Presentation and Aftermath

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I arrived at the convention hotel, my car stuffed with puppets, props, costumes, and luggage. Some of the project crew met me there, and we hauled the gear up to the hotel room with the help of two bellhops, two luggage carts, and a dolly.

Andrea, who was to portray Kira in the presentation, showed up that evening sporting two black eyes and a broken nose (from a recent sports injury). I was horrified! I asked her why on earth she and her mother didn't let me know. We could have held the presentation for another convention.

I offered to cancel the presentation then and there. She wanted to go on with it, as this was Worldcon (prestige aside, and regardless of the fact the convention made an attendance record, I did NOT want to put a 16/17 year old in a full face appliance with that kind of injury!)

I strongly advised against it and explained to her that going ahead with this would involve wearing the facial appliance over the broken nose for what might be several hours. Both she and her mother (who was a registered nurse) insisted it wouldn't be a problem. They wanted to go ahead with it. There was a consensus among the other members of the group to go ahead with the presentation since everything was there and ready to go.

Urskek
Mystic

I did one final fitting on Kira's costume. The next morning, our group met for rehearsal. They learned their cues, how to enter and exit the stage with the backdrop and the puppets so they wouldn't be seen, and when the various puppets would rise up over the backdrop. I also coached them on the basics of puppet manipulation.

We broke for lunch. I realized that I had not yet sewn the ears on the wigs for Jen and Kira. I got some quick help from Paula for that.

Check-in time for the masquerade was 6pm. I was dressed and made up by the time Andrea arrived at 4:30. I did the makeup on that part of the appliance that would rest around her nose first and then very carefully applied the mask to her face. (Ordinarily it's applied to the face first, glued down, the edges blended, and then the makeup is applied, but it just wasn't possible here without inflicting additional discomfort on the wearer).

Since she wouldn't allow any adhesive on her nose or around her lower eyelids, I affixed the mask to the cheeks, above the nose, and around the outside corners of the eyes. I then adhered the rest of the appliance as would normally be done. It held fairly well, considering, but looked like a mask. I then proceeded to do the rest of the makeup for her appliance. I hoped the concessions in the makeup wouldn't be noticeable on stage.

Fizzgig Looking up at Urskek

Fortunately, the way I had created it, there was no pressure directly on the nose. I'd built in a negative space (the size and coverage of a dust mask) around the nose and mouth. If I hadn't done that, she never would have been able to tolerate wearing it for any length of time.

Skeksis

We were ready to go at the appointed time. The crew met us at the room. We collected the entire assortment of props, puppets, and the backdrop, and commandeered two elevators to get everything downstairs.

We traipsed through the lobby of the hotel in costume, with our entourage hauling everything behind us. Slack-jawed hotel workers and some surprised convention-goers stared at us as we passed. It was all quite surreal.

We then walked across the parking lot, and into the convention center to the room where we'd be sequestered until we went onstage. It was crowded beyond belief. There were over 100 entries, some with multiple participants and large props, all crowded into the room. We found a wall to lean the compressed backdrop against, and the crew huddled around the box of puppets to keep other contestants from bumping into it as they milled around to look at the various costumes.

Paula brought us small, battery operated fans to blow in the mouths of the appliances so that we would be more comfortable, and bottled water that we drank through straws. Even for those without masks, the room was hot and the air, stifling.

Crew
More Crew
More Crew

Our crew found us a couple of chairs. We were also lucky to have drawn the eleventh spot for our presentation. I knew the makeup wasn't comfortable for Andrea, and suggested that as soon as we got offstage after the presentation, that we should go up to the room to remove the makeup. She declined. She wanted to see all the other presentations.

There was no time to discuss it further. We were lined up to go onstage next.

We couldn't hear our entrance cue, as the speakers were facing the audience. We had to hurry through our various moves, which threw off the pacing. The lighting people honed their lights in on us, and ignored the puppets.

It was just as well. The puppets were not properly focused, though the Skeksis and Mystic did disappear when the Urskek rose up.

We got off stage no further issues, and then ran the gauntlet of photographers (just us in the photo, then the backdrop behind us, then adding in the puppets, then the sequence was repeated for several more bleachers of photographers that ran the entire length of the room).

I asked Andrea again if she would allow me to remove the makeup, but again she declined. I turned her over to her mother, so they could watch the rest of the masquerade, while the crew and I took the props upstairs. I thanked the crew, and they returned to the convention.

I got out of my makeup and costume, showered, dressed, ate dinner, and then returned downstairs. The show was still going on, and on, and on.....(for five hours!)

