I had never met René before the Las Vegas convention, so you can guess that I was pretty nervous/excited about the Creation event coming up. I arrived on Thursday night, with my parents in tow, and met up with a fellow Nanite, Janet. All four of us stayed in what I must say was a little room, if you're expecting big things from the Hilton.
I don't have a great memory, so I'll give you the highlights of my trip. I met up with the other Nanites on Saturday -- that was the day that Nana, René, and Armin were supposed to be signing. We had a "room meeting" planned for that afternoon with Nana, and later on, I was headed to my first René "room party".
My first actual experience was kinda embarrassing. They had Armin, Nana, and René behind the Q&A stage in this little curtained-off area signing autographs all at the one table. Realizing that, I kinda freaked out, because I am such a fan of theirs that the idea of standing in front of all three of them scared me! So I grabbed a few of my Nanite friends and got in line. I first met Armin, and smiled hello. He seemed very sweet, and more than willing to talk, but I was too embarrassed. I just plunked down my photo to the man helping him, smiled and said "hi." Next up, Nana. When she saw we were next, she got up from her chair and gave us all a hug, and said she
didn't think the signing was going to take that long (eventually they signed over an hour longer than they should've), so the other gals were trying to set up a quick time to meet later to have that meeting!
Meanwhile, I noticed Marguerite sitting next to René. The whole time, he's watching the four of us hurrying along, with a little cock of his head and a nice, curious-seeming smile. I felt so bad for ignoring him, because after all, I was dying to meet him, that I actually said something. Except to Marguerite instead! I introduced myself as the Stephanie who had been e-mailing, and then finally talked to René. But here's where it's unfortunate. I said, "Oh? hey? hi? It's you! Um, hi, nice to meet you. I guess I'll see you later," and shook his hand and walked off with my cheeks flushed! I couldn't believe I was such a dud! "Oh, hey, hi, it's you." OF COURSE it was him!
Now, I know I went to the Love Letters performance, but I can't remember exactly when that was. I will say it was my first time ever seeing it, and I was blown away. I thought they did a fantastic job. I personally thought they both gave wonderful performances, and I even teared up a little when René's guy, Andy, starting yellin' at Nana's gal. I actually wasn't aware that was just one act, not the whole play, until later at the room party, when René said so.
Luckily, I ran into Marguerite after the play, who talked me into going to have my photo taken with René and Armin. My friend Janet walked me to the photo op area, and made me stand in line. After about 15 minutes, in walked René and Armin, all smiles, and they disappeared into the curtained-off area. Marguerite walked by next, and made sure I didn't escape. I told her I was ready to run, and she promised she'd be inside the curtain waiting for me, so I'd see a familiar face. Meanwhile, hee hee, she made Mike stand next to me outside the line, so I wouldn't run. I think I'll always be grateful to her for that, because I now have a great picture of me with two of my very favorite actors.
Cut to Quark's Bar for the "Happy Hour." I was hoping I'd be able to get over my shyness and actually talk to René or Armin this time. They were making the rounds talkin' to folks and taking pictures. I really did try for about three seconds! Then I stood in the corner and watched. Darn that Armin, though. He got around to me. He remembered me too! 'Cause when he saw me, he said, "Thanks for having your picture taken with us". Yay, I was remembered! I didn't want to take a lot of his time, so I quickly told him that it was a real joy to meet him after being a fan for years and years, and that my mom would be very jealous, as she's a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan.
René stopped by there, too, but I was even more shy, and just tried to get away from him, still being embarrassed about being me. Mike to the rescue again! Another fan I had started chatting to wanted her picture with René, so I said I'd take hers for her. When she offered to do the same for me, obviously I was going to be too shy to say yes, but Mike was there insisting, and he surprised me by being there with his digital camera to capture the moment!
