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Category: Cosplay Soiree (page 1 of 2)

Orion Couling: At the Intersection of Geek and Activism

His name is Orion Couling.

Orion CoulingHis very first memories are of The Empire Strikes Back. His hard working, often absent, police officer father tried to make up for lost time with a string of presents: Star Wars toys. He spent his childhood in the boondocks of Michigan looking for a lost father figure he knew was fighting for justice. As he grew, so did his love of sci-fi: A Wrinkle in Time, Narina, Ray Bradbury, Star Trek. The genre provided excitement the rural area where he lived lacked.

At college, he discovered activism. He learned he could use this love of science fiction and theater to help drive social change.

His name is Orion Couling. On Saturday, September 2, he’ll combine his love of all things geek and his activism to lead Hope and Light: A Chicago Nerd Vigil Against White Supremacy. The Chicago Geek Guy had a chance to chat with Orion about the intersection of nerd and social justice.

CGG: What is it that you do now and how did your love of sci-fi shape your day job?

Orion: I run a mid-sized, not for profit theatre company in Chicago. Our focus is on marginalized communities, primarily differently abled people and kids to learn in alternative ways. This work is augmented by our semi-professional troupe who performs to raise money for our educational work. I also run a cosplay company that works in libraries and a children’s hospital. You see a sci-fi theme in all of this work. From our Star Wars Shakespeare MacSith to Peter and the Starcatcher, we are the company embracing the imagination. I am blessed that this is my day job. So, whether I’m teaching light saber at a library or writing a play about Minecraft with homeschoolers I get to live my dorkiness.

Orion Couling“I’m always honored to play Captain America.”

CGG: What’s been your favorite cosplay experience?

Orion: Oh wow. I’m not sure. I love doing Bumblebee from Transformers. It’s stilted so I’m 10 feet tall. I’m always honored to play Captain America. The kids love him so much; him and Spidey. But I’m premiering a book based cosplay at the renaissance faire next week that I’m thrilled about. The character is an Abhorsen from Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom Trilogy

CGG: Can you remember a moment when you really made an impact with cosplay?

Orion: Nothing surprising. But when a 5-year-old looks at you and sees their hero in real life, it’s pretty amazing. When I get to teach nonviolent crisis resolution at a library while doing a light saber workshop I feel like I’m making a difference.

“Becoming a nationally recognized stage combat instructor gave my resume the boost needed to justify someone hiring me to teach wand or lightsaber.”

CGG: How did you make the transition from fan to a professional fan?

Orion: A combination of a really good network of friends and a lot of hope. Learning the history that was the foundation for my fandoms was essential. Becoming a nationally recognized stage combat instructor gave my resume the boost needed to justify someone hiring me to teach wand or lightsaber.

CGG: What can you tell me about the path to becoming a nationally recognized stage combat instructor? What have you worked on?

Orion: I am an instructor through Dueling Arts International. It’s an international stage combat organization. I have been a recognized instructor since I was 26 (I think). I’m 39 now. I have over 50 professional production credits in mostly stage and some very limited film work. I have nearly 100 youth productions that I’ve worked on. Sci fi highlights include Predator-the Musical, Tammy (a coming of age story about a girl who was part T-Rex), Star Wars of the Roses, and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe

CGG: I first “met” you through the feminist Facebook group, The League of Ordinary Gentlemen. What drove the transition from fan to activist?

Orion: I started my journey as an activist during my sophomore year in college at Northern Michigan University. I took a class on the theater of cruelty. It focused largely on Central and South America. It basically used the theater to advocate for social change. I’ve been actively involved in that process since.

The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere, an album by Utah Phillips and Ani DiFranco from the 90’s, also spoke to me. It dealt with excepting the responsibility of privilege and action

“I felt it important to help push the cultural boundaries and responsibilities of Geekdom.”

CGG: When and how did you realize you could merge the two? Geekdom and activism?

Orion: That key element is relatively new. I’ve been thinking about this for a while. The proceeds from MacSith allowed me to support educational efforts. In some ways, that play was a soft sort of activism. Looking at Chicago’s growing geek culture and its organizations, like the inspirational Raks Geek, I felt it important to help push the cultural boundaries and responsibilities of Geekdom.

Orion Couling“Use light sabers instead of swords. Embrace the world of sci-fi but stay true to the script.”

