I Want To Be Your Canary – A Stage Reborn
When you think of MMORPGs, you think of battling alongside other anonymous gamers on the other side of the computer screen as you take the virtual world by the horns and attempt to defeat your mutual foes. But what happens when you cross this type of gaming with artistic creativity, undeniable talent, and a passion for the performing arts? A Stage Reborn has certainly found the answer to this question, and it is our pleasure to share their amazing creation with you!
Hailing from the Diablos server, A Stage Reborn is an organization (not to be confused with a Free Company) within FFXIV that consists of many players that are immensely dedicated to promoting the arts within the world of Eorzea through live, in-game performances. The group accomplishes this through various activities within the game such as contests, video productions, and even theatrical performances. These performances are completely free to the community, and open to anyone who desires to participate or attend. A Stage Reborn’s very first live theatrical performance, I Want to be Your Canary, debuted on December 30th to such an incredible turn out that they had to add extra performances just to accommodate all the eager spectators! The crowd included many hot-shot names from the gaming community, such as Mister Happy, Sly, Dancing Fighter, and even Steve Messner from PC Gamer!
Thanks to extensive media coverage by Kotaku, PC Gamer, Gamerescape’s Aetheryte Radio, Gameskinny, MMO Examiner, She Heals I Tank, Phoenix Down Radio, Gather Together, and State of the Realm (and more still to come), as well as being noticed by SE in the official forums, this production went viral with over a thousand views on their live Twitch and YouTube streams in addition to the full house at every performance.
Unlike the selfishness and trolling that exists in a lot of other MMO communities, the FFXIV fans that attended opening night were incredibly respectful and cooperative. For example, due to rendering issues in the house before the first performance even began, the audience was asked for volunteers to step out to the lawn and return for the next showing, and many stood up without hesitation and waited patiently on the lawn for the next show. In order to accommodate the larger than expected crowd, A Stage Reborn bumped up their first performance and squeezed in two extra shows. Once the initial performance was complete, the crowd on the lawn calmly formed a line in order to attend the next show and took their seats and waited patiently for the show to begin. Everybody observed the house rules; not a single person decided to jump onstage during the show and spoil the performance! They even respected the VIP section!
The amount of support and respect that the community showed the crew throughout the night was something to marvel at and take pride in! A Stage Reborn has certainly shown the gaming community what we did not even know we were missing; we are incredibly grateful to them for opening up our minds and broadening our view on the incorporation of performing arts within MMORPGs!
If you are one of the unlucky few who missed out, you will not regret taking the time to view the archived video on ASR’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQRrERlj3f3UvZTckaHayyg
After a thrilling opening night, some of the members of the ASR cast and crew were generous enough to sit down with TMP’s Oldbear Stormborn to discuss the performances and all the hard work and planning involved in producing such an amazing show.
ASR Cast & Crew Members: Wanderer Sabaku (WS), Tsudin Everrest (TE), Rix Yuaz (RY), Wooly Woolwine (WW), Dino Dexee (DD), Lulu Guardian (LG), and Xitra Lunrise (XL)
When did you start preparing for this production?
WS: Planning started in March, rehearsals started in November.
How did you come up with the idea to do this play?
WS: I talked to our Board of directors about doing theatre. The point of ASR was to get people into performing arts. I wanted to do a play, so we started tossing around ideas and TE mentioned doing FF plays, including I Want to be Your Canary. Canary was brought up a second time by Lulu, so I thought this could really work, and we went with it. We had some people already on board with it, like TE, and I knew I was going to write and direct some of it. But I had no idea I was going to play king leo! We just did our advertising, PF, shouts, online casting call. We offered to help people level if they weren’t already on our server!
How much time did you put into preparation?
WS: Personally, there have been weeks where I have put in 40 hours as if it was a full time job. Some days will have more time off, some would be more intense. Hundreds of hours.
Did rehearsals include the full crew, or just the actors?
WS: It was full crew minus spot lights.
DD: I didn’t start spot lights until about 2 weeks ago.
Were you at all worried about whether or not ASR could pull this off?
WW: When we first started this play, I was like “wow, he’s actually going to do it!”, but I wasn’t worried because he had pulled off a lot of events in the past.
What was the rehearsal schedule like?
TE: Trying to get everyone together was crazy because you have people in all different time zones, and with different job schedules.
LG: Sometimes 3 times a week, sometimes daily.
WS: It was pretty similar to a real life theater production calendar. Most sundays were off. It varied, you just had to give everyone a day or two off. Each block was roughly an hour. Only when we got close to production did I do triple blocks.
How many of you are involved with theater in real life?
WS: My bachelor’s degree is in theater arts performance
TE: Outside of some school plays and such, WS is probably the only person.
WW: I did a little in middle school and high school, as both cast and crew.