I saw a few of the presentations from the back of the theater, milled about with the convention staff outside (I normally would have been shooting photos with the photographers, but I knew the possibility of taking photos was a lost cause due to my involvement with the masquerade. Besides, the photo room was packed, as was the auditorium).

I spoke with the man responsible for the other Dark Crystal entry, George Doherty, who did a fantastic, full body Mystic costume. He had considered dropping out of the masquerade, as he had a whole group that was supposed to be there with him, but one by one they'd all dropped out. We exchanged addresses.

I watched the last of the masquerade from the back of the auditorium, and caught up with Andrea and her mother when the presentations finished, just after midnight. As I hustled her through the hotel lobby to the elevators, we passed by Gary Kurtz (Producer and Second Unit Director for The Dark Crystal), sitting in the hotel lounge area. I really wanted to speak with him, but I had to get her out of the makeup as soon as possible. (Sorry, Gary! I had no choice!)

Masquerade Certificate

One of the women on the convention staff, with whom I'd spoken earlier, came running up to us and told us we had to go back, we'd won best of show for the re-creation category. Andrea looked at me, and I looked at her. I turned to the convention representative and said, "I'm sorry, but she has a broken nose under this, and I have to get the makeup off her!"

I got Andrea upstairs, and carefully removed the appliance. When her mom arrived, I went back downstairs, but Kurtz had gone. I had missed my only chance to speak with him.

The next day, I picked up our award certificates. "Best Recreation of Show-Group in the Recreation Class." There was a certificate for myself and one for Andrea. I found her and gave her the "Kira" certificate. I had to start packing up gear. It took two round trips to get it all home. I had help loading it up from Paula and Tanya.

I don't remember much of the convention, just how disappointed I was that the presentation was so dismal.

Paula later told me that they must've been looking solely at the qualities of the costumes, not at the presentation itself. I agreed with her at the time.

I later reconsidered. I think it was the mere fact that we represented the characters, and did this as a tribute to Jim Henson and his creative team that was really responsible for the award for our presentation. Why? Because the film was so highly regarded by the fans, the industry craftspeople, and the creative community at large.

Curious also was the fact that a number of other contestants in the re-creation category were visibly upset that we'd won. I found out later that there was no class division system for the re-creation category, as there was for original costumes (novice, journeyman, or master costumer). We had been competing with some folks who were actually master costumers, and some professionals!

I found out some weeks later that a news reporter for a nationally televised, cable news program (which shall remain nameless), interpreted Kira's death scene as 'falling down onstage,' among other clips of the 'silly people in costumes,' in the report. The reporter had obviously not seen the film, but did manage to alienate quite a few people and reduced the credibility of his organization. At the time, this sort of thing was common, if the news had any coverage on conventions at all.

Now, news coverage is expected at the large conventions such as Comic Con, because of the film and televison industry presence. Reports are at least showing some of the better costumes, and are slightly less inclined to editorialize.

At a later costumers' convention, by request of one of my friends who was associated with the convention staff, I displayed the costumes and puppets from the presentation. Andrea asked if she could have the Kira costume. I sent it to her, as I had no further use for it. I haven't seen her since.

Henson Associates Mailing

A year after the convention, I discovered that Jim Henson was going to be at a celebrity benefit. I wrangled some tickets, and got to speak with him, if only briefly, about the project, and the two Dark Crystal winning entries (ours, for best group presentation, and the other, for best individual presentation). I gave him a folio of pictures and descriptions of both presentations.

I didn't think much more about it, until I got a package from Henson Associates about a month later. It contained my folio along with a very nice "thank you" letter. I sent a copy of the letter to George Doherty. I also told the members of our group with whom I was still in contact. The folio, apparently, had been shown around the Henson Associates' office!

All in all, this experience was an interesting exercise in costuming, props, personnel and time management, and skill building. I have learned much from it. When I look at all that happened just to produce a three minute stage presentation, it makes me appreciate even more what Jim Henson, Frank Oz (co-directors), and Gary Kurtz (second unit director/producer), Brian Froud, as well as all the other creative talent involved with the film, were able to accomplish. Even recently, film industry people that I have encountered still regard the film as a creative touchstone. That kind of artistic admiration for a film doesn't happen often.

Some folks from the Dark Crystal Re-creation Group have drifted off to other regions and interests. I keep in touch with a few, and two of the people involved have since passed away. If I could go back in time, would I do it again? To honor Jim Henson and the creative people behind the film? Yes, though I would have done a few things differently!