Kyle Perler

Seeing the World with Kyle Perler

Kyle 1This week’s entry into the Where Are They Now series is centered on Kyle Perler. While Kyle is another creative type who came through Wayfinder, he works in a field where the connection to the work we do may seem a little less direct. Kyle runs his own photography business. While his introduction to the world of photography came through his family, Kyle still credits Wayfinder (or Adventure Game Theatre where Kyle, much like Wayfinder, started his experience with LARP) with a lot of skills he uses on a day to day basis. “I have a career where I am often standing in front of dozens of strangers who want to be doing other things, and I have to make them do what I tell them to by loudly, clearly, and confidently asserting myself. That is something that I never would have been able to do had I not been given the preparation and courage, and also the ability to focus on the role I’m in. I wouldn’t have been able to do that without Wayfinder.” The career Kyle is talking about is the photography business he runs where he works for the city of Boston, the state of Massachusetts, and fortune 500 companies. He has also published two books. As has been clear in every one of these features, Wayfinder gives people the confidence they need to succeed in their respective fields. It can provide more than confidence though.

In his time working at Wayfinder Kyle only worked in production departments. “I just really enjoyed that sort of spatial layout and giving people a thing to work with while they were in these different worlds and universes.” This work is integral to what we do at camp. We couldn’t have our adventures without our production departments. Much like Kyle said, they provide us with the immersion that is required to allow us to create that other world and space we play in. You certainly can roleplay without that kind of backdrop but doing so on such a large scale requires adding some degree of uniformity to the experience. Kyle has found another use for that skill. “I will walk into situations, and I have to find the best backdrop, the best this, or the best that, and it’s about bringing items together, and creating scenes in just a minute or two. Doing all of the scene work, all of the sets and props stuff at Wayfinder really helped me.” Often the work we do at Wayfinder can seem a little disconnected from the rest of our lives. Kyle was really able to highlight the ways in which we directly impact the lives of our staff members going forward professionally as well as personally.

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That is not to say that Kyle wasn’t impacted personally or tried to claim that he wasn’t. Quite the contrary. Kyle started coming to camp at 15 because his dad was living on the property Adventure Game Theatre was running camps on. “I was introduced to AGT as being a theatre camp where you stood on stage all day and did improv stuff in front of a lot of people and there was a guy named Shaggy, and I was told I had to go. So being a very, very shy 15 year old I did everything possible to get out of it. My mom told me that I didn’t have a choice. She had to shoot 50 weddings that summer, and I had to go to theatre camp. I immediately realized that it was explained to me in the worst possible way and I fell in love with all of it.” As evidenced here Wayfinder can be hard to describe to people who haven’t seen it or its effects firsthand. I have heard us described as a theatre camp, a theatre gaming camp, live action Dungeons and Dragons, and (my personal favorite) dressing up like a fairy and running around in the woods. And much like with Kyle, our staff often were reluctant to attend something explained in that fashion, but never disappointed by their experience at camp. Past his introduction to camp, Kyle had nothing short of incredible things to say about Wayfinder. He said the following in comparing his other summer camp experiences with his experiences at LARP camp. “The other camp was fun and sort of like a very pretty, serene spot that had everything from horseback riding to crafts, but it did not have any impact or take away, whereas I couldn’t imagine the person I would be without Wayfinder. I would probably not be in the same career. I would not be living in the city or the state or the town that I’m living in. I would not know the people I know. The impact level is really just night and day as to which helped mold me.” Thanks, Kyle. We’re honored to have been a part of that process and look forward to whatever projects are coming next for you. Also we’d love to have you “running around as a wizard” if you can find the time to get away.

Closing Remarks:

kyle 4The Wayfinder/AGT experience was just totally life changing. It really has not only crafted me into the adult I am today as far as how I know the world, how confident I am, how willing I am to approach new situations and say yes to things even if I’m afraid to do it, or even if it’s not going to go the way I want it to. Being ready to approach a new situation is something that is ingrained in who I am, and it is that way because of this camp. Not only that, but I am still so close to the community because of the bond that it builds with people. I have one friend from that previous camp, and I wouldn’t have reconnected with her if we hadn’t gone to the same school together. So far this year I have interacted with, spent time with, and seen about ten people that I went to AGT with because it really is a community. Because of the bonds that are created, and the environment that it’s in, and the people that it attracts, they really are people that stick with you and become part of your life, and they don’t just fade out when summer ends.