LG: I do some theater at school
Are you guys role-playing or acting?
WS: Not roleplaying at all! Acting. We get a lot of confusion on that because they see acting in the game and how serious we are. We’re not portraying these characters outside of them on the stage. Put it this way, would you go up to an actor playing Hamlet and tell him “Hey, you’re doing a really good job RPing Hamlet!” We’re just regular FFXIV players who do theater.
Were the details planned out from the start, or did you make it up as you went along?
WS: Emotes, macros, and all of that came up during rehearsal. All the races have different emotes, so that all came up on the stage in rehearsal. We changed a few things in the end, like how Marcus drinks the poison then has the NIN ability go off.
DD: He couldn’t actually stab himself, so we went Romeo and Juliet, instead.
So Wanderer, do you make all the decisions, or is it a collaborative effort?
WS: I would say it was kind of 40% collaborative and about 60% of me making my own decree on things. Someone would bring up a suggestion and I’d be like “no, the vision is set, don’t change it”. Or someone would try something and I’d give a thumbs up and change it. One example was changing victory pose to flash, because we were having timing issues with the jumps. So we got the idea to use flash, and there was a little push back, but we knew the audience was going to love flashy things and it’ll look better even if you miss your timing.
We need to know – how did they nail that hug so perfectly?
WS: All the credit to that perfect timing to Zaynava and Rayle. Not only did they make perfectly timed macros, they used the /countdown command so that way they would have that engage pop when they would do the emotes. They, on their own, practiced those hugs for weeks since day one to perfect them.
Were you nervous during the week leading up to the performance?
WW: So this is going to sound weird, but I was not nervous about performing. I was nervous about any technical issues that was going to happen to me. I don’t think anyone was worried about acting, but more worried about the technical side.
Did you have any issues with cast not showing up, or losing interest?
WS: Nobody flaked or dropped out. Interesting thing about that, though, is that before this team was created back in September or so, we had 24 people totally signed up and nearly the entire list dropped out in October. So I said this will never happen, I don’t know why I am trying again, but I will have to re-recruit the entire team. I somehow pulled together this amazing team that I am super proud of in a single week.
Did you have any performance or technical issues during any of the performances?
WS: We had one slight technical issue where a /doze emote didn’t go off. For some reason his controls weren’t going off. It was just those few moments. Lulu plays on PS3, and I was really worried because the last time we had a lock out event all of the PS3 players disconnected and couldn’t come back, but it worked fine this time.
The “housing lockout” was mentioned several times – what exactly is that?
TE: If they attempt to zone into the house, it will kick them right back out into the yard. Around 100-110 players inside of the house will keep out anyone else.
WS: I was kind of worried because we experienced this before, but we had a back up plan which is why we were able to ask for people to wait and did an extra show. I pulled members into the board channel and said we were in emergency lock out mode. We’re going to lock the house and start a show ASAP. And that worked really, really well! I was pretty nervous, especially with the lockout and with Sly and a few others offering to step out, I felt like I let them down. I figured with Aya (SE community rep) there maybe they’ll bring this up as something they can fix in 4.0!
Did the presence of FFXIV royalty like Mister Happy increase your nervousness?
DD: It made me more excited! It was a lot more exciting while I was doing my ushering duties down by the VIP area.
As actors, how specific were the instructions you had to follow?
LG: It sort of depends. Mine was stand towards the center of the stage versus stand in a specific spot. But some people had specific spots.
TE: Sadly, you don’t get white tape in XIV! There were definitely issues during rehearsal where someone would get on the wrong bed. Cornelia got in the wrong spot and King Leo was bawling and going inside of her.
How many members in your cast and crew?
WS: 15 actual individuals, not including the alts.
How pleased were you with the execution and the community response?
WS: If I were 100 nobles, Queen Brahne would be impressed! We have this saying about 20/10/5. We use it for performances now. Hope for 20, plan for 10, expect 5. In this case the response was more than we ever even hoped for.
DD: We expected to see a couple hundred people and do our 4 scheduled shows and have our archives. When word came that there were hundreds of people outside, I was like “wow this is going to be huge!”
How many people attended the opening night shows?
WS: You hit the housing lockout at around 110 people, so, excluding cast and crew, that’s around 90 spectators in the house for each show, and we did 4 shows. We also had upwards of 700 people watching on Twitch, and another 600 watching on youtube.
How did you feel after the performances?
TE: Tired, hungry. I think we were all almost in shock, we were so excited it was shocking to us.
Will the response to the first performance change your future plans?
WS: It’s not making any huge changes in any plans. We’re going to learn from the capacity thing, we’re going to put in a safety plan so we can handle it a lot quicker. Also, I can at least comment that the set will be a very big one compared to Canary, so that will be something very fun to play with.