Which brings us to the room meeting. I got there and "held the most comfy chair" for René. But as soon as I saw him entering the room, I jumped up and headed for the corner, hoping to hide. Later, he noticed that there were some new faces in the group...and asked new folks to raise their hands. Now, you guys know I didn't. But darn that Marguerite, she asked where I was so I had to draw attention to myself by raisin' my hand. And you know what happened? He said "Aaaaahhh yes, I've been running into you all day." ACK! So I quickly tried to explain: "I'm not stalking you, I swear, they made me do some of it!" Oh yeah, I'm smooth.
At the party, we heard about René's daughter's wedding, and his views on what went wrong with Dance of the Vampires. Mostly, I just sat there listening, just enjoying the fact that I had done it. I wasn't graceful about it in any way...but I had finally met my very very favorite actor. I had said hello, and even gave him a hug.
Oh, one more thing. My mom and dad did get to meet Armin. He got in an elevator with them on Sunday. Apparently it was pretty crowded, so he had to face in toward the back of the elevator, actually facing my parents. My mom about died, I tell ya! She kept squeezing my dad's hand until he stuck his hand out and said, "Is this who I think it is?" Armin, being the gentleman that he is, said "Yes sure, I think so". He shook my dad's hand, and when he shook Mom's, all she could say was, "Principal Snyder," and grin like an idiot. (See where I get my nervousness from, folks??)
So, to sum it up, my impressions on the actors: René -- He was just lovely and sweet and all around nice. I am even more of a fan now, just having met him. Armin -- Very kind and down to earth. Very funny. It was a joy to meet him...I am a bigger fan now.
See ya'll next time, I hope!!
Creation Entertainment put on a huge Convention in Las Vegas August 1-3, 2003, at the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel, home of "The Star Trek Experience" and Quark's Bar and Restaurant. My husband Mike and I only got to see a tiny sampling of all the events that took place, but we had a great time!
Armin was the first main-stage speaker on Saturday, August 2. He started by saying that he has a serious fear of flying, and that he takes "a little blue pill" to help him relax. He explained that the pill is good for four hours, and since it's only a 45-minute flight from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, he was "still a little drunk," which got an appreciative laugh from the audience. Then he invited people to ask him any question they liked, on any subject, and he promised to answer honestly. He talked mostly about DS9 and his role on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In one funny story, he described how the first high school principal on Buffy was eaten by monsters and therefore, when he was cast as the second principal, he thought that his character should eventually be eaten, too, and was very satisfied when that's exactly what happened. Some time later, he met the actor who was the new high school principal on the show, and tried to convince him that, in the interest of Sunnydale tradition, he should try to arrange for his character to be eaten, too! Armin may have been feeling a bit tipsy, but that didn't stop him from giving an interesting and entertaining talk.
René's first public appearance at the con was the autograph session. The autograph "room" was a curtained alcove behind the main stage in the convention's big ballroom, so everyone in the autograph area could clearly hear what was being said through the public address system-but no one on stage, or in the audience, could see who was in the autograph area. René, Armin, and Nana were scheduled to begin autographing at 11:00 a.m., but right after Armin finished his talk, the Creation staff made an announcement that René's flight had been delayed, so Armin and Nana would start the autograph session without him, and he would join them as soon as he arrived.
Mike and I wandered into the hallway outside the ballroom, hoping that René's flight delay wasn't too serious. We didn't want to miss him when he finally arrived, because I was hoping to be able to help out at the autograph table. We hadn't been standing there for more than a minute or two when a familiar voice behind us called, "There you are!" It was René! He continued, "Come on, we're late," and we hurried back to the autograph room.
The autograph session had just gotten started, so René had no trouble catching up with the few people he had missed. The tables were set up so that people went past Armin first, then Nana, then René, and the line flowed pretty steadily most of the time. People brought the usual assortment of items to be autographed, and as usual complimented René on many of the roles he's played over the years.
