The Year We Make Contacts

While I love costumes, I generally skip the Masquerade at most of the conventions I attend. There’s always a long line, the show almost always starts late, it runs late
and the judges take forever to get back with the results (which in turn means that there’s usually an endless recess during which there is either no entertainment at all, or a poorly thought out show that doesn’t fill the entire time and needs to be stretched out). Then, by the time the judges do come back, most of the winners have long since left to change back into regular clothes, enjoy the rest of their evening or even go to sleep as midnight approaches.

Of course, that’s the worst case scenario, and the ‘Kevin and Andy’ method of judging has helped a lot with speeding results up. I’ve even seen some great halftime shows. But when things are mostly as described above and you add in an uneven audience experience with far too many entries that spend a long time on stage doing… very little, have poorly thought out performances or technical failures like not submitting their music, the Masquerade can sometimes be a bit of an ordeal instead of the highlight of the weekend it should be.

Which is a shame, because it’s usually the central event of Saturday night. Although the purpose is ostensibly to show off the costumes, the real judging happens backstage, so I think it’s fair to expect a show to be a show and at least mildly entertaining.

There are exceptions, of course. Bryan Little and Mette Hedin spring to mind as costumers who are consistently entering a short and amusing skit that is new each year, and entries such as ‘The Spam-ish Inquisition’ will be talked about for a while. But overall the standards appear to be quite a bit higher in the Anime community as compared to general interest fannish conventions.

This past weekend, I watched my second AnimeLA Masquerade. Like last year, I was struck by what great entertainment it was. Even with my minimal awareness of the in-jokes and tropes of this particular fandom it was still possible to enjoy the show as a show.

Although a few of the entries came out, showed the costtume and then exited the stage in short order, the majority of them included well executed and thought out sketches clearly planned to entertain an audience. The choreography, music and smoothness of each skit varied according to the talent of the folks involved but every one had a lot of effort put into it. A couple were hilarious, and most were funny, cute, or at least amusing enough to maintain interest and not outstay their welcome.

So come on, people! Let’s learn something from the enthusiasm and effort in the ALA show and up our game. If you aren’t a performer, it’s certainly okay to get on stage, strut your stuff to appropriate music so that the entire audience can get a good look at the costume, and then exit gracefully. But, if you are going to do a bit, plan it out, submit your music, learn your lines/lip-synching, rehearse the thing and aim to entertain.

~España Sheriff

Yipe! Volume 2, Issue 1, January 2010