Browncoats: The Musical

Zoe is pregnant, Mal relives his glory days, Kaylee and Simon want to take the next step in their relationship and Jayne… wants to become a preacher? Sounds like it could be the long desired second season of Firefly but it’s actually Browncoats: The Musical!

Browncoats Playbill

Produced by Tea Time for Mad Girls, this one-night-only event brought our favorite characters back to life in an immersive theatrical production at the Gemini Scorpio Loft in Brooklyn, NY. Complete with themed drinks and cookies (the latter provided by Simple Sweets by Melissa), the event was a mighty fine shindig!

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Part of the stage set up at Gemini Scorpio Loft

This production took place about 9 months after the events of Serenity, with Zoe preparing to give birth and the crew figuring out what that meant for them in the aftermath of the political climate surrounding the events on Miranda. The musical disregarded the canonical comic Serenity ‘Verse, and instead choose to feature Mal preoccupied with re-joining the war effort. This means different things for each of the members of the crew: though Mal thought he could count on Jayne and Zoe, Jayne wants to follow in Shepherd Book’s footsteps and Zoe wants to be with her baby, even if she isn’t sure how to be a mother yet. Mal wants Kaylee and Inara safe and planetside, and doesn’t really care much where Simon ends up as long as River is expertly piloting the ship (what with her psychic-ness, and all). Simon won’t leave River and Kaylee doesn’t want to leave Simon and, despite Mal’s wishes, Inara wants to fight.

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From left to right: Paul White as Simon, Dava White as Kaylee, Francesca Negron as Mal, Ann Patricia as Zoe, Jen Wu as Inara, Kati Kane as Jayne

It takes the near-death of every crew member and the surprise visit of a beyond-the-grave Wash to get everyone’s head in the right place and keep them together on Serenity where they belong.

Though the set was fairly minimal with small details here and there, it worked as a representation of Serenity where actors ran between stage areas as they would do on the ship herself. However, all the running coupled with a full audience crowding a 2nd floor loft meant the venue was very warm. What’s more, the stages were not set up in such a way that the audience could see all the action. I learned later that the actors had only been to the space for the first time earlier that day. Given that, I was especially impressed with their set-up.

Browncoats: The Musical is a brand new production and that showed. Certain characters were written incredibly well, while others were portrayed superbly. I was disappointed to hear the word “damn” so many times when there’s an in-Verse alternative (gorram!). More complex characters like River and Inara had weaker writing, and unfortunately the actors’ interpretations did not feel like the characters I love.

Inara (Jen Wu) and Mal (Francesca Negron) lacked any real chemistry.

Mal and Inara lacked chemistry, and Jayne felt a bit sassier than I was used to. However, Jayne’s acting choices were some of the strongest, especially because the actor committed to said choices. Kaylee’s writing and performance were spot-on, while Simon fumbling between his sister and the mechanic he loves brought me right back to the TV show. Zoe brought the whole production together, though I was disappointed that she was played by a white actress. At times, the singing was weak, but I do want to note the heartbreaking performance of ‘’Lullaby’’ by a back-from-the-dead Wash, which brought tears to many eyes.

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Laurel Detkin as a heartbreaking Wash

This musical weakness is understandable, since this is a brand new production with little to no budget featuring volunteer performers rather than professional actors. Like most shiny Browncoat productions, the musical was more a labor of love than of cashie-cashie moneys.

Because the singing was rough at times, it did not do justice to some of the more well-written songs, for example, Kaylee’s love song to Serenity. I did like River’s interpretive dance though!      

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At times, the writing for Aleks Kovacevic as River felt too “on-the-nose.”

The production needs to work out some kinks if they hope to perform it again, but I was thoroughly impressed by much of what was provided and performed in this show. Plus I’ve had “Here’s to the Browncoat Cause” stuck in my head goin’ on a few weeks now… I hope to see more done with Tea Time for Mad Girls’ Browncoats: The Musical!

My First C2E2

Last weekend at McCormick Place in Chicago, I had the pleasure of attending the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2). It was an awesome way to round out my trip to the midwest which involved two conventions, Wizard World St. Louis and C2E2. The two conventions were very different but both were excellent experiences!

The disorganized coat check on our way in the 1st day
The disorganized coat check on our way in the 1st day

C2E2 is run by ReedPop, the same folks who run Emerald City Comic Con (a con I hope to attend soon!) and New York Comic Con. The latter two are four day events but C2E2 is only three days: Friday through Sunday. Since this con is local to my family home, my sister & I took public transport into downtown Chicago and met up with our friend in time to catch one of the C2E2 shuttles to the actual convention center. I really like the shuttle service, because it saves me a bunch of money that would be used on parking, but more on that later.    