Written by Judson Easton Packard from an interview with Kyle in 2016

Published 6/27/17

Nick Marini

Living Through Stories with Nick Marini

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For this week’s Where Are They Now we had the chance to sit down with Wayfinder alumnus Nick Marini who is now living in Los Angeles and working as actor (and a tutor “in order to survive”). Nick has been in a number of independent films, some plays, and was featured on the NBC show Chicago Med. The connection between acting and roleplaying is a fairly clear in a lot of regards, “the obvious one, we did a lot of improv exercises, a lot of status exercises which are literally exercises I’ve done in acting classes that we are just doing as part of our fun LARP camp.” He also found some connections between the work that went a little bit deeper. “The best thing that Wayfinder gave me is the confidence to be another character. I think one of the problems that many actors have is that they’re trying to act. They’re trying to pretend to be someone else, and when we played a Game I wasn’t Nick Marini pretending to be Jace the warlock. I was Jace the warlock, and I believed it, and I got to explore characters in far more totality than you do when you’re acting because then you’re only playing them in their most dynamic moments, but what’s so fun about Wayfinder is the times when you’re still Jace the warlock but you’re just waiting for someone in the woods.” Having that ability to take on a person completely is a pretty clear advantage in the world of acting.

Wayfinder-Nick 4While Nick talked a lot about the ways in which Wayfinder has helped him in regards to playing characters he has been cast as, he also went into the ways it has helped him in landing those roles. “There’s an absolute silliness in like running around being a merman. I had an audition where I had to play someone who was glitching, and I wasn’t afraid to do something that seemed silly or seemed totally random.” That kind of playful spirit is something that Wayfinder encourages (and something that Nick has always embodied with ease). The intersection between play and work (particularly work in a creative field) is something that we think about a lot at Wayfinder, and it’s something that Nick clearly picked up on. “What I learned about at Wayfinder was just that it’s ok, there’s no shame in playing, and there’s no shame in getting to explore a character as fully as you can, and also because you’re playing all these Games you get really good at improv, you also get an understanding of story. We played a lot of kind of archetypal Games and so I feel like having been parts of stories, it helps you tell them and see what really affects people.” The lessons that we teach (and learn) in Game and throughout the week are such a big part of the work that we do.

Really important to that work and the educational aspects of camp are the ways that it is always immersed in play. “There’s a beauty to learning things when you don’t think you’re being taught, and I learned so much at Wayfinder without ever feeling like I was being taught something. You’re learning great life lessons in the guise of just running around with foam swords, and I love that.” Almost every game we play at camp, from the Adventure Game to games we play in the morning as warm ups, has at least one lesson embedded in it. Nick has some experience on both sides of that coin as his entire tenure within the Wayfinder staff pool was as a play teacher (despite repeatedly applying to work in a production department). For the people who come to our camp they are given a kind of experience you can’t get anywhere else. For Nick, his big game moment came in a Game in Philadelphia. “The coolest thing to do is to be a knight fighting dragons, and then there’s a dragon across the field, and I was a knight. It was a childhood dream coming true in front of my eyes.” The fact that during that kind of wish fulfillment there were also lessons about how to build confidence, about how to interact, and about the way a story functions speaks to the kind of work that Wayfinder does.

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“I think the thing that unifies kind of everything I love is storytelling and to get to be part of the story, whether it’s a story about role-playing or fighting, was so thrilling to me, and then the community, I think it was really the community for me. Once I found this group of people I was like ‘Yes, these are my people.’” With the idea of being a part of the story you are telling it’s not hard to see how Nick made the move from Wayfinder and role-playing to acting. He brings a kind of play and hard work that we were lucky to have and dearly miss. Thanks so much, Nick, for being a part of our blog series.

Closing remarks:

“The most interesting thing about Wayfinder, to me at least, was the difference between kids in an out of Game because you’d have kids who out of Game are shy and don’t understand social constructs, not that all social constructs are great, but they’d just have trouble navigating social situations. In life you’re told to you listen to your teachers and you don’t talk back, there’s no real reason, you’re kind of just told to, but in an Adventure Game if you talk back to the king, you’re going to be killed. There’s just more defined things that are said out loud, so it’s interesting when you watch these kids who were kind of shy and didn’t know how to express themselves suddenly find this new power, and because they are not themselves and these situations are not situations they’re used to, suddenly this whole world opens up for them. You see them just being more confident, not shying away from certain things, and being more eloquent. It’s just amazing. It’s like a placebo. It was amazing to watch some of these kids grow in confidence and become comfortable with who they are, knowing that it’s enough. That’s what I love about Wayfinder, it was such a diverse community, and I appreciated that there was very little meanness, mostly support and that really allowed people to flourish.”

