Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire.
I do wander everywhere
Swifter than the moon’s sphere.
And I serve the fairy queen
To dew her orbs upon the green.
The cowslips tall her pensioners be.
In their gold coats spots you see.
Those be rubies, fairy favors.
In those freckles live their savors.
I must go seek some dewdrops here
And hang a pearl in every cowslip’s ear.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 2; Scene 1
Off of the Sidelines, and into the Dragon Fire…
So remember that emerging cosplay photography obsession I wrote about last month in the post about the NorCal Pirate Festival? Well, it seems the photography was just a gateway drug to the real obsession: cosplay itself. This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend my first Labyrinth of Jareth Masquerade in Los Angeles. But not as a photographer safely shooting from the sidelines, as a costumed reveler in the Royal Court of Sypher…And it was weekend of magic and fantasy the likes of which I’ve never seen!
Before I get to the event, just a note…As usual this will be a words and pictures story, but my photos here were shot with an iPhone 5, and not usual usual array of Nikon gear, and the photo quality is reflective of that. I wanted to go to Labyrinth as a tourist, and just enjoy the weekend, and the experience. The event has a lot of great photographers covering it, and I will link a bunch of ’em at the end of this post.
If you haven’t heard of the Labyrinth Masquerade, it is a HUGE event that takes place every year in Los Angeles at The Park Plaza Hotel. The Masquerade is fantasy-themed, sort of a Venetian carnival experience loaded with fairies and goblins, and draws some of its inspiration from the 1986 Lucasfilm/Henson movie, “Labyrinth”, starring David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly. It draws hardcore cosplayers, designers, and fans who just love to see cosplayers and come to enjoy the fantasy spectacle.
The rules are simple, you’re encouraged to wear an elaborate costume, or, formal wear with a mask, and from there the sky’s the limit.
The venue, the Park Plaza, is a perfect setting for the event, as it seems straight out of Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut”, with gothic touches over the two floors used for the Masquerade. There is a main ballroom with music, stage acts, and dancing, as well as other themed rooms, each with its own style ranging from techno/rave to period dancing. There is also an outdoor court, and a tea room where elegant tea and pastries are served. Every room has music, or other entertainment going on…Add the costumed revelers and it is a costume party on a truly epic scale. And, oh, what costumes!
The costumes ranged from swords-and-sandals inspired fantasy to to fairy lore and Steampunk, with everything in between. There are folks who are, as I mentioned, hardcore cosplayers that make their own costumes, others, particularly celebrities, who have costumes designed for them by an emerging industry of specialty couture houses, such as Firefly Path. Some, like myself, assemble their costumes from rental houses, and customized them to fit their theme. All-in-all the results are spectacular; A trip through the outer courtyard on Saturday night, the most epic of the two evenings, is surreal, almost as if one were walking into Titania’s bower in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was just magical.
Backing up a little, my own adventure leading to the Labyrinth started a few weeks ago. LoJ (as I’ll refer to it for short), has been on the outer perimeter of my radar for a couple of years, coming more into view as I’ve become more involved with friends in the cosplay and steampunk culture scenes. I had a number of friends who were planning to go, but it wasn’t on my hit list for this year…Just too much crap going on, and a lot of life changes to deal with—Until I got a text from my friend, and fellow Guildie*, Brian Kameoka, letting me know that he had received an invite from LoJ Director, Sean Strider, to attend and, oh, would I like to go?
I think it took about two seconds for my answer—”HELLZ YEAH!!!” Of course I’d go…It’s fair to say that this has been a pretty tough, challenging, year, and hitting LoJ, along with another friend’s 4th of July party, also in L.A., was just the holiday the (10th) Doctor would have ordered to re-charge the batteries for the second half of the year. The big question was, what the hell was I going to wear on less than two weeks notice?
Formal wear and a mask? Hmm…Like any good Freemason, I own a tux, but that just seemed a little too low rent. How about white tie and tails? No, a decent rental is $150/day, and I’d be out of town for almost a week. Well, maybe rent something…Hmm, yessssss….Now where?
Going through Yelp, I found one of the greatest resources for costume rental in the Bay Area, the costume shop at the American Conservatory Theater (ACT). ACT has an archive of costumes from all of their productions going back to forever. After a quick call to rental supervisor, Callie Floor, I went over to see what they had to offer. Callie looked at some photos from the LoJ web site to get a general feel for the event, talked to me about my specific ideas, took some measurements, and we were off…She pulled a bunch of costumes out of storage, which we mixed, matched, and accessorized until I had two costumes for the evening…One, an 18th Century, somewhat-Venetian, 3-piece suit with tricorn hat, and a red wizard costume that I wanted to be over-the-top, based on The Dean of Pentacles from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series (the wand, I might add, is my own… 🙂 )
Both costumes turned out great, and it was soooo much more fun than going in formal wear at a cost less than two nights worth of a formal rental. ACT is, as I said, just a great resource, and I can’t thank Callie enough for all the extra effort she put into helping me select everything, as well as mending, cleaning, and even doing some jewelry modifications to get everything just right.
This whole adventure went so far down to the wire that the trip to the costume shop happened on July 3rd, the day before I was leaving for Los Angeles. Everything was just such a seat of the pants kind of deal, which made it even more fun.
Brian wasn’t able to fly down until Friday, so I picked him up at the airport, and he was busy putting together pieces of his costumes (a formal variation of his award-winning Nien Nunb Star Wars cosplay, and a meditation on what Wil Wheaton’s character, Fawkes, from “The Guild” might wear if “Fawkes went formal”) right up until we left for the second evening on Saturday.
Over the course of the weekend we ran into a lot of friends, some expected to be there, some not. Celebrities, fellow Industry types, local friends…Just a great time.
We played and partied well into the small hours of the morning before journeying back to our respective abodes. There the costumes came off, and the real world once again began to encroach on the fantastical wonderland that had been the weekend.
Unable to sleep, I rode the emotional tides of the day before getting up early to process photos of the previous night for upload to Facebook.
A two-week mad dash at something I never thought I’d be doing had come to and end, and I was exhausted, elated, and just so unbelievably grateful that the Labyrinth of Jareth was an adventure that I was able to be a part of…
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
The Tempest, Act 4; Scene 1
Firefly Path’s 2013 LoJ Slideshow – Another amazing set with music.
I love NERD Girls – Facebook Gallery from LoJ 2013
John Troung – Facebook Gallery from LoJ 2013
Curious Josh – LoJ XVI Gallery
Robert Coshland Photography – Facebook Gallery from LoJ 2013
Brian Erzen – Facebook Gallery LoJ 2013 Saturday
Brian Erzen – Facebook Gallery LoJ 2013 Friday
*Guildie: A person having involvement with, or direct connection to the Web series, “The Guild.” I’ve been a Guildie since working on the show in 2007/2008, and become a part of the most amazing, awesome circle of friends and colleagues because of it.