Friday was our lazy(ish) day. I cosplayed Elizabeth Swann, my friend cosplayed Flint (from Black Sails), and my sister debuted her Jean Grey cosplay from X-Men Apocalypse. As soon as we got to the con, we had to go through a very frustrating bag check, especially since my sister and I only had very small purses– anything that would have fit in them reasonably would have fit in our pockets! Our friend, on the other hand, brought a real sword, which we have taken to several other conventions since it is not sharp.  While it would be very easy to peace-tie so that the blade isn’t accessible, security confiscated it and told us there was no coat check so they would hold it in security check. We later checked the program and found out there was a coat check but at least we ended up having the sword babysat for free all day! In the future, we know not to bring live steel to C2E2, since it wasn’t worth the hassle.

Wil Wheaton panel C2E2Once inside, we headed upstairs to the opening panel on the mainstage, featuring Wil Wheaton. I recently started watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and friends who have met Mr. Wheaton have told me how nice he is. Though I’m not familiar with his recent work, he has an amazing panel presence (coming from folks who consistently run panels at conventions!), turning awkward questions into excellent anecdotes. After the panel, we walked the extensive show floor and artists’ alley. The show floor for C2E2 is smaller than NYCC and it seemed a touch smaller than Wizard World Chicago, which surprised me.

geek career panel c2e2We finished up Friday at the panel “Professional Geek: How to Turn Your Passion into A Career.” I hoped for a panel that would talk about monetizing your passion. Instead this panel featured folks who were in the right place at the right time. Their advice amounted to “do internships” and “work hard and sometimes for free,” which are both things I do not support. At times, passion-projects can mean you work for free but artists deserve to be paid for their work.This panel’s advice only contributed to the idea that if you love something, you should not make any money from it. Disgruntled, we left the panel early, picked up the sword, and headed home for the night.

On Saturday, I wore my Kaylee coveralls with the blue silk jacket & parasol,c2e2 blue jacket my friend wore Luffy (One Piece), and my sister wore her pink Sansa dress (Game of Thrones). Since the Sansa costume is so delicate and hair so intricate, we drove to the convention. The cheapest lot was $15, but that amounted to roughly the same price as public transport for the three of us. It also meant we spent a lot less time getting to the con, could bring food with us, and could get home much earlier. Luffy got several compliments on their pants and mentioned I had made them, which I did not realize at all until I looked more closely at them. Hah! The first panel we attended focused  on gender identity in comics and we were happily surprised by the diversity in the panel as well as their recommendations. Since we had walked the floor on Friday, we spent a bunch of time going between the XP stations. I first experienced these at NYCC; you register your badge and then head to prize towers to tap your badge. You can win prizes within the towers as well as autographs, tickets to secret panels, digital webcomics, and more! C2E2 limits your badge to only tapping in once per day per tower, but they also had a scavenger hunt between several additional towers. We each won a small prize and, though not what we had really wanted, it was still fun! At the end of the night, we headed back to the car, munched on leftover takeout, and then went home and to bed.

20170423_165608Sunday, my friend was not feeling well and stayed home. My sister wore her purple Sansa dress and I wore my screen accurate pink Kaylee shirt. We took public transport and, since it was the last day, we decided to do one more thorough walk of the convention floor. At 1:30, we settled in at the Cosplay Center (which amounted to several round tables with chairs, and a long rectangular table with only ONE mic to present from, off to the side of the show floor) for our panel “Cosplay & Consent.” I moderated the panel, which featured Tess, Raggedy Amy, and Rebel Among the Stars as panelists. We talked about our experiences cosplaying, particularly as they applied to situations of questionable consent. We gave advice for photographers & con-goers on how they could ask for consent & get their pictures okayed by cosplayers, as well as what cosplayers could do to make sure their consent was respected. Though a different style panel than I am used to, I enjoyed sharing our information with the C2E2 crowd.

c2e2 panel

My sister and I finished walking through the convention, made final purchases, took a few last minute pictures before we headed out. Despite a few small things, C2E2 was a really well run convention and we all had a great time. I hope to be invited back again in the future!pink shirt c2e2

My next event is Browncoat: The Musical in NYC and my next potential convention is Wizard World Philly, June 1-4 (or check my up to date convention list here!)

From Thrift Store to Your Door: (Part of) My Etsy Business

I’ve been selling on Etsy since 2012, and have learned a few things over the past several years. Curious about my process? Read on!

ACQUIRING THE CLOTHES
Before I purchase ANYTHING, I go through reference photos I’ve saved in my Google Drive or bookmarked in Chrome. This way, I have access to them on my desktop, laptop, and phone, depending if I’m home or on the go. If I am looking for something specific or looking to modify something for a costume, having these references readily available helps refresh the image in my head so I know what to look for.