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Written by Judson Easton Packard from an interview with Nick in 2016.
Published 6/9/2017

Tigre Bailando

Transcending Reality with Tigre Bailando

Tigre 1The path from Wayfinder to the work our alumni do in their respective creative fields can often be an easy one to see. The connections between the work we do at camp and the work someone does writing, acting, or making art are all fairly clear. What is not always clear, but is incredibly important to remember, is that that path is not always an easy one to walk. Camp hopefully helps to prepare you for the difficulties you’ll find as you push forward, but just keeping in mind that you are worth it and have to keep pushing forward is something Tigre stressed heavily and wanted to make sure was in view with his story. He moved out to Oakland from Philadelphia six years ago. “I was teaching, and I was working as a barista, and I was in Philly kind of doing art, being creative but not really finding a flow and kind of stumbling through stuff. Then I moved out to California, and big part of moving was ‘I want to focus my life around making art, and I want to really do this and I don’t know how it’s going to go.’” After a number of years of struggle, having “different hustles” ranging from selling jewelry on the side of the street to working in cafés, Tigre has been able to find some success as a sculptor creating installations for festivals all over the world (enough success that he’s been able to leave behind the other hustles). “It was like this seems to be happening, and when I was doing other stuff it felt like I was wasting my time. When I was in the café washing dishes I was like ‘what am I doing, like I was just on the other side of the world making this huge art piece and seeing people respond to it really powerfully’, and eventually I was like ‘I’m just going to make art and live off that and see what happens and the first year was really tenuous and hard.’”

tigre 2None of this is intended to frighten any aspiring artists or to lessen Tigre’s successes (like constructing one of the main stages for the Envision festival four times now!) but as previously stated, he wanted to make sure it was included in the image we presented of him. That he has gotten to a place through a mix of talent, hard work, and a willingness to give his life over to his craft. “We create stories, right? That’s what human beings do. We take the complicated messiness of the world, and we shape it into a story with whatever we want to talk about. We simplify it in however we are focusing in that moment. So it’s common to have this mythology that if you have a lot of talent and passion eventually you’ll just get it, and actually it’s really hard, it’s really scary, and it involves a lot of trust.” The work that Tigre has put in really shows through. He’s always been an incredibly talented artist. We were lucky enough to have him in our sets and props and costuming departments (and workshop; anyone who ever got to be in a workshop run by Tigre was in for a treat) and some of the things he created are still marveled at today. Maybe even looked at with a little bit of jealousy or envy, something natural when encountering talent in your own field. “For myself that’s something I really struggle with. I see somebody else, and they’re so successful and so talented, and I’m like ‘if I can’t get there that must be a flaw of my own.’ The system is so set up against us to succeed in any really soulful, meaningful way. It’s possible, but it’s hard, and I think it’s helpful to know that everybody goes through that stuff. It’s a long, treacherous adventure, you know?”

Currently Tigre is working on an installation for Burning Man called the Solacii. “Conceptually it’s somewhere between ghosts, like ancestral ghosts, aliens, and angels. They are the other, but there’s also this connection. They are of us, but they are not of us. For whatever reasons they have watched us, observed us, and are deeply empathetic to our condition so they feel all of it. The entire breadth of human experience is something they connect to.” The idea of this kind of other comes from Tigre’s personal mythology, having an approach to spirituality that he partially credits to the ability to explore the ideas of religion and mythology in adventure games. The installation will be a 21’ tall being “jutting out of a barren landscape.” The goals are twofold. First to give people a feeling of hope and perspective contained in the idea that there is something out there watching all of us and staying with us no matter how dark things get. Second to hold space for people to feel all of the insanity of the world. The being itself will contain a space which people can enter into and have a moment out of the desert. The project is currently being funded through a crowdfunding campaign on hatchfund, a link to which can be found below. The project requires donations that go past financial, if that’s not something people are currently able to provide. The being will be wrapped in a garment that Tigre is making out of donated clothing. “Everything is witness to our stories, the shirt that you wear, the spaces that contain us. The objects that surround us or we surround ourselves with, they carry those stories. So for me to have this garment made of all these garments of other humans is like carrying those stories. By the nature of it bearing witness it is a holder of all those stories, so it’s wrapping itself in that and welcoming you.” The information on where to send items of clothing can be found on the hatchfund page as well.

Tigre 3The work that Tigre is doing now has me as much in awe as the work I watched him do when I was a child. He freely admits that it is all closely related, “I used to build sets in the woods out of fabric and sticks, and now I build sets in the woods out of fabric and sticks.” While that may describe the work itself, Tigre is fully aware of what he is really doing in both instances, and that’s creating worlds for people to explore and escape into. “When you have these moments where everyone has agreed to share these imaginary constructs, and you have moments where that becomes real, where we really are teleporting elves that are stopping demons, that is a transcendental experience. We have transcended the normal shared imaginary construct to go into this other shared imaginary construct, and that is in essence the goal of what I do now.”

