Where Are They Now?
This series puts the spotlight on former staff and participants showing what some of our alumni (and beloved community members) have been up to in the world, and how they think Wayfinder helped them get there.
Seeing the World with Kyle Perler
This 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.
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.
The 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
Living Through Stories with Nick Marini
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.
While 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.
“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.
“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.”
Written by Judson Easton Packard from an interview with Nick in 2016.
Transcending Reality with Tigre Bailando
The 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.’”
None 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.
The 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.
“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.”
Written by Judson Easton Packard