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.