Tigre, thank you so much for everything you did for Wayfinder as a whole, and for me while I was growing up. Good luck with the Solacii project, and whatever you decide to do next. Whenever you find a time when you are able to come back to camp, know that you’ll be more than welcome.

Closing Remarks:

“I wouldn’t say it was the only thing but camp was a significant component in saving my life. I was a suicidal teenager and the community that I developed there- even it’s impact in the first summer. I went to two camps, two sessions my first summer. One was in the beginning, and then I couldn’t go because I had summer school, and then I went to an advanced camp at the end of the summer, but the way that changed my life and my perspective on what I could be absolutely saved my life. It has left an indelible mark on my life.”Tigre 4

Written by Judson Easton Packard

Publish 5/13/2017

Max Friedlich

Finding Confidence With Max Friedlich

17792352_10212994386483893_1037748258_nFor this week’s entry into our Where Are They Now series I had the opportunity to talk with Max Friedlich, yet another creative type who credits Wayfinder as the place for the majority of his development. Max is a playwright, after his play Sleepover was put on at the Fringe Festival, in NYC, he signed with United Talent Agency and has had his work produced at various colleges (including Northwestern and Ithaca), and by some theater companies. He is graduating from Wesleyan and headed out west to pursue a career writing for television. For Max a lot of the help that Wayfinder has given him in his career and life is less about the specific skills of playwriting and more about the way he carries himself into situations, particularly because he often finds himself as the youngest one in the room. “I went to Wayfinder like a supremely not confident person and left there with a lot of confidence, and I think I just that ability to make the decision that I’m going to present, I’m going to roleplay someone who has it together.” That kind of confidence carries a lot of weight in the world, and is something we all struggle with so to hear from Max (both a close friend and former SIT of mine) that we were able to give him a space to develop that was a moment of pride.

The difference in Max’s development at camp being restricted to more development of self than development of skills may have to do with the timing of Max’s departure from camp. He stopped coming when he was 17 years old, right when he started to find success in the world of playwriting. He worked in our workshop departments as a staff in training, and while he may not have hung around long enough to run his own department (something he would have crushed) he still points to this as being a “big thing in life,” going on to say “the experience of becoming an SIT and going from a time where staff were these godly celebrity figures to being friends with them kind of taught me that people aren’t scary. All these crazy, macho dudes with tattoos and piercings are just dorky sweethearts. It helps me navigate to this day.” Being able to remember this about the people he’d looked up to as a kid has helped Max in professional settings, being able to see anyone sitting on the other side of the table as their person and not their job title helps to pull some of the intimidation factor which they may hold.

As with so many other alumni of Wayfinder, camp holds a special place in his heart. “For whatever it’s worth any 599157_4158946941499_1039242478_ntime I have a project I thank Wayfinder. Even though I’m five or six years removed every time I think about things that have been formative to me and things that I have been incredible indebted to I always think about Wayfinder. It’s really stuck with me.” Camp is built around that kind of shared experience and exploration of self. Roleplaying is nothing if not an introspective act, having a space to do all of that together is something that most people never get so it makes sense that it holds that space for so many of us, but still thanks, Max. It’s always good to be reminded of the effect we have on the people who occupy space within this community.

As for other growth that came about because of camp, while it may fall into the same type of growth that has served him professionally, the recognition of people for who they are combined with the expansion of personal confidence is something Max returned to often throughout our interview. “Someone actually said this at a closing circle, ‘you can just decide to be brave, it’s that easy.’ Deciding to be brave and pretending to be brave, there’s such a thin line because at Wayfinder you’re in character and ostensibly pretending, but you’re also making that decision.” The ability to recognize that in yourself and turn it on is an incredibly useful thing to have command over, in an unending number of situations. To learn that as a teenager is huge because you face down so many new situations every day which are much easier if you have the confidence and knowledge to “decide to be brave.”

Max had some very heartwarming things to say about Wayfinder. “It always felt like it really did feel like a community or a tribe just in that people had different statuses, but I could become you or be friends with you. You know, I had relationships with staff and SITs, that’s not every other camp. I remember being acutely aware from a young age that you guys did not make good money and that it was more than a job. It was so cool, working with people who were my heroes.” Having been in that group of heroes (I’m not assuming here, he told me) I can say that I’m honored to have had the chance to be a part of helping Max grow up and have treasured the chance to be his friend. Thanks so much for being a part of our community, Max, come home any time you like.

