Life Lessons with Brennan Lee Mulligan
This 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.
He 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.
“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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jP6Yy61OvLU
Written from an interview with Brennan by Judson Easton Packard