The Secret Story of LARP

What would you say if I told you there was a secret conspiracy all around you? What would you think if I was to reveal that supernatural creatures – the kind you only hear about in books or movies – are plotting in the shadows? How would you feel if I showed you these creatures influence humanity and direct affairs away from our prying eyes?

There is a secret story being told, I would say to you. A story that you can be a part of… if you dare.

The reason I know is I’m part of the story. I’m part of this vast conspiracy. You see, every Sunday, myself and few of my friends get together and LARP (Live Action Role Play). This essentially means for a few hours we dress-up like a vampires, werewolves, and wizards and pretend to take over the world.

Playing an evil wizard at a New Orleans LARP convention.

Live Action Role Play is a strange hybrid of improvisational theatre and Dungeons & Dragons. Building off the tradition of murder mystery theatre, LARP came into vogue in the early 90s when game designers decided there might be something compelling to making traditional table-top games interactive. This meant players could dress up like their characters and interact with other players in dramatic scenes just like in stage play.

I’ve been playing LARP for almost as long as I’ve been writing plays. In a way, I found my writing voice thanks to the storytelling I was a part of in my local role-playing troupe. When I started, I was playing in nightclubs along Queen West in Toronto. But as the hobby grew, and more players got involved, the venues also got bigger. Before long I was playing off of hundreds participants in hotel convention halls all over Canada and the States.

LARP is a unique hobby attracting a wide swath of people who play all sorts of character types. Some play kings and queens. Others are spies and sorcerers. Still others are heavy hitting thugs or deadly assassins. But all of them contribute to the mass creation of a collective story about a hidden society of supernatural power brokers vying for control of the night. Oh, the drama and the stakes!

Myself and Sara Weber from Test (2013) in the Hamilton Fringe.

I’ve written two plays about LARP. Shadow Court (produced in 2005) is the story of gamer group coming together to grieve for a friend. It was a very personal show drawn from my own experiences as a gamer. Test is no different. It’s a story about two people who get caught up in the game – both in and out of character – and how they try and negotiate their budding relationship.

Test was last seen in 2013 as part of the Hamilton Fringe Festival with myself and Sara Weber in the feature roles. Ever since that time, my director and colleague Aaron Joel Craig has been adamant about bringing it back to Hamilton. This month we’re finally getting the chance. And we’re fortunate to now have Rose Hopkins and Adam Lemieux onboard to perform in this new version of the play at the Staircase Theatre.

LARP is weird, no question. But in the words of Dana from the play: “weird is good.” And I’m looking forward to sharing the secrets of this weird hobby during the run!

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