When I visit my hometown Chicago, I have 8 or 9 stores that I visit all in one go. It usually takes all day and involves multiple snack breaks! In Rhode Island (where I now live), I have 4 Savers within a 20 minutes drive. The prices at Savers aren’t as good as the Chicago stores, but they are closer to me (one of them is within walking distance) and I check them more frequently. I walk through the aisles of t-shirts and knits, looking for anything that reminds me of Kaylee or features motifs similar to the show. I also keep an eye out for anything especially reminiscent of River, Zoe, and Inara. Once I find and purchase all the clothes, the hard work begins.

PHOTOS
20160529_134937The next step is to take pictures of EVERYTHING. In Chicago, my sister helps me out; in RI, I get assistance from one of my housemates. I do my best to take photos outside in natural light, because these look the best & showcase the colors of the clothing really well. If there’s an item of clothing that is too small for me, I take pictures of it on another model (usually my housemate or my sister). I try to get at least 3 or 4 different poses, and multiple pictures of each pose (because I blink a LOT). I also take close-up detail pictures of shirts so that customers can get an idea of the patterns on them.

Once I’ve gotten pictures of everything, I transfer them to my computer and do a preliminary cull. This is where I delete anything blurry, where I’m blinking, or the clothing doesn’t appear flattering. I pick 3-4 photos that I like the best of each item (plus the detail shot), and then transfer these into Photoshop, where I do a very basic edit to clean up colors, contrast, brightness, etc. Here, I also crop images so that they focus more on the shirts that I am trying to sell than on the background or anything else in the frame.

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DESCRIPTIONS

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After I am happy with the pictures, I rename everything to describe it (for example, Peacock shirt 1 for the first picture of the peacock shirt). In some cases (like the Zoe belt I am currently offering), I also  take a few measurements to accurately describe the products. After that, I start the tedious process of uploading these pieces to Etsy.

In Etsy, I have to specify a ton of information before I can save items as drafts; things like what ‘type’ of item it is, who is going to use it, how big it is to calculate shipping, and more.Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 2.50.25 PM I take the time to fill this out. My favorite part of the listing process is writing a description; I get to imagine how Kaylee came to own each of the shirts I’ve picked out, or on what she occasions she might wear them.

SHIPPING

Part of adding listings to Etsy includes figuring out how to ship items & how much it will cost. Luckily, Etsy can often provide the shipping information for me when I fill in certain details.

Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 2.44.51 PM When items are ordered from Etsy, I get 2 emails. One from Paypal (since all my Etsy funds go there), and one from Etsy. The Paypal email goes into a folder labeled ‘receipts’ so that I can track how much I made & relate that to my taxes. The second email stays unread in my inbox until I am ready to ship; once it ships that email gets deleted.

I will almost always use Etsy to purchase shipping labels, since it keeps it all in one nice spot, and I get an email receipt. I can then print the label, and schedule a pick-up through USPS so I don’t have to find a time to get to the post office. And then items are off to their new homes! With almost 80 reviews and 4.5 stars on Etsy, hopefully I am doing something right.

Are there any questions you have about my process? Comment and let me know!

How I Comic Con on a Budget

As many of you know, I have been cosplaying since New York Comic Con 2012. Since then, I’ve gone to more than 20 conventions all over the US. While there are countless articles that acknowledge how expensive cosplay is, and ways you can save money when making your own costumes, there aren’t many that discuss how expensive it is to go to conventions and show said cosplay. It is possible to save money while still going to conventions, so I want to share the ways in which I have been able to afford to go to so many conventions.

When saving up for a convention, it’s important to think about all the costs that go into it. Most money is spent on these three things:

  • Convention tickets (around $100 or more for Wizard World and larger conventions)
  • Rooming (usually a couple hundred dollars for a weekend)
  • Travel (usually at least $200 if you have to fly)

Aside from these, it’s also worth keeping in mind that you’ll likely have to pay for public transportation to/from where you’re staying or parking (unless it is a hotel-based convention, and you are staying in the hotel). If you’re going with friends, it’s worth figuring out if parking ends up being cheaper than all of you taking the train or bus. For example, even with $13 parking at Wizard World Chicago, for my best friend, sister, and I to take the train in and out costs $16.50. This doesn’t account for gas prices, but driving also means we can leave stuff in the car/go get it later, and means we save time on the commute and don’t have to worry about catching the last train.