Closing remarks:294484_10150280759040980_1755444213_n

There was a summer when my grandma was dying, and I hadn’t seen my parents in a long time, I was signed up for consecutive weeks of camp. So I would just keep going to camp, and I don’t think I was really processing what was going on. Shelby was my wife in a game. [The Game] had something to do with angels and selling your soul, I found out that demons had Shelby, had my wife, and then a bunch of bad guys showed up. I ended up being chased [by one of my the bad guys] to the top field, and there was something just so crazy and spiritual. It was just two of us. It’s always weird, I think, at Wayfinder when you find yourself in the woods, and it’s just one person you kind of know having those interactions which are some of the craziest ones. So we’re just both running, and he kills me, and I was lying in the field, and he walks away, and I just started hysterically crying. In my head I was thinking about Shelby as my wife, I was so in it, but it was a real kind of cathartic release, and it was the first time I was able to really cry about losing my grandma, and that’s pretty wild to have a place that gives teenage boys the avenue to express their emotion by being upset that a demon has taken their wife. You know what I mean? It was just such a circuitous route to what I needed but it really was therapeutic.

Written by Judson Easton Packard from an interview with Max from Summer 2016.

Published 5/5/2017

Molly Ostertag

Where Are They Now: Molly Ostertag

16472876_10155048664233619_5495453497531521664_nMolly was a joy to interview. She moved from upstate New York to LA just over a year ago, where she is a full time cartoonist and an animator for Disney. She draws a bi-weekly web comic called Strong Female Protagonist with another Wayfinder alum (Brennan Lee Mulligan), has a book deal with Scholastic (look for ‘The Witch Boy’ Oct. 31st 2017), and graduated from SVA as valedictorian. At camp Molly worked in many departments, most notably Sets & Props, wrote a number of awesome Adventure Games and was an all around rock-star.

WFE: “How old were you when you first attended?”

M: “I was 14, but I had heard about it before then. It sounded like the most amazing thing. A place where you got to act out fantasy stories. I pictured it taking place in a castle. I thought it was too cool to be real.”

WFE: “What did you enjoy most as a camper; what are some early experiences?”

M: “I was drawn in by the Adventure Games. I went into it a super shy and locked away kid, but by the end of the weekend I was hugging everybody and was so thrilled to have that [part of me] unlocked. What I grew to love was the community and making friends with the people I was roleplaying with. The Games became an expression of this loving community, rather than the reason I was there.”

WFE: “What was a challenge for you at camp, but no longer is?”

M: “It was challenging at times being around so many people. I’m very happy to have had boundaries pushed [at camp] in terms of what I’m conformable with because it made me a more adaptable person, and am able to talk to many types of different people. I would be more shy without camp.”

WFE: When you were working as a staff member, what were your favorite parts?

M: “Making the worlds. Each Adventure Game was an inspiring and artistic challenge. I learned a lot of lessons I still use today. I really liked taking spaces that the campers were in all week and transforming them to an unfamiliar spaces. They [the campers] know they were going into the dining hall but once they entered it wouldn’t be the dining hall anymore. When I was a kid my favorite part was to feel like I had left earth, so it was very fun to do that of other people”17435897_10155186704793619_8909376705338787020_o

WFE: What are some lessons from Wayfinder you use in everyday life; or other ways Wafinder is still with you?

M: “The book I sold to Scholastic is like a love letter to camp. It’s about teens running around in the woods casting magic and discovering themselves. My artistic choices are informed by camp and Status Workshops really help in my professional life. I learned how to be a more confident person. Learning how to present oneself [is important.] You learn how to don a character who is more confident than you are.”

WFE: Have you ever tried other summer camps?

M: “I went to a classic girls camp, it was fun the first year [less so the next]. But at Wayfinder people go far out of their way to make you feel comfortable. Wayfinder has this tradition of respect that made it a really safe space. Also there is nowhere else I could play the warrior queen. Wayfinder is different than most LARPs. Everyone is focusing on telling a story together with emphasis on immersion. I was surprised how deep [the Game experience] went for me. It was easy to buy into being in the fantasy world. I really felt the feelings [of my character], I felt like someone else.”

WFE: Any final thoughts you’d like to share?

M: “The whole camp was like a trust fall. When I started I was a soft, emotion, shy teen who wanted to be stronger and didn’t know how. It was important to have a space that was supportive but push me out of comfort zone; but where I knew I would be caught if fell.”

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Check out:

Written by Trine Boode-Petersen from an interview with Molly in summer 2016.

