2nd Place Journeyman, Craftsmanship
OMGWTFBBQ Award, Masquerade
Sketch's Special Activities:
Artist Alley: Guest Artist
Panelist: Props and Sh*t
Masquerade: Performance Judge
Steve, Damon Loucks (x3), Ginger (x2), Shiva, Steve, PatrickD, Andrew
PortCon Maine is New England's oldest anime and gaming convention, held annually in southern Maine. For its seventh year, the convention moved from its long-time home at the Sheraton Hotel and Convention Center in South Portland to the larger Eastland Park Hotel in downtown Portland. The Eastland was a welcome change from the crowded panel rooms and claustrophobic halls of the Sheraton, and the beautiful two-story main event ballroom was a fantastic upgrade in venue for PortCon's masquerade. The contest itself benefited from improved organization and ran more smoothly than last year's event, much to the delight of cosplayers. Layout-wise, however, the Eastland's antique architecture forced PortCon to spread its events out amongst a labyrinth of floors, rooms, and odd corners, which made it difficult for attendees to browse the convention's activities. The narrow staircases also made it challenging for cosplayers with large or complex costumes to access all areas of the convention. However, despite these drawbacks, the new downtown location allowed attendees access to the shops, restaurants, and events going on in the heart of Portland - including watching the city's beautiful Fourth of July fireworks display from the hotel's roof! In addition, the unique and varied architecture of downtown Portland provided cosplayers with a lot of options for taking interesting photos. Overall the change was a good one, and hopefully the convention remains here in 2009.
Sketch and Shiva's Weekend Breakdown:
The change in venue for PortCon this year also moved its date from late June to Fourth of July weekend, forcing a lot of attendees to balance attending the con with holiday celebrations. Sketch was able to drive up Thursday night, settle into his room at the Eastland, and hit up a party with his fellow guest artists, while Shiva was up all night at her neighborhood's holiday beach party. Friday did not get off to a great start for either of us; Shiva rolled out of bed hungover to pack up and catch both a train and a bus up to Portland while Sketch rolled out of bed hungover to set up his artist table in what he discovered was the most out-of-the-way location he had experienced at a con. The layout of the hotel was awkward for a convention at best, but the artist alley was down a half flight of stairs in a hard to find hallway behind a glass door. The room was below street level, and as Sketch manned his table for most of the day, he and his fellow artists found themselves staring at the feet of passerby walking on the sidewalk outside more often than they entertained attendee traffic inside the room.
Shiva, meanwhile, arrived at the Eastland to find out one of her roommates, Crazyflower, had her suitcase stolen from outside of their hotel room door as she was unloading her car. At first everyone hoped it was an accidental mix-up, but her belongings never resurfaced, and she was left without her clothes, toiletries, and half her Ursula costume from The Little Mermaid which she needed for her and Shiva's masquerade skit the next day. Crazyflower and Shiva drove out to the local Michaels to find any supplies they could use to jury-rig Crazyflower's costume together and get her some essentials before returning to the con. Back at the Eastland, Crazyflower focused on putting her costume back together while Shiva got into her Tifa costume and attended the karaoke contest Jeni was running where Gale was competing. Shiva expected most of the contest to be cringe-worthy, but many of the entrants were surprisingly good and Jeni did an excellent job keeping the atmosphere supportive.
That evening, Shiva, Kuraudo, and Gale found a graffiti-covered alley downtown for a photohoot in their Advent Children costumes before heading out to dinner with the crew. We brought some food back for Crazyflower, who managed to replicate most of her costume and was feeling better as a result. We then headed to Anime Unscripted, hosted by PatrickD and featuring Jekka, Sketch, and voice actors Michelle Knotz and Bill Rogers. The show was hysterical, and it wrapped up just in time for all of us to run up to the hotel roof immediately afterwards and watch the Portland Fourth of July fireworks explode over the harbor. It was the perfect vantage point and the view was gorgeous! After the show, Sketch went to perform in Extreme Geek while Shiva joined the crew at the rooftop bar for cocktails and socializing for the rest of the evening.
