2003: The Last Scapercon

In August of 2003, a dedicated bunch of Midwestern Farscape fans put on the fourth and last Scapercon1 at a hotel near Chicago's O'Hare Airport. Although I'd been a huge fan of Farscape since partway through its first season, a regular at Creation's Burbank conventions from the beginning (see my earlier pages for descriptions of the 2001 and 2002 Creation cons) and had long known about the Scapercons, this was the first time I managed to drag myself away from the Left Coast and visit what we Coasters think of as Flyover Country.

My main reason for breaking with tradition was an impressive lineup of guests: the organizers had managed to draw six members of the regular cast, plus one guest performer. The Burbank cons are primarily about listening to the cast and crew discuss their craft and their experiences making the show; they're secondarily a chance to hang out with folks who share the obsession, to marvel at the fact that there are others as hooked as we. But Scapercon had come from the opposite motivation. It had begun as a chance for Scapers who knew each other from chat rooms to meet in person and talk about things Farscape, to share examples of their fannish creativity. Over four years, amusing activities metamorphosed into traditions. And the informal party had become a slightly less informal gathering of several hundred fans from all over the country, with a few brave souls coming from even farther afield.

I didn't know any of this when I arrived. But it didn't take long to become acclimated. By the time I got on the shuttle from the airport to the convention hotel, I was surrounded by Scapers and getting little hints of what the weekend held. And those hints kept coming; the ladies who organize the con seem determined that newbies like me don't stay that way for long. Attending a Scapercon is a little like being adopted into a family. But in a good way.

The Heart Of Scapercon: Creative Fandom

The seven guest stars at this year's con may have been the big draw for me and some of the other newbies. But they were something new for Scapercon. The 2002 con had one guest star: former Delvian Priestess Virginia Hey. And the first two had no big names at all. I'm told those cons were all about attendee-generated entertainment. Like this year's two theatrical performances, the lead off events on Saturday and Sunday. Written and performed with enthusiasm2 by fans for an appreciative mob of other fans, they represent what's best and most appealing about the subculture that is Farscape fandom.

Froonium: The Musical

Never let it be said that Scapers shy away from big challenges. Like putting on a full scale musical with only as much rehearsal as you can have in the 24 hours between everybody arriving onsite and the first performance. And with a cast whose vocal talents are all over the map from American Idol wannabe to "couldn't hold a tune in a bucket, but has so little range you'd have to be onstage to notice". Not that it really matters. As with most fan activities, enthusiasm is far more important than ability. And so it was with this audacious ripoff of Grease, with John and Aeryn taking over for Danny and Sandy. The staging was minimalism itself. But the Farscape lyrics were often inspired. And the costumes! What can you say about 50s era poodle skirts with DRDs, a Peacekeeper logo and, in the case of Sikozu, a beautifully rendered cartoon Scorpy from Revenging Angel? Now only if they'd found something to rhyme with Froonium...

ScapeSpeare: Twelfth Night

Turning Farscape into a rock musical would have been enough for most people. But not for this Scaper crowd; one day after setting fire to Grease this brave company would launch the Bard of Avon into the nearest wormhole. Transitioning Twelfth Night to the Uncharted Territories required taking a few liberties with the text; I don't think Shakespeare imagined a duel with stuffed fish. And I was left wondering whether the large number of male roles performed by women was a demographic necessity or a subtle statement on the Elizabethan practice of all male casts. In the fishfight at right we have a woman pretending to be a man, battling with another woman pretending to be a woman pretending to be a man. Sort of like a Blake Edwards movie, only with laughs.

Arts & Crafts

Of course, Scaper creativity extends beyond the ability to adapt great and not so great literature. I was amazed at the quality of the costumes and makeup in these productions. Especially in ScapeSpeare, where the characters had to fit the equally demanding realms of 17th century England and 21st century galaxy far far away. The costume for Pilot/Narrator at left is a nice example: graceful and elegant while at the same time crablike. There were the music videos, played at various times during the weekend. (Including my own contributions to the form, one of which had its first public performance there.) And then there were the entries in the art show. I particularly liked the perspective diorama at right, which created a Farscape setting made mostly from tiny beads. (As a Mac owner myself, I thought the beaded iMac was a nice touch. And after all, what kind of computer would a technologically advanced Sebacian use?) The caption on this miniature monument to Aeryn Sun? You Can Bead More. Gee, I wish I'd said that.