Birthday dinnerEating is another important (and necessary thing) during conventions. It’s important to be aware that, depending on the location of the convention, there may not be a lot of options for food. NYCC is located near a ton of food carts, but most cons only have the food within the convention center, which is usually fried and/or incredibly expensive. I save money and eat better by bringing granola bars, small sandwiches, or trail mix with me and munch on it throughout the day. While a lot of places do check bags at the door, most will let you get away with small snacks, and you’ll feel a lot better eating healthier and saving money.

Not to mention, you’ll probably want to create (and stick to) a budget for things like cosplay or buying things in the exhibit hall.

With that said, I’ve found four ways that really help save money when going to conventions:

  1. Go Local

Not only will you you save on room and travel, you’ll also save on food since you probably have groceries and a way to prepare them at home. That, or you probably know of cheap places to eat! While not every city has a big convention, there are loads of smaller (read: cheaper) conventions to go to all over the place. This website lists cons all over the country, by state, regions, guest, theme and more! Starting with smaller/local conventions also can be a good way to build your way up to bigger cons.

  1. Plan Ahead

Buying convention & travel tickets in advance often makes everything a lot cheaper. Many conventions offer cheaper rates for tickets the earlier you buy. The same applies to travel tickets and hotels. The earlier you can plan for a convention, the more you can save up for it as well.

  1. Make FriendsNYCC 2015

I have only once paid for a hotel room at a convention, and even that was split among friends. More often, I make friends in various online fan groups & at various conventions I have gone to, and trade housing for their & my local cons. Hotels can be super convenient (especially when the conventions are held in them, like Arisia, Super MegaFest, or Dragon*Con), they feel more like a vacation, and they often save time in terms of getting ready & traveling back and forth to the actual convention. But they can cost a lot, and often mean you’ll have to pay extra for food because you won’t be able to cook your own.

Making friends can help with more than just rooming prices. Making friends with artists & vendors is something I try to do at every convention. Maybe your exhibitor friend will have extra tickets that his booth isn’t using, maybe your artist friend will let you store snacks or your jacket under their table so you don’t have to coat check. If nothing else, it gives you another perspective on the convention & someone to talk to throughout the con. Also people in booths love it when you bring them food because they are often trapped inside FOREVER.

  1. 10309098_286752051492721_8489566264219115016_nHelp Out

Finally, volunteering in some form or another can get you free admission into conventions. Many conventions offer tickets if you help load in or out, and even the bigger cons like Wizard World and NYCC regularly use volunteers for tons of jobs (including sitting with celebs at their booths!) and reward them with admission and even sometimes photo-ops or autographs. If you’d prefer a bit more freedom with your weekend (or you’d really like to cosplay rather than wear a volunteer shirt), submitting panels or programming is an excellent way to get in. A huge percentage of the cons I’ve gone to, I have either performed or presented panels.

Going to a convention will almost always cost some money. But it’s possible to enjoy huge conventions without breaking the bank. Have you used any of these tactics? Do you have other ways you save money? Share them in the comments at the bottom of this post!

Whedonopolis’s 2015 Halloween Event

2021 Update: Given recent allegations against Joss Whedon, Ask Kaylee Frye no longer supports him. This blog post was written prior to allegations going public. Ask Kaylee Frye believes & supports all survivors.

On October 18th, 2015, fans of Joss Whedon’s work gathered together in Los Angeles to see the man himself speak a bit before joining together (and singing along) to watch Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog.12120023_554560068029531_595936910563645241_o I was one of those lucky enough to be in attendance. Tickets originally went on sale September 13th, and were sold out by that evening. If you recall, that was the same weekend as Long Beach Comic Con, and so I missed out on picking some up then. Then, the day before the event, some extra tickets went on sale and I was sure to grab them as fast as possible! I chose to wear my most screen accurate cosplay, including the pink shirt I made with custom printed fabric!

12109949_504925226342068_7372415465684204266_oThe event began outdoors, with vendors offering various Whedon-verse merch, and everyone having an overall good time.

Once we checked in, we were got fancy swag bags that had loads of cool things that would let us interact with the movie! They included Captain Hammer’s hair and dry cleaning receipt (4 sweater vests), your very own bad horse puppet, bubbles for doing laundry, lacy gently wafting curtains, a penny, and a little confetti popper for when the Death Ray explodes.

My favorite thing, however, was the glowstick, which we were all instructed to use during the song ‘Everyone’s a Hero’

After that, there was a costume contest, and [spoiler alert] I won! It was judged by Shawna Trpcic, the woman who costumed designed Firefly, Dr. Horrible and many other shows!

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My prize was the awesome SDCC exclusive Buffy funko pop!

It was an amazing time, and I am so thankful that I got a chance to experience it with other fans all around me. To be in a room where everyone is singing this hilarious musical was incredible, and I hope to get the chance to do it again someday!

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