Airship Isabella – A Candid Interview About Their Origins and Future Plans
Most groups would simply use such a list as an unusually guest friendly situation where there were enough questions to answer the ones that were most comfortable and ignore the rest, but in their usual fashion, Captain Whittaker and his other half Amelia answered every question put before them quite candidly. I learned that they gathered many or most of the Airship family about them, (including Captain Delacru and the crew of their sister ship the Neo Dulcimer) to read the list of questions and get general feedback and suggestions before writing an answer to each. The list is long enough that it will be offered to several Steampunk Magazines as smaller topographical groups of interview questions with answers, but the interview will appear in it’s entirety only on the Convention Fans Blog Magazine website.
1. What was your first exposure to Steampunk as an actual subculture. (as opposed to say Steampunk movies or fiction books)
Ikkicon IV, officially. But even then we didn’t necessarily see it as a subculture, but more as an aesthetic movement. Events of that weekend did, however, cement in our minds that there was a definite attitude about steampunk, specifically that it was a snobby, elitist white movement that we wanted nothing to do with. We also realized that weekend that there were many people in the steampunk movement that wanted to see that change. As we started talking to people, we made it our personal mission to change that attitude and belief. A lot of our personal philosophies of what the steampunk subculture is and should be developed out of that convention and grew as we realized there were many other groups with the same ideas.
2. When did you first encounter people in steampunk attire that was distinctive enough to really draw attention and what effect did it have on you?
In the Summer of 2008, we had a friend who called us and said “I found your people!” She told us to look up steampunk on the internet, and we were immediately enthralled. I had been wearing the Victorian “goth” style since the 80’s and hadn’t really given it up. Steampunk was a natural evolution and was beautiful. We were members of the Burning Flipside community at the time, and decided to do a steampunk-based theme camp, specifically, we decided to build a two story “airship” dance camp. It eventually wound up in my front yard as a 50’ X 20’ two story structure that appeared at Flipside 2009, and we called it Airship Isabella.
3. When did you first decide to develop a fictional Steampunk Character Personae, and what do you think motivated you to do so.
We first decided to build characters after Flipside 2009. Originally, it was just and extension of the inspiration that the steampunk aesthetic had infused within us. Then it developed into who we would be within the crew, and grew from there.
4. What prompted your choices in development of your personal character?
We based most of our characters on the people portraying them. It’s always easier to act as someone you truly understand. So most of the characters are bigger than life versions of ourselves. We have our vampires and a clockwork doll, but mostly it’s just us on steroids.
5. In what ways is your character like you, and how are they different?
Like I said in the last question, mostly our characters are just like us only exaggerated, so I will concentrate on how they are different. Most people have things about themselves that they wish they could change or wish they had made different choices. We encourage our members to write those things into their stories and give them a chance to do things differently. What’s funny is that most of us have come to realize through story development that there are no “better” decisions, only different ones.
6. How are these similarities helpful? Do you ever find them unhelpful as in making it more difficult for your fans to notice that you shifted into the “in character mode” to perform or entertain?
As far as the similarities being helpful, yes, it’s easier to write and develop the character as we have intimate knowledge of how they think. The most problematic issue is that people do have problems seeing where the character ends and the normal human begins. Certain characters are obvious, but even those are problematic. Some of our grump characters are in the process of getting face lifts because they don’t work well off stage. We do most of our performance in the crowd and sometimes the grump doesn’t go over real well. People don’t realize it’s an act and are offended. So, it’s a double edged sword.
7. At what point did this Steampunk Personae become more than just a guide for wardrobe development and begin to be a character you acted out or used as a personality pattern to guide your responses or behaviors in a public setting.
From the very beginning. The personae were developed specifically for crowd interaction and performance, so it’s always been our goal to have them be dynamic characters. Before we started the circuit we had about two months of twice a week character building and acting classes. It wasn’t enough. But the characters are always growing. It was last summer that they started having a life of their own.
8. As you and your crew are best known for expertise in the creation of fabulous Steampunk Ensembles, accessories, and weapons, and for running panels/teaching classes about these skills, what would you like to share about background or previous experiences that you think helped you to develop these talents in steampunk design and fabrication?
Captain Whittaker apprenticed as a leather worker and chainmailler as a teenager and young adult in the SCA. Most of the skills he uses in building his armor come from there. He just recently began apprenticing again with an armorer. Amelia started sewing doll clothes at 4 and it has been a lifelong passion. We have quite a few incredibly talented artists. Amarante, Lulu, Captain Delacru and of course, Jonsey, have backgrounds in art. Mostly, though, all it takes is a desire to learn and create, and a willingness to practice and keep trying.
9. When and with what basic plan did you decide to make character acting in a public setting a significant part of your steampunk existence? Or if you do not do character acting much at this point, what other roles do you most often perform in the crew.
We have always wanted to have character play an important part in our crew. The biggest issue you are going to have, and we did have, in performing original characters is that it takes time for people to get to know your characters. We generally don’t have an hour or two with people in seats to build character and storyline. So, you have to do the leg work in advance and have distinctive appearance cues to help people enter that suspended reality.
10. When you are at Steampunk, Anime, or Scifi events, do you often use spontaneous method acting? In other words, is it common for you to suddenly drop into character in order to respond in an entertaining way to questions, or start into a familiar “in character” interaction with a crew mate, or even draw them into the act of telling war stories about adventures on the airship, road, sailing ship, vampire hunting etc.?
Absolutely! That’s our favorite part of conventions! In fact, there are certain members of our crew that that is there dedicated mission. We schedule everyone to cosplay, but Jonas and Nyxie are our cosplay leads.