The Special Guests

As I've already said, Creation cons are all about the guest stars; everything else is filler. But Scapercon is different; spending time with the cast is just another fun activity. And the organizers weren't trying to stretch it out. On the contrary: the cast appearances were mostly doubled up. Which led to some very funny exchanges, I must say. In fact, it's funny how much more entertaining these folks can be when they have somebody to play off of.

Bianca Chiminello

Our first presentation was by Bianca Chiminello, who appeared in the three part Look At The Princess story as the prince's fiancee and an undercover Peacekeeper assassin. This was Bianca's first role, and she recounted her training in combat technique and harness work. (Which has to do with cranes and wires and those Hong Kong movie leaps that are so popular these days, not some shocking S&M practics. Gosh, you've got a dirty mind.) As to what the audience most wanted to know, her little underwater encounter with Ben Browder, Bianca mostly laughed. And blushed. And allowed that she got through the scene by repeating this mantra: "married with two children... married with two children...". (Him, not her.) Most of the women in the audience envied her no end for her close encounter. We men envied him.

Rebecca Riggs & David Franklin

Bianca was it for the guest presentations on Friday. (Not that I'm complaining. Nope, not a bit.) The rest of the case made their appearances on Saturday. First up were Rebecca Riggs and David Franklin, the maneating Commandant Grayza and her trusty Smithers, Captain Braca. Rebecca demonstrated quickly that she was a good sport, responding to her Commandant Cleavage onscreen persona with a recitation of every euphemism for mammaries she and David could think of. Her description of her reaction to her new, more open costume was priceless. (The original all black ensemble left her looking like a floating head.) And she mostly held her own against David, who's a lot more vocal and a lot funnier than the character he plays. No good little subordinate here; for a moment, Rebecca looked ready to slug him!

Lani Tupu & Jonathan Hardy

Next up were Lani Tupu and Jonathan Hardy, the voices of Pilot and Rygel respectively. I'd met Lani at the Creation cons and always enjoyed his sense of humor. But I wasn't prepared for Jonathan, who has more in common with his character than those caterpillar eyebrows. (Technically speaking, Rygel's are more earbrows than eyebrows. But I digress.) Jonathan is a classically trained actor with a long and distinguished career in theatre. He has a quick and devastating wit, and no patience for those who lack his dedication to his craft. He gave a fascinating description of the problems with voicing his character: having to create a performance that responds to the other characters while simultaneously matching the mouth movements created by Rygel's puppeteers. As Jonathan put it, "The puppeteers think they're actors. They're not." Somehow, I don't think I'd enjoy having Jonathan's sense of humor aimed at me. Even when he's having fun he's just the teeniest bit scary.

Anthony Simcoe & Wayne Pygram

Last up on Saturday were Anthony and Wayne, D'Argo and Scorpius (and Harvey) respectively. I wondered how that pairing would work on stage; Wayne is quiet and straightforward, while Anthony is a human tornado, wiping out everything in his path. But no need to worry; Anthony is as generous as he is manic. And having them both onstage led to some funny moments. Like Anthony explaining the source of his bloodcurdling scheme in the last episode; he claimed he was inspired by a cast member grabbing his member. Wayne's followup was priceless. (I'd repeat it, but there's a Scapercon tradition that some stories ought to stay at the con. And you can't fight tradition. Right?)

Later, when the audience expressed disappointment that we wouldn't be able to hear Anthony and Wayne's band perform as they had done at last year's Burbank con, Anthony and Wayne agreed to a very impromptu performance. Using a borrowed guitar that Anthony denounced as crap and a drum set Wayne muted with a hotel tablecloth, the guys played one of their songs before an adoring crowd. It wasn't a great performance, not even by the amateur theatrics standard of the weekend. But it was enjoyed all the same.