ASR Cast and Crew share how they got involved with ASR and what role they played in the performance of I Want To Be Your Canary:
LG: I always saw them in party finder and thought “eh, it’s a player event,” but the more I saw the events the more intrigued I became. I saw in party finder something about FF9 and I Want to be Your Canary and said “I NEED TO BE IN IT!” In the play I was Steiner (Prince Schnider).
DD: I first heard about A Stage Reborn during October when they were running a haunted house with giveaways and all of the stuff around that. Because of the college schedule, I couldn’t be there for the event and watched the Youtube archives the week following. After that, I looked at the website, got on Discord and spoke with Wanderer practically all night that first night talking about Canary. After that, I stuck around and kept watching the rehearsals and helping figure out what macros, emotes and abilities would work for effects. Wanderer asked how much I knew about Final Fantasy, and I told him the truth: Far too much, but I enjoy every moment of it. When he asked for spot operators and ushers, I signed the volunteer agreement and threw my name into the hat! Before the performances, I’m one of the ushers that helps handle questions regarding press, people needing help set up their cameras and emotes. During the performance, I run the House Right spotlight.
XL: I heard about ASR through their Halloween event. I saw them doing giveaways, and I didn’t exactly know who they were, probably some rich group of people who enjoy giving stuff away, I thought. Then in November I was walking through Limsa and saw Wanderer looking for cast members for “FFIX I Want to be your Canary” in shout chat. I thought it was weird, but decided to give it a try since I had already finished the majority of the game and was about to quit for good. My role is Twin Pluto Knight/Benero. As a Pluto Knight, I run through the entire stage trying to capture Vivi (scene 1). For Benero, I support King Leo by participating in his battle (scene 2). Both parts are mostly focused on comedy.
WW: I first heard about ASR in late 2015 while browsing Party Finder. It was advertised as a costume contest, which I believe was one of their first server-wide events. I was one of the contestants for it, and happened to win! I enjoyed it so much that I asked Wanderer if I could help out, since they were looking for crew members at the time. I started to get more and more involved with ASR and I became the cameraman for some of their future events. I enjoy re-enactments, and past events hosted by ASR gave me confidence that they could pull this one off. I wanted something to do in FFXIV besides raiding and PvP and ASR filled that gap!
I was Vivi during the play. I even Fantasia’d to darken my skin and give me bright yellow eyes, just like Vivi! My job was to make the two Pluto Knights go insane and piss them off. It was a bit of fun! As a bonus, I sat in the VIP box after the chase scene, so I got in with the cool kids!
TE: I first met Wanderer when he was advertising giving away prizes in PF and in /shout in The Gold Saucer. It piqued my interest, so I sent him a message to inquire, which lead to me crafting and donating some prizes to up their pool. This lead to me joining the website and following along with what Wanderer was doing. In order to get some screenshots he held a 10 million gil giveaway which had an extremely high turnout, we all learned about the housing capacity and Wanderer learned an even bigger lesson – that he could not organize and maintain this many people alone. So Wanderer reached out for some people to help with events and I was one of the people who helped. I decided to stick around and now a year later, here I am, one of the members of the ASR Board of Directors.
Day one, when Wanderer asked us about Canary, I told him “any role you need that you can’t fill, I’ll do it.” I’m not well versed or experienced in acting, but I was determined to help with the project any way I could, not just because I’m an ASR Director, but also because I was excited for the play and I’m genuinely invested in Wanderer’s goal of bringing the arts to video games.
During the performance, I was the House Light Controller and Orchestrion Operator.
RY: I found Wanderer in PF back in October 2015, asking for volunteers. Wander and I particularly bonded over music, and I am currently on standby for musical commissions, should the need arise for ASR. I kept asking Wander for more work to do, more ways to help (I was probably a pest, to be honest). In February, Wander did a leadership overhaul, and assigned me the role of “Digital Media Manager,” and made me an official director. I’ve been a director of ASR ever since!
For this specific production, I wanted to try my hand at being in front of the camera instead of being the camera. So when Wander started asking around for people to play the roles, he offered me either Blank or Zidane, and I decided to play Blank, as my Au Ra character fit him better.
Since I had done camera work for a while, I decided to create a second account for a cameraman, Rix Roemix. I played Blank on my PS4 and ran Roemix and the stream from my PC. In the end, I had five different devices being used, with my iPad being used to watch the stream, my iPhone being used for Discord ques, and my Android tablet having my cue sheet, on top of my PS4 and PC. Everything considered, I’m glad to have played a part in I Want to be Your Canary, and I’m greatly looking forward to our future projects!
ASR’s Website – https://www.astagereborn.com/
Search for A Stage Reborn on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Twitch, Instagram, Tumblr, Reddit & Skype
State of the Realm – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPjdDjQ0Eks