Published 4/14/2017

Brennan Lee Mulligan

Life Lessons with Brennan Lee Mulligan

BRENThis week’s Where Are They Now features another Wayfinder alum who finds themselves immersed in a creative life in the world. We sat down with Brennan Lee Mulligan to discuss the ins and outs of his life, and the ways in which Wayfinder had helped him get where he is. Brennan is making his living in not one, but two creative fields, both of which he gives a portion of the credit for his successes over to the Wayfinder Experience. “I’m doing sort of exactly the things that Wayfinder trained me to do: writing stories about made up fantastical stuff and then doing improv, and playing make believe.” To get more specific his day to day employment comes from the Upright Citizen’s Brigade where he teaches and performs improv and sketch comedy. Then a more long-term personal project of his, he has teamed with Molly Ostertag (a fellow Wayfinder community member) to write Strong Female Protagonist, a webcomic which has one print compendium published to date.

While the connection between improvisational theatre and camp are clear (because we teach improv workshops as a way to prep for game, and all of the interactions that come through the adventure game are improvised) the approach at camp is notably different. Improv as a performance style in the world is largely something that is done as a style of comedy, something Brennan excels at. Camp is a little different. “Where I come from is not doing improv for laughs, but rather the idea of roleplaying for its own sake, which is so healthy. Most of what I do on stage is just LARPing anyway, and it’s really gratifying that basis of years and years spent playing make believe for that being the end in and of itself.” While he may enjoy roleplaying just for roleplaying sake (and there’s no doubt you’d be hardpressed to find someone who throws themselves more into the fantasy of the adventure game than Brennan) it’s no surprise to see that he has gone on to shine in a world of comedy and performance, having always had a talent for the two.

16142239_10158067152820258_1544876380951684761_nHe spent a lot of his time as a staff member engaged in teaching and performing improv, but he also was one of our main story writers for a long time, something that he credits very directly as helping him in his writing of SFP. “Just the experience of writing all those games, just getting really good at making up fake worlds, and really taking them seriously is an incredibly valuable skill.” If you haven’t read SFP you really should take some time and do so. Brennan and Molly are a truly talented team, and their worldbuilding experience really shines through. “I don’t know places that really do worldbuilding as thoroughly as Wayfinder does worldbuilding.” Firstly, thanks (blushing over here). But more seriously, we spend a lot of time each week going through the processes of worldbuilding. There is our storywriter who has spent the time and created a world for all of us to play in, but as we go through the steps of character development pieces of that world are going to change or spring into existence. The adventure game is collaborative, and as participants put together their character they are really building small portions of that world. By the time you get old enough to write and run a game of your own, you’ve already lived in countless worlds.

That experience specifically is the one that Brennan still holds onto as the most important piece of camp for him. “It opens this gateway where you can totally suspend your disbelief, and then you get into that world, and I think it’s really crucial that there’s not an audience. It’s not performance, it’s everybody getting lost in their own character, and you’re looking around and everyone’s in it together. It’s this huge experience that everyone can come, and take part in to tell this incredible story, and just for a few hours really put yourself in someone else’s shoes.” We talk a lot about how Adventure Gaming is an exploration of self, about how it allows you to find pieces of yourself you may not have known existed. While that’s true, Brennan also brings up a hugely important portion of the experience. In searching those pieces of yourself you get the chance to find similarities and understanding with people whose experiences and lives may be completely foreign to you. You are given a space to look at what makes a person or a culture or a world the way it is, and with that experience there’s no way not to gain a little bit of understanding.

Brennan is someone we were lucky to have at camp as long as we did. He contributed in ways we still benefit from. Him and his brother started Bootleg Adventures, which is still operating, now under the name Living Legends. They were the first branch of Wayfinder to break 100 participants at a single event. He also brought a lot of understanding of what we do at camp. Every staff member has an understanding of the ways that camp helped them to grow. Brennan has that, but also as a very articulate person and a practiced performer and public speaker, he brings an ability to sum things up that you don’t often find in the world. “There’s a lesson there, the lesson you take from that when you start to get older. You not guaranteed opportunities, so when opportunity presents itself in Game and in life you must strike with all you’ve got. It’s much better to find yourself all used up at the end having made a significant difference, rather than to get to the end of the Game and find you never helped.” Thank you, Mr. Mulligan, for your contributions to the community over the years. I can personally say you’ve been an important friend and role model for me in the years I’ve known you. Excited to see what comes next for you.

12615751_10101640054754026_6725199730467783448_oClosing Remarks:

“If only for a few hours the veil between our world and a completely fantastical world is opened up. I feel the best aspects of humanity come from a completely heightened sense of empathy, exploration, and understanding. We’re at our best when we’re doing those things, and I don’t think anything make you more empathetic than when you get to fall into a created world and truly be somebody else for four hours. I mean the most incredible moments of my life have been at Wayfinder when I was someone else and forgot myself for a moment, and when that happens I think it makes you a better person. And I mean that in every sense. It makes you a better more understanding person on a moral level, and it also makes you faster, and stronger, and smarter, and more interesting. It’s good morally, and it’s also just good holistically for you as a person.”

