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SSar's Beast
Since last you read, I have been to yet another academic talk, participated in the Midea High School LARP [Live Action Role Play], and progressed through other aspects of my life.

Academic talks are kind of a feature of volunteering at Wai-te-ata. They are neat! Mostly I've been going to a series of talks organised between Vic Uni's Museum Studies school, and Te Papa, the local large museum, but I'm up for whatever catches Sydney's eye. Dr Sydney Shep is the Master Printer and one-woman-operation at Wai-te-ata Press, and a lot of fun to hang around.

The most recent talk was from three speakers, staff and directors of various aspects at Te Papa, and the book projects they were working on, in various stages of production. The first speaker discussed a book on the photography of Brian Brake, how it had filled a gap by presenting academic analysis of the photographer's work, and various difficult editorial decisions. Tops. The second speaker discussed a new history of New Zealand which focused on our islands as a nexus of Pacific travel and history. This was the least interesting talk for me as the speaker seemed torn between giving a clear, sparse outline, and teasing the audience about topics he didn't have the time to go into. I was left feeling that I had a million questions, but no way to phrase them. The third speaker discussed Maori cloak traditions, and her talk was the most inspiring for me, because through her discussion of "Maori methodology" and the way that the book's research had been approached, she gave some insight into the people and communities that stood behind the book. I felt like I gained from that talk, but even at some other talks, where the information presented has gone straight over my head, I've felt glad that I'm still involved in the academic community in this way.

Volunteering at Wai-te-ata has been fun. It hasn't been the direct reward to my career that some other students' volunteer positions have been, but it has been rewarding in other ways. It will continue through the year, though it will be on hiatus until late August, as I'm on honeymoon and Sydney is on a trip.

So! Midea! The LARP's main theme was "high school prom with hidden supernatural elements", and the interior theme of the prom was "Victorian masquerade". My character, Carmen Forbes, was the richest kid in school, and her aim was to determine a suitable candidate to belong to the secret society of which she was a very junior member.

This meant that most of my action happened BEFORE the LARP, because I panicked over appropriate tasks to set the candidates. I ended up coming up with a very elaborate system: Carmen would persuade the prom organiser, Alicia, of the "Arts" faction, that she was using the prom for an art project to broaden her college application. As part of this art project, she needed Alicia to hand out envelopes to students who would have signalled their acceptance by wearing a certain token. It was important that the students didn't find out who the envelopes really came from as this would introduce "bias" to the art project. I know you'll want to help a fellow student explore her artistic/sociological side, Alicia, and I really appreciate all the work you put into the prom, and by the way I know someone with some gallery space... etc.

In my envelopes, I put a) instructions and b) a 'Dance Card'. This Dance Card had a side for 'Engagements' and a side for 'Dances', just like a real Victorian dance card. I was kind of proud of this bit, because it kept with the theme. On the 'Engagements' side, the candidates were told to write down the names of a few people they spent time with at the LARP, and the way their contacts with those people might come in handy for secret society business. On the 'Dances' side, the candidates read the name of a dance they had to perform at the prom (and encourage others to join them in); one of the Macarena, Batusi, Locomotion, and Time Warp. Then there was an extra task to perform, then there was some tasks that they had to watch out for, because other candidates would be performing them. Extremely elaborate, all told. During the last couple of days I got help from musicforwolves, one of the GMs, which was very welcome as I was freaking out a bit.

To my amusement, two of my candidates were played by people who turned up at my house for pre-LARP-prep. Although Kayden's/Bryn's/ yellow flower - was pretty much nonexistent, so Sam/Alicia had to get help from the GMs to give out his envelope.

The rest of the LARP was less stressful than coming up with tasks. It was fun, but not quite as much fun as would have been worth the stress, and I had trouble staying in character all night. It was good to have a positive LARP experience, and it was nice to be able to say that it just isn't a hobby for me, without ragequitting. I feel that I'm not creative enough or flexible enough to adapt in-game to my character and to the unexpected situations that might arise. I also found it pretty difficult to approach other characters who were played by people I didn't know. That could have been partly because the character of "Carmen" had no in-built reason to approach anyone. Speaking on a meta level, my character was one not perfectly suited to a new LARPer, but perhaps well suited to a LARPer with little GM-ing experience, because the character's goals required her to set up character goals for other characters.


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