Despite the overwhelming heat, last weekend’s live action role-play event in Odell Park was a major hit.
Odell Park is gone. It has been magicked away and supplanted by Twerkwood Forest at the hands of the evil paladin Talmore Darksbane, aka Jean-Michel Cliche, co-founder of the Hot Garbage Comedy Collective. Where the park lodge once squatted now stands a Great Temple, and adventurers gather from across the city in search of fortune and glory, casting their lots in with one of the armies set to battle for control of Twerkwood. For the forest is filled with mythical heroes, legendary weapons, and powerful artifacts that will aid them in the fight. This is live action roleplaying, Hot Garbage style – this is The Battle for Twerkwood Forest.
There is tension in the temple; people of all kinds in costumes of all kinds line the walls, talking in pairs or small groups. However, once Cliche/Darksbane explains the rules and, more importantly, the imaginary framework of the game, there is an instant shift in energy. As the red and blue teams, the armies of good and evil, are led by their respective paladins to strongholds in the woods, a giddy excitement sets in and cements an instant sense of comradery. It could be said that the real magic of Twerkwood is in the joy and closeness it brings to those who adventure within it; although there are also fireballs, an elven princess, and a dragonborn wizard.
The players are given a couple of hours to wander a marked section of the park in search of the heroes from Hot Garbage’s Players and Pints series, upon which the LARP is based: Yalla the Fighter (Kat Hall), Emmeline the Bard (Tilly Jackson), Griffith the Wizard (Ryan Griffith), and Zorr the Monk (Aaron Ellis). The heroes, along with eight other non-player characters (NPCs), task the players with challenges, riddles, and favors in exchange for powerful items, even fighting on the side of the successful team. Yalla gathers volunteers for a game of Grundleball to decide for whom she will fight; Emmeline sits forlornly on the Bridge of Melodies and asks passersby to gather news of her three old friends. Scattered skirmishes break out as the two armies mount raids to disrupt and steal from each other; battle is fought using foam weapons and the honor system – three hits to the limbs, or one to the body, sends a player back to their stronghold to be revived by their paladin.
Once the forest has been thoroughly looted, the armies muster on the open plain for the Battle for Twerkwood proper. Warhammers, claymores, giant inflatable Q-Tips, a singular gatling gun, all flash in the steep-angled sun. The battalions roll forward like waves, breaking against each other again and again, paladins cutting swaths across the battlefield as they revive their fallen soldiers; fireballs flying past only to bounce and rebound like rubber balls, to be retrieved and thrown again. There is, of course, a silliness to it all, but that’s the point. The Battle for Twerkwood Forest is meant to be fun; inclusive, joyful, imaginative fun. Perhaps one of the most remarkable aspects of the afternoon is the respectful kindness demonstrated by everyone involved. There are no cliques; there is no toxic competitiveness, no cheating, no judgment.
Expressing his closing thoughts in a Facebook post, Cliche quotes Kurt Vonnegut’s Palm Sunday, “What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.” This is the true quest of Twerkwood Forest. And it can be said unequivocally that for at least three hours on Saturday, July 27th, loneliness has met its end. Hot Garbage Comedy has provided a platform for people to express themselves, make friends, have fun, recapture childhood imagination, and experience community. And to smack each other silly with foam swords.