Fallen for You:

Written from an interview with Brennan by Judson Easton Packard

Published 3/31.2017

Jenna Bergstraesser

Finding a Home with Jenna Bergstraesser

576842_10200948114332067_2014342063_nBeing structured around an adventure game Wayfinder naturally provides skills that lend themselves to a wide variety of creative pursuits. In the last Where Are They Now feature we looked at Marika McCoola who had taken her experience and become a writer, and spoke very eloquently about how her time at Wayfinder helped form her as an author. Our focus this week is Jenna Bergstraesser, another very successful creative type who we have been lucky enough to have as a participant, staff member, and community member. These days Jenna works for Disney at Disneyland as a Design Illustrator in their costume department. While some of the connections may seem immediately clear to anyone who has been around the Wayfinder Experience (it’s the costumes for anyone who hasn’t), Jenna highlighted some connections that were a little less so.

In addressing the obvious connection, just in describing her day to day job Jenna reached immediately for it. “I feel like Wayfinder all my life was preparing me for specifically the Disney job because every day we’re working on princesses and pirates and superheroes. It’s like Advanced Camp every day work. What other company has all those things? You switch into all these different creative worlds.” The work even seemed so reminiscent of working for Wayfinder that she went on to describe it as “the official corporate version.” We’re still a far cry from being able to field the types of productions that Disneyland is putting on, but we’re happy to know that we were able to help prepare Jenna for those aspects of her work. (Also anyone she ever costumed at camp can say they have the same costumer as Disney princesses so that’s definitely a perk).

12985392_10154759973774638_3291460043317126638_nIn the realm of slightly less obvious connections she pointed to the process of getting the job itself, which involved first working an internship in their costuming department, and then pitching herself to a room of Disney Parks and Resorts executives. “It’s all theater. Communication skills are so easy because you can just drop into that persona of ‘I am in charge’ at any time.” The communication skills and persona she credits her advantages in that meeting and her fast-paced work environment to are things she points to her experience as staff as having taught her, “having to talk to large groups of people about yourself, or something that is important to you, or even conveying a message to people, that alone has really helped.” While those are definitely things that any staff member is going to have to do in the course of their daily job, they are also things that it is impossible for a participant to avoid. So much of our workshops revolve around participants as performers in front of the whole group or just for each other. Anyone who has spent time around camp would happily extol the virtues of improv as a method for public speaking and interviewing.

She also pointed to some more personal growth at camp throughout the years. Calling it one of her “two moral backbones” (the other being Harry Potter) and asking a question I’ve heard posed by any number of our community members throughout the years, myself included. “What would I even be without Wayfinder?” While she didn’t have an answer for that question she had some pretty good ideas on exactly how camp had helped her get to where she is as a person. “You have this internal knowledge that the community follows you wherever you are so that even if you’re not in it anymore, you know that you were able to be all those people, and I feel that you understand other people more.” Playing with characters in any kind of theater setting is a good way to discover things about yourself. Getting the chance to do it in that kind of special communal setting that we have at Wayfinder, where everyone else is going through those same transformative motions and is going to process it together, gives a chance for some very active reflection on what we’re doing and who we are. “I have always had this knowledge that I am who I am, and Wayfinder is definitely something that helped me manifest that.” There’s really no higher praise that we could ask for. We were lucky to have Jenna at camp for the years that we did so knowing that she still holds us in high regard and at least partially responsible for her becoming the person she has is something we are beyond thankful to hear.

320485_10151481028184638_1020166826_nAlso having some distance from the community and camp itself Jenna offered some perspective on the ability to come and go as needed that’s been discussed so much at camp (and some on this blog). “Even if there were different people there or if it was a different location it felt like the same sacred space. So it was always really cool to come back because you always had that same sense of community. You knew you’d always be welcome back in.” That’s a theme echoed by our participants, staff, and community at large. Thanks for gracing us with your presence Jenna. We can’t wait to welcome you back in again next time you’re able to come by, even if it’s just for a visit.

Closing Remarks:

“As much as camp is an emotional time, and I feel like a lot of people when they finish are like ‘oh no, what am I going to do without it?’ it does prepare you for real life. You kind of have this talisman, and throughout camp you’re kind of building the talisman can creating your emotional connection to it, and when you’re leaving you get a little protective and paranoid but then eventually you realize it is always going to be there, and whether you need to come back to camp to charge it, or just have it always be there with you, you realize it always is.”