CGG: Tell me a little bit about MacSith. Where did the idea come from and what challenges did you face implementing it?

Orion: MacSith sounds farcical. In reality, it was hard hitting Shakespearean action. It started out as a project to get kids excited about Shakespeare, about 10 years ago. It evolved into a professional production that received critical success. It was a simple concept: Use a very tight cutting of the play (75 minutes) without changing any of Shakespeare’s language. Use light sabers instead of swords. Embrace the world of sci-fi but stay true to the script.

CGG: After MacSith, what happened next in terms of geek activism?

Orion: Not enough. I continue my work in marginalized communities but this situation has really spoken to me about the need for much more.

I am in the process of planning a Wonder Woman styled workshop and all the proceeds will go to a local battered women’s shelter.

“…we are set into this world with all the elements that we need for fulfillment. We are like seeds. We must water the seeds of compassion and dialogue…”

CGG: What drove you to create The League of Ordinary Gentlemen?

Orion: I felt that men needed a positive community to discuss the transition from the version of masculinity most men I know grow up with, to a more supportive and equal place with women. I feel that important changes need nurturing. I hold to the Buddhist philosophy that we are set into this world with all the elements that we need for fulfillment. We are like seeds. We must water the seeds of compassion and dialogue and not water seeds of privilege. The fact is, I mess up, relentlessly, all the time. It has become a place where I can take my losses and stumbling blocks and seek advice from a group of people sworn to uplift the same values.

CGG: How do you think it’s working out?

Orion: It’s definitely been good for the sharing of resources and fellowship but I’d like to see us offering free workshops and lectures.League of Ordinary Gentlemen

CGG: Where and how did the idea for the Nerd Vigil emerge?

Orion: I was attending a candle vigil for Charlottesville and two quotes really stood out.

“Let our light of peace (candles) shine brighter than theirs of hate (torches)” -I put in the parenthetical words- but it got me thinking. What could I lift in peace that we shine light? Wands and light sabers were the clear answer. Who could I lift them with? My nerd sisters and brothers whom I care so dearly for in Chicago.

The other quote was “love is an action word.” It’s not enough to passive stand by or comment on social media. We also need time to grieve and grow.

I have three very dedicated speakers who will offer their peaceful perspective. I’m hoping to act on love

“If we even do one of those things it will be a success. If we do all of those things, it will be incredible.”

CGG: What are you hoping to achieve from the vigil?

Orion: Just as the description states. A peaceful resistance to white supremacy. To remember the fallen of Charlottesville and those who died before in this struggle. Finally, to encourage the nerd community to broaden their horizons in multicultural characters. If we even do one of those things it will be a success. If we do all of those things, it will be incredible.

CGG: What’s next for you after the vigil?

Orion: The Wonder Woman workshop! Most likely in October. Just got all the shields and swords!

Literally fighting for social change. Mixing high energy stage combat and stunt while raising money for women who have been put through hell.

Hope and Light: A Chicago Nerd Vigil Against White Supremacy occurs Saturday, September 2, 2017 at 7:30 pm at 50 W Adams, Chicago, IL 60603.

Anime Midwest Cosplay – Day Two!

Some more astounding work and creativity from #AnimeMidwest.

Anime Midwest 2017

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Anime Midwest Cosplay – Day One!

I saw some great work on the first day of Anime Midwest. Here’s just a small sampling.

Anime Midwest 2017

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Back at Anime Midwest!

Trinity and I have made it back to Anime Midwest for another year.  I’m looking forward to the convention as an attendee as opposed to a presenter. I want to see what other people are doing and the information they’re sharing with others:

My first-day schedule looks like:

  • Linkara and the Geek Talk Comics
  • Worbia workshop
  • Cosplay Creeps and How to Handle them
  • Con Parents
  • V is for Villians Concert

Trin and I also brought two costumes each. We’ll be out on the floor getting seen. I promise lots of pictures for the social feeds and future galleries.

If you see a WWI Pilot Batman or Pirate Deathstroke, be sure to say hi!

