Interview: LARPing premieres at San Diego's Trinity Theatre Company
by Cassiopeia Guthrie, November 6, 2022
While live action role players have long known how enjoyable immersive fantasy can be, the fun of fringe comes to living, breathing life in LARPing’s premiere at Community Actor’s Theatre where it runs through November 20.
This show, written by Greg Romero and Brian Grace-Duff and produced by Trinity Theatre Company, explores the pleasures of role-playing realms through the lenses of Dungeons & Dragons (via Dungeon Master Britta and rulebreaker John) and strip clubs (via DJ Jenny and patron David) while being, at its heart, a celebration of the vulnerability and unity intrinsic to relationships.
Both actors - Kimberly Weinberger (Britta/Jenny) and Jonny Taylor (John/David) - are in their debut with Trinity Theatre, and expressed great excitement about the rehearsal and performance process. “What's really enjoyable about producing an original work is the entire production process is like an experiment… as we started doing scenes, we really let our creativity run wild and as we did the show mutated. Someone finds a moment that makes everyone fall on the floor laughing,” said Taylor. “I was also excited about it being a comedy about D&D players… I liked that my role required me to be a devoted and passionate storyteller as the DM to the character’s campaign,” said Weinberger.
Taylor, a recent transplant from Telluride, Colorado, shared that the biggest challenge of this project, for him, has been the character analysis that comes along with playing two different roles: “Finding who these guys really are and truly sinking into them so that they're living, breathing people has been a really fun challenge. More than any show I've done recently, I've had to dig into all aspects of how we conduct ourselves as people: How do we talk? What's our voice like? Where is our weight centered? What do our faces look like in different situations? The list goes on.”
Weinberger, who was living in New York when the audition notice was posted, was hopeful for the chance to return to San Diego to work with co-directors Sean Boyd and Eddy Lukovic. She said she has enjoyed the creative aspects of doing a new work: “There’s nothing we can read about or past performances we can research to gain insight into the text, so we’ve had many discussions about discovery.”
That said, it isn’t just the newness that audiences will respond to; rather, this piece is special, she said, in part due to how audiences will relate to the characters and their struggle for connection and acceptance, as well as their challenges with communicating feelings. “I think it’s lovely that even though sometimes we feel isolated in dealing with our own struggles, in reality a lot of the time our struggles are actually fairly similar to one another, and there can be a kind of unity in that.”
Of course, there’s a bit more anecdotal history behind this production premiering here, and co-playwright Greg Romero was more than happy to illuminate:
“14 years ago, Brian Grace-Duff approached me with the idea of writing a one-act play together. I didn't know Brian very well at the time but I liked his writing and I was excited about the possibility to experiment and write something just for fun. Our starting place was, I think, the top ten "Yahoo" searches from a specific day. Somehow that lead us to the idea of LARPing. From this, we wrote a one-act play, sending a Word document back and forth for a couple of weeks until we reached a predetermined page limit of 35 pages. The result, LARPing, went on to be selected by Philadelphia Dramatists Center for application to Spark Festival in Philadelphia. Spark Festival rejected the play. Brian and I sent it out to one more opportunity - another one-act play call from a Philadelphia theater - and it was rejected a second time. We were disappointed, but we appreciated the experience and were proud of the play. We were satisfied to call the experience a win - we liked the play, and, from the writing of it, we became friends and, I think, better writers because of it. We put the play away and didn't send it out to any more opportunities, both of us moving on to other things, which included later collaborations between us.”
That wasn’t the end of LARPing, however, Romero said:
“Earlier this year - FOURTEEN YEARS LATER - I got an email from the Artistic Director (Sean Boyd) of Trinity Theatre Company, saying that he got a copy of the play, LARPing, which didn't have an author name on it, but that he heard that I had wrote it. He was asking if was indeed the author of this play and if I would be interested in his company producing it in November. I emailed Brian - who I hadn't communicated with in years - immediately, thinking this was a joke he was playing on me. But it wasn't! This was an actual professional theater company that somehow, miraculously, got a copy of this script even though Brian and I made no attempt to circulate it and maybe only 5 or 6 people in the world had read it and neither of us even knew that anyone had a copy of it. To this day, Brian and I don't know exactly how this script got to this company. So Brian and I followed up with Trinity Theatre and not only were they legit (not a practical joke) but they seemed lovely and sincerely interested in the play, expressing to us that this particular play was exactly what they were looking for, and they saw so much opportunity in the production of it and how it aligns with many of their own artistic and community goals. So we said WE'RE IN. And then, because we couldn't help it, Brian and I revisited the play, expanding it, developing it, listening to more of the stories these characters wanted to tell, having a blast going deeper into it all. Now the play is 70 pages and a fully full-length experience.”
Wrapping up, Romero added:
“The play opens in November, after, literally, 14 years of the script magically, secretly, circulating through the world, somehow staying alive in order for Trinity to find it and fully bring it to life.”
Giving this show an audience at long last, LARPing (recommended for audiences 18+) continues in its run with Trinity Theatre Company at Community Actor’s Theatre through November 20. Tickets are available at trinityttc.org.