be derailed by anything other than the occasional sip of a beer to keep his playing loose. The band’s front man guitarist, the last piece of this puzzle that forms a picture of true talent, killed it with his showmanship not to mention his talent on vocals or on guitar. He truly does Sublime’s original front man Brad Nowell justice allowing him to rest easy knowing Wrong Way does his music right. The band played through a full set that consisted of fan favorites of Sublime such as “Santeria” and “Smoke Two Joints” that got the entire venue up in a sing-a-long and even an acoustic break in the middle where their front man got intimate with the audience. Each song had the crowd up in a dance party even with some flow art involved. It was a truly uplifting vibe all around, which is a mark of true connection between a band and it’s audience. Finishing out the night with “Caress Me Down” there was only a room of smiles remaining with the occasional cheering from a patron for more. Wrong Way is definitely a band not to miss if you are looking to get your fix on some good music.

Smith’s Music Room once again hosted some of the best musicians and music fans of today’s scene. As this was my first time visiting this magical venue, I look forward to the next show I catch here, and the next 20 or more after that.

Photo Gallery – Taj Motel Trio

 

Photo Gallery – Wrong Way

Headcanon Games Presents Polyhedron 046: “Am I Dead Yet?”

Headcanon has released the latest Polyhedron podcast. This time on Polyhedron…

“We walk down the long and loathsome road. Where the trees rustle and the devil is a whisper on the wind…”

“It is October and we talk about character death & retirement this episode. Stories are hard to close and completing a character’s arch can be difficult for both the player and their Gamemaster. We use a very real example of this through my own character, Theo Legate, from the Live Action Roleplaying game “After The End”.  So sit back, relax, and please bow your head in respect for Polyhedron is on the air.”

Check out the podcast here.


The unwashed rabble of the Headcanon crew sit down with some microphones and deconstruct role-playing games in order to figure out why we like them so darn much. The topics may change from episode to episode but each one will rotate around the axis that is this eclectic little genre of pop entertainment. So sit back, relax, and put on those headphones as we look deep into the multifaceted world of RPGs.

 

Headcanon Games Releases Polyhedron Episode 045: “Are Those Fangs?”

Headcanon has released the latest Polyhedron podcast. This time on Polyhedron…

“Slaves to infinite recursion, we return to the topic of ‘Vampire the Masquerade 5th Edition.’ The Alpha playtest rules have been unleashed, and we get into the weeds of picking them apart. We battle our Hunger and wrestle with our fading Humanity, all while debating the relative merits of a scuffed leather jacket versus a crimson cravat with lace trimming. That’s a lie, none of that happens. We did have to pause recording for like 20 minutes to get Ryan off the bookcase, though, so I’m pretty sure he got a bad Compulsion roll. Spray-paint your windows and crank the Sisters of Mercy, Polyhedron is on the air!”

Check out the podcast here.


The unwashed rabble of the Headcanon crew sit down with some microphones and deconstruct role-playing games in order to figure out why we like them so darn much. The topics may change from episode to episode but each one will rotate around the axis that is this eclectic little genre of pop entertainment. So sit back, relax, and put on those headphones as we look deep into the multifaceted world of RPGs.

 

Game Designer Ross Watson Appears on the Polyhedron Podcast

At Dragon Con 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia, TAMagazine met Matthew from Headcanon Games and realized that we could help each other. So, for the first time, we are pleased to share the latest of Headcanon Games’ Polyhedron Podcast. In this episode, they sit down with game designer, Ross Watson.

Ross Watson has worked at Games Workshop, D20, Fantasy Flight Games and has written several role-playing game source and reference books.


The unwashed rabble of the Headcanon crew sit down with some microphones and deconstruct role-playing games in order to figure out why we like them so darn much. The topics may change from episode to episode but each one will rotate around the axis that is this eclectic little genre of pop entertainment. So sit back, relax, and put on those headphones as we look deep into the multifaceted world of RPGs.