Check out Jenna’s Art.

Written by Judson Easton Packard from an interview with Jenna.

Published 3/16/2017

Marika McCoola

Building Worlds with Marika McCoola

Marika1Wayfinder has always lived in the written words of its community members. Any world we create and explore starts with someone hunched over a computer, furiously typing histories into existence. It seems natural then that Wayfinder have so many community members with a literary streak to them. We had the chance to sit down with Marika McCoola, whose book Baba Yaga’s Assistant was a New York Times bestseller and Eisner award nominee, and talk about the experiences she had at Wayfinder and the ways those have helped to form her as a teacher, a writer, an illustrator, and most importantly a person.

Camp offers a diverse field of experiences, all of which have creative elements attached to them. To explore a fantastical world we have to do everything from write the background of that world to actually building the physical aspects of it, not to mention teaching everyone to create and live in full characters for the duration of the adventure game. Marika was one of our rare staff members who has the talents and the knowledge to work in any of our departments. “Working with people to create a story is what I do. It’s interesting I ended up going into graphic novels because you describe the scenery and what’s going on, which is the production part, and then the game systems part which is figuring out what your world looks like, because I write contemporary fantasy pretty much exclusively, and doing all that building. Then in terms of characters I use all of that improv. You’re writing in different character’s voices so how do you take on each character and write them?” Having grown up at Adventure Game Theater, the camp that eventually spawned the Wayfinder experience which Marika was also a very active member of, all of these skills were at that point second nature to her.

225234_6478291092_2446_nBeing around for years and years of camp and adventure games it can be hard to pin point favorite moments or games out of all of them. One of the things that stood out most for Marika was a prop she designed and built. A stained glass window, which we still use in games today. “When everybody saw that for the first time all lit up at night, that totally made it. You can still kind of separate yourself as a creator and as the character you’re playing, and to see people react to that, and to make it magical for them was really exciting, which I suppose makes total sense because I’m a writer now, and I make worlds for other people to inhabit.” That magic she talked about, the look of wonder you see on players’ faces, is something she has truly been able to capture into her writing. The worlds which she builds are fantastical, and it is clear there is an understanding of what magic looks like in the real world behind the work that goes into to creating those written worlds. She clearly points to experiences at Wayfinder as putting up the scaffolding for a lot of that work, and we were lucky to have her building that kind of magic for us. Like I said that stained glass window is still in use, and never fails to produce a look of awe and wonder from players seeing it for the first time.

While she isn’t participating in any LARPs anymore she is very aware of the effect that it has had on her life. “It was an extremely important phase. That’s what Molly Ostertag and I talk about a lot, she’s also a cartoonist and writer. What we do is so much influenced by that so it’s a very special piece that we don’t want to write about because it’s this preserved lovely thing.” So while you might not see Wayfinder directly showing up in either Marika or Molly’s books, both of them published authors of graphic novels, it is very clear that having camp and the space to explore themselves and other worlds was hugely influential on their lives and their work. Camp is, underneath everything else, a creative space. You get a chance to be surrounded by people who, even if they don’t produce any other creative works in their lives, are engaged in the process of creating a world, creating a storyline. “We were able to create space and it helped us realize things about ourselves at this very difficult age when you are all over the place. It allows you to explore different facets of yourself and that’s really really important.” That work never stops, neither does the joy or graciousness it produces. Like with every community member you could ask about camp, Marika’s face lit up to talk about Wayfinder and the time she spent there. There is nothing better than knowing we are providing space, and have provided space, to people who go out and do good work in the world, and remember Wayfinder as a piece of what brought them to that work. We were blessed to have Marika at camp as long as we did, and still blessed to have her as a member of the community.

BOOKClosing Remarks:

“How we lead up to the game is important in how camp does it versus other LARPs in that it’s really about the opportunity to explore a facet of yourself in a character that you don’t get to explore in regular life. So there’s the freedom to do that in a safe space in a way that you can then reflect upon and learn something from, and I think that’s really nice to be given that space to do that. There’s also something really nice about having a community and having a camp that’s truly about community, cooperative play, and creating together rather than having battles against each other (though we do that as well), but it’s all about creating an experience for everybody and I think that’s extremely important, and it results in long lasting friendships.”

Make sure to check out Marika’s website:

–Written by Judson Easton Packard I from an interview with Marika McCoola.

Published 3/1/2017

*First Picture from Marika’s website. Self Portrait: digitally altered photograph of clay, wire, paint, embroidery thread, and ink on paper. ©2014 Marika McCoola