My Time at Wizard School – Part 3: The Performers Among Us
Jumping off what I mentioned in our first article, the people at Albion School of Sorcery (Moonrise Games’ four-day live-action role-play experience) were divided into players and NPCs (non-player characters). Players were the paying guests who created fictional characters beforehand who experienced the story as a student of Albion. The NPCs were performers hired by Moonrise to run the LARP, mainly as teachers. This article will tell you more about the instructors of Albion and the amazing people who brought them to life.
If the charisma of its headmaster can determine the measure of quality at a school of sorcery, Albion is one for the ages under the direction of Thelonius Anh, portrayed by Allen Turner. As tall as Rubeus Hagrid and as warm and commanding as Dumbledore at his best, Headmaster Anh was the keystone for this year’s LARP in more ways than one. In addition to running the school and dutifully following the instructions put forth by the Magisterium (Albion’s wizard government), Thelonius taught not one but two courses: Transmutation 101 and Presence and Persona. I had an out-of-body experience while participating in Thelonius’s guided meditation in the former class. In the latter, I was encouraged to dance sassily with a silk veil and tried my best. In real life, Mr. Turner is a storyteller and professor of game design at DePaul University in Chicago. His tabletop role-playing game “Ehdrigohr,” which is based on and inspired by the myths of tribal and indigenous cultures worldwide, wildly exceeded its crowdfunding goal in 2013. Turner is also an accomplished belly dancer.
The man whom Headmaster Anh ousted from the role, Albion’s new Second Master Arturo Caspian (played deliciously by actor Dylan Schaefer), is a career bureaucrat whom most players would not expect to like. He presents with a level of certainty and even pompousness behind his statements that make you think you cannot trust him and that he does not care about the students. Of course, no character at Albion was so two-dimensional as this. By the end of the LARP, my character Dysmas chose to trust Arturo and would have gone to the ends of the Earth in pursuit of the ideal that the two of them shared. Caspian also taught Astrology to the students, a particularly prescient class to sit in for two nights leading up to Albion’s climactic Lupercalia ball.
In our world, Joe Janes, a well-tenured professor of comedy writing at Columbia College in Chicago, is no stranger to whimsy. Yet his character Hawthorne Craw detests the whimsical. The head of House Caelum (Albion’s Ravenclaw analog), Professor Craw’s duties involved teaching Magical Ethics as well as Incantations. Rehearsing the pronunciation of spells to properly fit the scenarios we came up with in class was one of those dry, repetitive, and procedural exercises we all hate doing in school but which not even a magic school could escape having. In Magical Ethics, while my classmates and I struggled to “solve” a magical variation of the Trolley Problem, Mr. Janes successfully shielded our awareness from how important that particular thought experiment would be in-game at its conclusion. Most of all, Professor Craw may not have cared much for our characters’ silly antics, but you could not miss his commitment toward helping any of the students when they really needed him in the game, as we all did.
Excitingly, several teachers at Albion this year were non-humans. As head of House Undas, the vampire Prudence Balladan instructed students on knowledge so dark and arcane that only members of her House could know it. Teenaged actress Molly Southgate brought an instinctive and willful presence to her 300-year-old vampire character, whose wants and needs blurred the lines between benevolence and self-service on more than one occasion. Going in a totally opposite direction, Professor Evangeline Cordelia Bay (played by the excellent Avalon McFadden), a 1,000-year-old mermaid, regaled her Magizoology class with the story of how she came to be stranded above sea level. Her tail was misplaced or stolen (she didn’t know which), and that caused her to experience bouts of forgetfulness, which she powered through using her hard-earned friendship with the magical creatures who shared her classroom as their home. Adjacent to the main plots happening at Albion this year, the location of Professor Bay’s tail (and the culprit who took it) was discoverable to players through an interrogation of the other staffers, namely Professor Cloelia Montclare, head of Solum House (played coyly and insolubly by character actress Morgan Schreiber). Cloelia taught Potions and Elixirs, Magic Castile (soap-making), and Personality of Crystals, all of which yielded items that players took home with them after the LARP.
On the subject of Magizoology, this class was brought to life during Professor Bay’s classes by the use of puppetry, and the performer behind all of the puppets was Sofia DiGiovanni, a graduate of Columbia College who studied comedy writing and performance. The origin story of each of the characters, as told to us by the puppets themselves, was equal parts tragic, hilarious and heartwarming. Second Master Caspian, who happened to be walking by our Magizoology class, is angry with the creature known as “Groucho” over an alleged gambling debt. Their discussion turned so sour in front of our eyes that Caspian went over to Prudence’s concurrent Dark Arts class and constructed a protective amulet to shield him from Groucho’s ire. Last but certainly not least, I would like to call attention to Mar Warner and Belle Decker, also graduates of Columbia College’s comedy writing program. Warner, who played my youngest sibling Eos, and Decker, who played Ignus House head, Professor Bedelia Titus, both wielded dual roles throughout the weekend that positively hooked the players and made us more engaged in the main storyline.
Prior to my time at Albion, I met with the NPC performers over Zoom, and the transcript of that call is below. My next article will cover my fellow LARP players and their process of developing their characters!
You can now purchase tickets for the 2023 Albion School of Sorcery using our early access link. Use our link and code MUGGLENETMAGIC to receive $150 off your ticket price through June 26, 2022.
Editor’s Note: Admission to attend Albion School of Sorcery was provided to MuggleNet by Moonrise Games. All opinions belong to the reviewer.