Bad Boys: David, Lani, Jonathan, Wayne & Anthony

The last formal appearance by the cast was at a panel on Sunday afternoon. Bad Boys they called it, but it was just an excuse to bring all five male stars up on stage for another Q&A session. There was a fair amount of mutual admiration, with Anthony leading an appreciation of the con organizers and the attendees. Being a guest at one of these things is difficult; either you're inundated by the attention of the fans or you're kept at a distance. But if these guys are to be believed (and if you can't trust Scorpius, whom can you trust?), Scapercon was different. There was a fair amount of sniping at the Creation events, especially by David. Poor Braca; he never gets invited to their con. And that may make him the only person who regrets not visiting Burbank!

The Autograph Line

Like a good percentage of the Friday attendees, I got on the autograph line as soon as it opened. Eventually we arrived at the front of the line and paid for our moments with the cast. The line moved slowly enough that I was able to grab some pretty good candid moments. Like Rebecca applying fresh lipstick for a picture with the fellow ahead of me in line. And then it was my turn. I took the picture at right while she shook her Sharpie. (That's not a euphemism. It's a pen. They clog.) As soon as the flash went off, Rebecca realized I'd caught her looking positively fierce. I showed her the result, which got a laugh. She: "You'll have to delete that one." Me: "Are you kidding? That's going on the website!"

Autograph sessions at Creation events are run with ruthless efficiency. And fear. And surprise. And an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope... Okay, the fear and surprise are out. But the efficiency is real. Get in, hand your item to be signed, make eye contact if you're lucky, move on. But Scapercon isn't nearly so orderly. And that's a good thing. We didn't mind the long, slow line. Because we knew that when our turn came we'd have a chance for a little chat. And if a picture didn't come out, we could take the time for another attempt. (Digital cameras are a wonderful thing. Although for some reason, people seemed to have a great deal of trouble with them. So many bad pictures of Bianca that just had to be reshot. You don't think they were trying to take bad pictures just to spend an extra few seconds with a killer babe, do you? Would a fan be so devious?)

Cast Participation

By now it should be obvious that the cast are all good sports and that they aren't terribly concerned about their dignity. At the end of each of their sessions, they were given a stack of t-shirts and baseball caps to toss out to the crowd. (Why, I wonder. Were they afraid we weren't having a good enough time?) Those of us in the front row had no chance at these souvenirs; these folks have some serious reach! At left, Rebecca takes a moment to enjoy the pandemonium she's caused in the auditorium. At right is a moment before Saturday's musical. Things were delayed, with the organizers debating who should get up and tell the crowd that it would be a few more minutes before the entertainment began. And Bianca, sitting to my right in the front row, volunteered to do the honors. Personally, I'd have been happy with a few more "sorry about the delay" announcements.

Wayne & The Mambo Crowd

Traditions are a funny thing. One Scapercon tradition involves the wearing of Hawaiian shirts at the Friday night party. It began in honor of Harvey's famous Mambo shirt. But those were less enlightened times, when folks didn't know the difference between domestic fashion atrocities and the imported kind. So the tradition continues as it began, with those of us with proper shirts trying hard not to condescend to those less sartorially endowed.

None of which is relevant to the picture at right, beyond explaining why so many of us were caught similarly attired on a Friday night. As for the picture, that was all Wayne Pygram's idea. It seems Wayne looked around the bar at all the Mambo shirts and decided that he wanted a picture will all these Harvey wannabes. So one of the volunteers came to each of us and invited us to participate. Which led a few women in my immediate vicinity to offer to trade their shirts for mine. It's a mark of my dedication to Farscape that I didn't consider their offer for even a microt.


  1. Technically, what happened in 2003 wasn't a Scapercon. The Henson folks who created and own Farscape also claim ownership of the term Scaper and any derivations thereof. For the previous Scapercon the committee had to vet nearly every decision with the company, leading to delays and an enormous amount of hassle. So this year they decided not to bother; they gave the con the unmemorable but unencumbered name of SC2K3. And we all called it Scapercon, even if it really wasn't. As for 2003 being the last one, that's the current story; the folks who have put it on all these years are tired and have decided to call it quits. We'll see if anybody else decides it's too young and too valuable to be allowed to die.

  2. I almost said enthusiastically performed. But a split infinitive like that just isn't Farscape. That sort of thing belongs to a whole different kind of show.

Take me home:
Back to Burbank 2002:
On to Burbank 2003:

Disordered.org Web
Comments to: Hank Shiffman, Mountain View, California