What turned out to be an ongoing joke, though, was that about one in four people who came through the line said something to René about his delayed flight. Some said, "Glad to see you made it," some said, "Hope your flight wasn't too bad," some said "Sorry to hear you had a rough trip," and countless variations on that theme. The first couple of times people said any of these things, René looked completely puzzled, so I leaned over and explained about Creation's announcement that his flight had been delayed. He just stared at me and said, "My flight was right on time!" It turned out there had been nothing wrong with his flight at all -- he had arrived as scheduled, first thing in the morning, and was shown upstairs to his hotel room, to sit and wait until a Creation staff member came to escort him to where he was supposed to go!
Once René understood what people were talking about, he was very good-natured about it. If the line was moving quickly, he just nodded and said "thanks" to people's comments about his "delayed" flight, but if he had a little more time, he would explain that he had been there all the time, just waiting to be fetched from his room.
I guess the whole incident is a typical example of the disregard convention promoters sometimes show for the fans. But as Mike pointed out, they must have decided it was easier to blatantly lie to us by inventing an imaginary flight delay, than to admit that they'd temporarily misplaced one of their guests!
Nana had been planning to get together with her fans, the Nanites, after the autograph session. She and René seemed to expect to finish by 12:30 or 1:00, so that they would have a reasonable break before coming back to the ballroom for their 3 o'clock performance of Love Letters. But the autograph session went on for so long that Nana had to postpone her club meeting. In the end, René, Armin, and Nana signed autographs and chatted with fans virtually nonstop for three hours. René and Nana left the autograph area shortly after 2:00 to get a bite to eat and go over their scripts before the play.
The Love Letters performance was wonderful, in spite of some confusion that led up to it. My impression was that the Creation people simply didn't know what they wanted, and kept giving René and Nana contradictory instructions. In the weeks leading up to the con, Creation asked them to do the play, then told them they had only 30 minutes to work with. When Nana and René explained that Love Letters was a full-length, two-act play, the Creation people asked them to just "do the highlights" -- which is ludicrous, considering the nature of the play. After giving it a lot of thought, Nana and René decided they could do an edited version of the first act which would make sense on its own and not take too long. But on Saturday, shortly before the performance, the Creation people again told them they should do the whole play!
The ballroom was a huge, open space, with seating for perhaps 3,000 people. Nana and René stood at podiums placed side by side on the main stage, with bright lighting on them and the overhead ballroom lighting dim. A camera provided an enlarged view of the actors on a big screen behind the stage. At first, as Nana and René started their reading, audience members were still milling around in the aisles, and there was a low murmur of noise and voices from both the audience and the autograph sessions in progress behind the stage. In fact, the ballroom never became completely still, the way a real theatre will. But in spite of the distractions, after just a couple of minutes you could hear people getting quieter, and the attention of the audience focusing more and more tightly on René and Nana's performance. They are both such gifted actors that, even in a ballroom, they brought the characters of Andy and Melissa to full emotional life. They drew the audience into the story, and had people laughing and applauding and, in the more serious moments, sitting in rapt silence, hanging on every word they said.
During the first act, Andy and Melissa's friendship progresses from elementary school into college. They have ups and downs, but they also admit how important they are to each other, and they want to give a serious romantic relationship a try. Even though their plans to meet during spring break fall through, Andy writes, "Somehow I don't think this is the end. It could be, but I don't really think it is. At least I hope it isn't." And that's the end of Act One.
The audience gave them a huge ovation, and Nana and René were looking forward to doing the second act...but then a Creation staff member put a note on their podiums saying something like "That's all we have time for -- we're done. Thanks!" So that was the end of that!
All in all, it was strange to see a half-performance of Love Letters, but even with the obstacles, it still worked. Nana and René created fascinating characters and got the audience to believe in them and care about them. And isn't that what live theatre is all about?
At 5:30 Saturday evening, René and Armin did a photo session arranged by Creation. For a fee, a professional photographer took a photo of interested fans with various actors, and promised to have the prints available to be picked up the next day. I heard later that the photographer had some problems with his equipment, so some people had to wait and receive their photos in the mail a few weeks after the con. Even so, it seems like it was a nice way for people to get a high-quality photo with their favorite stars.
