Artist Alley: Guest Artist
Panelist: Props and Sh*t
Steve (x2), Shiva (x4)
When Providence Anime Conference debuted in 2008 as Rhode Island's first anime convention, it excited many and offended some by gearing itself towards a more adult audience. Requiring attendees to be over 21 years old and modeling its events after an academic conference rather than a typical fan convention, the con's goal was to create a laid-back atmosphere where adult fans could mingle and explore the industry in a more cerebral fashion. The age requirement also allowed for the open sale of alcohol and hentai, leading some to accuse PAC of being all about drinking and porn. In reality, PAC hosted a weekend of in-depth panels on everything from expert sewing to stage combat training, roundtable discussions with both actors and industry insiders, and relaxed social events. PAC also held only non-competitive costuming events which showcased the work of accomplished cosplayers, including a Fashion Show, Performance Showcase, and Costume Expo, in which costumes were placed on display in an art-gallery style setup. Despite its programming successes, however, PAC bit off more than it could chew for its first year and the con struggled and ultimately failed to sell enough badges to fill the Rhode Island Convention Center. As a whole, the convention was a fantastic departure from the normal con fare, and suffered only in its lack of promotion and attendance.
Sketch and Shiva's Weekend Breakdown:
As cosplayers in our mid-twenties, we were both excited to attend an anime convention with an exclusively older crowd and enjoy our hobby without teenagers running amok, tripping over hallway rounds of Duck Duck Goose, and hearing "Marco Polo!" screamed across the con center every five minutes as seemed to happen at the time. However, despite all the great choices Providence Anime Conference seemed to be making programing-wise, even as adults with grownup jobs the price tag was eyebrow raising from the get-go. Badges started at $65 for pre-registration when a large, established convention like Anime Boston only cost $35 for the whole weekend at the time. Even an expensive, big-name celebrity convention like Dragon*Con had pre-reg badges starting at $50 in 2008. On top of that, the official hotel room block at the Westin, the official hotel for the convention which connected to the RICC, were almost double that of the Hilton which was right next door. Sketch got a free room at the Westin with other artists as a guest, but Shiva, like most attendees, chose to stay at the much cheaper Hilton with Ellystar, Iceman, and Steve. The up-front cost was a barrier to many of those who wanted to attend - Shiva only agreed to go after ensuring she had three roommates to split costs - and it certainly scared off many attendees who were on the fence.
Sketch was expecting a low turnout but was still unprepared for the empty hallways he encountered Friday morning as he set up his art table. He spent most of his day wandering the convention center and the connecting mall before running his prop panel, especially since there were too few attendees to make manning his table worth his time. Shiva checked into the con Friday evening; when she picked up her badge she was immediately shocked at how deserted the RICC was. Only a handful of people could be seen milling about and Ellystar, dressed in her Terra Branford costume from Final Fantasy VI, was the only cosplayer in sight. They all headed to the dealer’s room, which was MASSIVE given the size of the convention. People would have been lining up around the block to buy badges if they could have seen the size and variety of vendors in that room. Shiva and Sketch then got into costume, Shiva having agreed to participate as Shiva from Final Fantasy VII in the Fashion Show, an exhibition highlighting the best work of cosplayers in attendance. Before the show began, we all had a blast mingling with fellow con-goers while nursing cocktails at the welcome reception in main events. Shiva also finally got to meet Tristen Citrine who was a panelist; she came up to our group to compliment Shiva on her costume: “I’d seen your Shiva online and I’m glad to finally see it in person!” During the show, performers took turns walking the catwalk while Jekka and Jeni described the costumes and talked about how they were made, which put an interesting spin on the cosplay walk-on.
On Saturday the convention center remained depressingly deserted; Sketch was mostly trapped at his art table, trying to salvage some of the weekend, while Steve and Shiva checked out the hot tub convention downstairs and then walked down to the river to do a photoshoot of Shiva's Princess Lenna costume. That afternoon we all attended PatD’s panel on running conventions; it was nice to have perspectives from several different people, including Anime Weekend Atlanta’s con chair. That evening was the Performance Showcase, which was a fantastic concept in theory: a non-competitive night of performances of the best skits from around the country. Ideally groups would have to audition to participate, but unfortunately no one signed up and Jeni begged us all to throw together some lame skits using what we were wearing an hour ahead of the show so they had something to put on stage. Sketch lip-synced the song "Smut" while dressed as Jiraiya from Naruto, Shiva and Steve half-assed a recycled version of Steve's "Too Sexy" walk-on he had performed with Leelee at Bakuretsu Con 2007, and PatrickD tried to eat up a bulk of the time by dressing as Captain Hammer and lip-syncing several songs from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog with Kurthy as Penny and Jackie as Dr. Horrible. Obviously, the show was terrible but we tried, I guess.
With that debacle over with, it was time for Jekka and Sketch to perform in 21+ Anime Unscripted along with voice actor Chris Ayres and Robotech's Kevin McKeever, which had Shiva, Steve, Ellystar, and the rest of the crowd in stitches. Freed from the constraints of keeping the show PG-13 certainly helped the humor along, and highlights included Jekka falling down a bottomless pit during an Indiana Jones-esque scene while screaming "Why is it so bigggg?" and busting out her fluent Japanese to act out a foreign horror film. The hands-down best sketch of the evening, however, was “Film and Theater Styles,” in which Jekka came home to discover her husband Kevin having an affair with Sketch through the lens of a furniture commercial, a Sesame Street episode, a Film Noir scene, a Broadway musical number, a Shakespearean soliloquy, and a Japanese game show. The audience was crying they were laughing so hard! After the show finished, Sketch, Shiva, and the rest of the crew enjoyed some of the Providence Waterfire festivities which happened to be the same weekend. Going to Waterfire was a blast; the only downside was with all of the crowds downtown for the festival, it took forever to get a table at any restaurant for dinner and we ended up with an almost two-hour wait for food. Finally fed, we all went down the street to party for the night in Shiva and Ellystar's room.
Sunday morning we arrived at the RICC just in time to catch Hyakunin Kuizu, the con version of Family Feud hosted by PatrickD. It was pretty funny, and we were honestly surprised at many of the answers! After the game wrapped up we joined PatrickD in watching a screening of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which, of course, we sang along to. Sketch joined Chris Ayres' stage combat panel, and had a great time until his partner's knee gave out. Before leaving we did one last round of the dealer’s room, where the dealers were so desperate to make sales they were practically giving things away. Steve got an awesome Final Fantasy XII wall scroll for only $9! Overall, PAC had so much potential and was made up of many wonderful ideas, but could not pull it off on the scale they envisioned in their first year. We wished PAC could have survived to year two so that more people could discover and support this concept, but PAC took too large of a financial hit to be held again.