Cosplay and Fantasy
William Shakespeare, in his play “As You Like It,” written in 1599, had Jacques tell us that “All The World Is A Stage.” That is truer for some of us than others. For over 30 years the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Huntington hosted a Renaissance Faire on there grounds at 109 Brown’s Road. Over 75 volunteers, joined by more than 20 professional actors, musicians and story tellers, created the medieval festival, entertaining 1000s of New Yorkers over Memorial Day Weekend. Sands Pointe also hosted a renaissance faire, complete with jousting!
Interestingly enough, the staff were not the only people sporting glistening suits of armor or swinging swords. Many guests joined the fantasy, dressing in simple and elaborate costumes, as lords and ladies, peasants and knights, archers and bards, and test coming as The Bard himself. Although covid has interrupted this year’s faires, the NY Renaissance Faire in Tuxedo, NY usually draws 10’s of thousands of down-staters from the city and the Long Island each year.
Siblings Tina and Joseph Polichetti are on staff at the NY Renaissance Faire. Tina, a singer and actress with a beautiful voice, shared the following:
“I started at the New York Renaissance Faire as a visitor with my parents and my brother, and that one day was all I needed, and I loved getting to dress up and have everything around me make me feel like I stepped back in time to a place filled with equal parts history and fantasy. I was a guest for four years before joining the cast and have now been with the Renaissance Faire for 3 years. Now working there, I love seeing how happy people are to come, as if they’re not themselves unless they dress up and spend the day with us in our village. I also love being able to recreate the magic that I first fell in love with for others, whether it’s their first time or their tenth time.”
There are other fantasy hotspots, Fan Conventions or “Cons” where fans get to assume their favorite character or super hero. The most famous of these, Sheldon Cooper’s favorite, Comic-Con International moves from city to city, and country to country. Long Island had it is own fan convention, Eternal Con, last hosted at Nassau County. These cons host the writers, actors, musicians, and producers that make the stories come alive in theaters and on the big screen and your tv screen at home. Often, the actors are in full costume and make-up, as are many of the fans. Fans might make their own costumes, mix and match with store bought costumes, or even purchase complete outfits from head to toe from places like Rubie’s Costumes, headquartered in Melville, but with global sals. There are even artisans that make custom costumes and accessories of every kind, from boots to swords and weapons to full, real suits of armor.
I ran into my friend Lorraine Bondi-Goldsmith and her husband Michael at Eternal Con, a mismatched Bellatrix Lestrange and Matt Murdock.
Respectively, college science professor and lawyer, Lorraine and Michael reflect the diversity of cosplayers. Lorraine muses:
“For me, I started cosplaying about 5 years ago. I started with pretty easy costumes. I’ve progressed to a little more elaborate ones, but nothing that costs a fortune. After I did my first cosplay, which I think was Elektra from Daredevil, it was just so much fun bringing a character you love to life. I was hooked after that. My favorite cosplays were The Bride from Kill Bill and Bellatrix Lestrange from Harry Potter. It’s cool when people want to take your picture because they love the character. For me, In some ways it’s like being a kid again and “playing dress up”, and getting to nerd out at the same time. It’s more fun than I thought it would be.”
Which characters show up often depends on what’s popular. I used to think cosplayers choose a character because they have similar looks and build to a character, but I quickly learned that was not always the case. I ran into and photographed “Jessica Jones” and thought how lucky the cosplayer was to look just like her. But the next day, she was someone else and pulled that off without a hitch. Ghostbusters, and the usual superheroes are always represented, and the last few years Game of Thrones and Guardians of the Galaxy have been super popular. Cosplayers often form into groups that will become the whole cast of a show, such as Northeast Watch, when the group does Game of Thrones.
If you take a close look at our Guardian of the Galaxy, Gamora,
and then study our Northeast Watch, you can see the versatility that dedicated cosplayers bring to the table. If you look up Casterly_Fox or Samanthas_Cosplay on Instagram you will see what I mean. They make a tremendous amount of effort building the character from costume design to mannerisms, hair and make-up, and documenting with photos and videos.
“For me cosplay is a great way of expressing myself artistically. I love taking on the challenge of trying to figure out how to cosplay as a character that I love or identify with. It’s also a really great way to connect with friends and make new friends! I love cosplaying characters from the same show movie or comic book with friends and getting a whole group into it! One final reason of I love it is watching how excited kids at conventions get when they see one of their favorite characters dress up and brought to life. I have cosplayed a variety of characters from my first ever cosplay of Cersei Lannister to Gamora, Hela and my own creative night King Dark Maul Mash up!” – Jaclyn Fox, Physical Therapist for children with brain injuries
Not all cosplayers are strictly amateurs. Many have managed to monetize their passion with paid or sponsored appearances, even with sales of posters and photos. It takes a lot of talent and work to assume the identity of a character and carry it off in front of die-hard fans. The cosplayers that can successfully pull off multiple characters with some semblance of perfection can create great opportunities for themselves. For a charity Halloween party for PinkTie.org at The Carltun in Eisenhower Park, GOT players came not only locally, but also from upstate and even from Canada. The fan conventions have a bit of competition going for them, with prizes for best costume, artwork and many other categories. I am sure everyone in fandom is eagerly awaiting the passing of covid and the relaunch of cons and faires.