Right after the photo session, René and Armin joined the fans for a "Happy Hour at Quark's Bar". They said a brief "hello" from the small stage in the bar, then went out into the crowd and spent the rest of the time talking with people individually, shaking hands, and posing for photos. While they were circulating among the fans, entertainment was provided by a piano player, by Vaughn Armstrong playing ukulele and harmonica, and by Max Grodenchik performing some of his hilarious song parodies to the accompaniment of the bar's karoke system. Max even got Armin up on stage with him for a couple of the songs. They both have very nice singing voices, but it was obvious that Max knew the words to his parodies a lot better than Armin did. It was a nice gathering, and you could tell that many of the fans enjoyed the chance to have a few words in person with their favorite actors.
After Quark's Bar, René joined our fan club members for a multi-club room party. One of the Nanites, Mirrani, and her roommates generously provided the room, a full-size suite, and everyone chipped in for refreshments. Even though he'd had a very full day (and, as we learned later, was already feeling "under the weather" with what turned out to be the beginning of a nasty sinus infection), René sat and chatted with twenty-five members of ORACLE, RAFL, FBTS, OARFC, and other friends of our clubs for about 45 minutes, on a whole range of subjects. Among other things, he gave a synopsis of the second act of Love Letters, described his daughter Tessa's June wedding, discussed some of what went wrong with Dance of the Vampires, and talked about his hopes to return to Broadway some day in another play. It was great to have a chance to visit with him!
On Sunday morning, Creation held a charity benefit breakfast, and Gayle Stever helped run the silent auction part of the program. Gayle provided some of the auction items, including DS9 scripts, baby pages, VHS tapes, and various photos donated by René, Nana, Sid, Armin, Andy, Dominic, and other friends of our clubs, and Creation donated the rest. About 175 fans attended the breakfast. A small ballroom was set up with two buffet tables at either end, a lot of round tables for seating in between, and the silent auction tables along one wall. René had an early morning flight and couldn't attend, but many of the other actors came and ate breakfast with the fans, and talked with people and posed for photos. Among the people I saw were Nana, Armin, Chase Masterson, Robert O'Reilly, J. G. Hertzler, John Billingsly, and George Takei. Roxan Dawson stopped by and auctioned off a baseball cap, given to the cast of Voyager at the end of the series and autographed by everyone in the cast. That live auction alone raised $1,100, and made the winning fan very, very happy!
The silent auction also went very well. As Gayle did a countdown to the close of the auction, it was interesting to observe two different bidding wars that ended quite differently. At one end of the table, one person held the bid sheet in her hand and wrote her last bid as Gayle said, "...two...one...the auction is closed" -- and then another person snatched the sheet from her and wrote a larger bid below hers! Gayle had to come over and diplomatically resolve their argument over who was the rightful winner of the item. At the other end of the table, another two people competing for a single item handled the problem much more equitably. As Gayle did her countdown, they both took pens in hand and wrote their names one below the other on the bid sheet, and then kept their pens touching the paper until Gayle said, "...one..." and then, simultaneously, wrote their final bid. The person who wrote the higher number won, and the other person conceded without an argument. I thought that was a wonderfully reasonable way to handle the situation.
Because of Nana's full schedule at the con, her only opportunity to meet with the Nanites was Sunday morning, so she only stayed at the breakfast a short while before going off to spend some time with her loyal fans. I didn't get to go to the meeting because I was helping at the auction, but I'm sure everyone there had a great time!
Creation conventions are often hectic, sprawling affairs, full of crowds and long lines, and this particular event had so many actors in attendance that most of them were given only 30 or 40 minutes on stage. But thanks to the generosity of René and his colleagues, those of us involved with the DS9 fan clubs had some excellent, additional opportunities to spend time with them, and that made all the difference in turning this into a successful and memorable weekend.
Photos by Lynne Fuller and Mike Krause