Saturday morning, Shiva and her roommates got into their Kingdom Hearts costumes for their masquerade skit, "Welcome To Disney Heck," and headed to judging, while Sketch wore his pirate captain costume and manned his table for the morning. Sketch met up with Shiva and we wandered the con together until we joined the rest of the crew in main events for the masquerade. Unlike the previous year when the entrants were stuck in a green room before going on stage, in this location the masquerade coordinators sat all of the competitors in the balcony where they could watch the entire show before being called onstage. They also sat Bill Rogers and Michelle Knotz up in the balcony armed with mics playing "Statler and Waldorf" from The Muppet Show commenting on each act with exchanges such as "They say the cake is a lie. You know what else is a lie? Saying this show would be good!" and "They were doing okay until they almost fell offstage." "They were doing even better before they came ON stage!" The actors were worried people might be insulted, but it was so obviously silly and good-natured that we assured them most of us were looking forward to being heckled!
Jeni and Jekka did a fantastic job hosting, and Sketch reprised his role as a performance judge for the show. We noticed that more groups took the time to prerecord their lines and music this year, which vastly improved both the quality of the sound and helped keep the performances moving along. The quality of the entries were also a step up from previous years; our favorite skits included a black mage riding a life-size chocobo from Final Fantasy, a boy who had built a beautiful forty-pound wooden chest, and the skit, "PortCon Insurance Claim," which had great jokes, excellent voice acting, and was blocked wonderfully. By the end of the show Shiva's skit won the OMGWTFBBQ performance award, Shiva got Second Place, Journeyman Craftsmanship for her Rinoa costume, and Crazyflower won Best In Show, Craftsmanship for Ursula, which at the very least made up for the stress she went through trying to rebuild it in the hotel room.
Despite the success of the actual performances, from a technical perspective the masquerade was lacking; the room was dark and the stage wasn't well lit making the performers hard to see from the audience. Also the projection screens were set up BEHIND the performers rather than to the sides of them, which made absolutely no sense. Not only did it distract from the action on stage, but performers were constantly either blocking the screen or casting shadows on it, which made projecting the show pointless. Finally, there were some audio flubs, with the wrong track being played, some endings cut off, and inconsistent sound levels. If the convention returns to this location next year, hopefully they can make some major upgrades to how the show is lit, amplified, and projected.
After the masquerade ended, Shiva and the other competitors walked over to the stone church across the street for some awesome costume photos while Sketch did an interview with a staff member from the Boston Globe whom he'd met before on the convention circuit. We all went out to dinner that evening before Shiva changed into Midnight Rose, the crew gathered up some glowsticks, and everyone headed to the rave. During the first half of the dance they had a great song selection - a combination of hip hop and pop music that was awesome to dance to - but after the first couple of hours it went downhill, including irritating selections such as "The Hampster Dance" and the "Caramelldansen." When it showed no signs of improving, we rounded everyone up and went back to the room for drinks while Sketch headed downtown to Sebego's with his fellow artists.
Sunday morning we all rolled slowly out of bed after a night of partying; Sketch wore Jiraiya so the Boston Globe staff could take his photo for the article while Shiva wore her brand new Princess Tutu costume. She met up with Danielle as Rue, and they did a small photoshoot with Steve downtown in a small square, and back at the convention Andrew did a shoot with Shiva doing pointe poses before her feet got too tired from walking around. Not many people recognized Shiva's character but they did ask her about the anime it was from, so she was happy she may have recruited a few more fans for the show. Afterwards Shiva helped Sketch carry some pieces of his Canti costume inside from his car for his prop-making panel; it was cool he got to show off Canti a bit, even if it was only sections of it. The whole crew attended the panel and the audience seemed pretty interested and asked some good questions. That afternoon we changed out of costumes and played "Guess What Famous Person Is Stuck On My Forehead" game for several hours before heading out - another weekend of ridiculously good times at PortCon!