Steampunk Chicago Stroll through Graceland – Gallery #5

The final gallery of shots from the Steampunk Chicago Stroll through Graceland includes pictures of:

  • Carrie Elizabeth Getty’s Tomb, a small, square monument designed by Louis Sullivan. The tomb marks the first example of Sullivan’s involvement in the architectural style known as the Chicago School.
  • The tomb of Fridolin Madlener memorializes the man that gave the world Fig-Rye.
  • The Tomb of William O. Goodman, viewed from across the pond.
  • The tombstones of Daniel Burnham and his family rest on a small private inland in the cemetary.
  • The grave of Marshall Fields marks the resting place of one of the 19th Century’s most wealthy men.
  • A young flutist sits atop the gravestone of Dr. Christopher D. Manuel.

Carrie Elizabeth Getty's Tomb

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Steampunk Chicago Stroll through Graceland – Gallery #4

This fourth gallery of images from the Steampunk Chicago Stroll through Graceland captures a number of notable monuments.

  • The tombstone of architect Louis Sullivan.  A relatively modest monument marks “Father of Modern Skyscrapers” and the man behind “Form ever follows function” grave.
  • The Tomb of William O. Goodman. Goodman hired Howard Van Doren Shaw to design this tomb and the Goodman Theater, both in honor of his son, Kenneth Sawyer Goodman.
  • The Tomb of Potter and Bertha Palmer rises like a Greek Temple on the edge of the cemetery’s pond. Potter Palmer pioneered the idea of customer satisfaction in retail before turning his attention to real estate and hotels.

Tomb of William O. Goodman

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Steampunk Chicago Stroll through Graceland – Gallery #3

Day three of the Steampunk Chicago Stroll through Graceland. More pictures of the walkers and some interesting shots of intricate copper work.

Steampunk Stroll

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Steampunk Chicago Stroll through Graceland – Gallery #2

Beyond providing a look at all the finery worn on Sunday, this gallery spends a lot of time on the Dexter Grave Monument, Eternal Silence.

Eternal Silence maintains a foreboding presence in Graceland Cemetery, its cloaked form crafted by Lorado Taft in 1909.

Steampunk Stroll

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Steampunk Chicago Stroll through Graceland – Gallery #1

On Sunday I had the distinct pleasure of strolling through Graceland Cemetery with Steampunk Chicago. After a few months out of the scene, I welcomed the opportunity to reconnect with some friends and made new ones.

I also took a lot of pictures, over 150 of them. The partially sunny day and the cool breeze made for great lighting and comfortable costuming.

I will post the pictures in a series of galleries over the next few days. Gallery #1 features:

  • The Victor Lawson Monument, designed by Lorado Taft to honor the publisher of the Chicago Crusader.
  • The Schoenhofen Pyramid Mausoleum, a steeply sided gray pyramid containing the family of well-known Chicago brewer Peter Schoenhofen.
  • The Pullman Monument, built for railroad man and industrialist George Pullman.
  • A Man of Sorrows, a monument to Charles Hutchinson, one of the founders of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Victor Lawson Monument

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Making a Mallet for Harley Quinn

Making the Perfect Mallet

The character uses a baseball bat in Suicide Squad, but when Trinity decided to cosplay as Harley Quinn for Anime Midwest, she wanted a mallet. Not just any mallet, a big honking mallet that a strong man would swing around with glee and wild abandon.

Unfortunately, Trinity weighs slightly more than a strong man could bench press with one hand. Building this prop required materials that would be large enough to make a statement and light enough for a wisp of teenager to comfortably carry for a few hours around a convention floor.

We searched the Internet for help and found http://www.instructables.com/id/HARLEY-QUINN-HAMMER/. We took it from there ourselves.

Materials:

Building this prop required:

  • 1&1/2″ PVC pipe cut to a six-foot length
  • Two 1&1/2″ PVC pipe caps
  • 1/2″ wooden dowel cut into two six-inch lengths
  • 12″ cylinder concrete form cut to four feet
  • Box cutter
  • Duct tape
  • Drill with a 1/2″ bit
  • Glue
  • Tape measure
  • Paint and brushes

The Plans

To build the mallet:

  • Drill two 1/2″ holes through the PVC pipe, at one end, just far enough apart to fit inside the concrete form;
  • Cut two 1&1/2″  holes in the center of concrete form, opposite each other;
  • Insert the PVC pipe through the holes in the concrete form;
  • Thread the dowels through the PVC. Secure the dowels to the interior of the concrete form with glue and duct tape;
  • Cover the ends of concrete form with duct  tape;
  • Hammer the PVC caps onto the ends of the pipe; and
  • Paint.

Building the Mallet, in Pictures!

The Plans

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