Even as I sit writing this, I wipe away the tears on my cheeks from the joyous comradeship of the weekend, and the pain of parting with old and with new friends. Even now, the newest of friends have made the familiar stamp on my heart, and the torn feelings of unashamed uproarious snorting, inappropriate jokes (GALORE), soul-touching anecdotes and overwhelmed tears gives a promise of even more exciting things to come!
Hub Productions‘ and Culture Shock‘s Gate to the Sanctuary is the first exclusively Stargate/Sanctuary event from the Aussie-based organising team. With two consecutive events taking place in Sydney and Melbourne, they brought four loved and admired guests closer to the hearts of Australian and Kiwi fans.
It is a downside of living downunder, the expense and time of travelling so far makes it extremely difficult to host such admired and loved artists. This year, however, several hundred very lucky Stargate and Sanctuary fans managed to finally meet their some of their favourite actors and role models.
Gate to the Sanctuary this year dual hosted by Culture Shock Events was host to four very special (in OH so many ways….) artists: Grand Empress of Scifi, mother and giver, Amanda Tapping; professional actor/crazy person, Robin Dunne; the wise and spiritual Carmen Argenziano; and the spontaneously quirky Chuck Campbell.
If you’re a fan, none of these incredible human beings need any introduction, and they each shared with Australia their unique energy. Considering the scope of the convention, the organisers (Hub Productions) had organisation down pat and wrapped up in the neat package of one day.
The schedule was well planned, and thoughtful for both the fans and guests: Breakfast with the guests (Platinum pass holders), photograph opportunities followed by a series of panels, auctions, and concluding with the autograph sessions and cocktail party (for VIP and Platinum holders). All proceeds of Hub auctions go towards the Starlight Foundation, and items bidded on included an authenticated panel from the ‘Aurora’ ship (from the set of Stargate Atlantis), framed photos signed by almost the entire Stargate cast, and an original zat-gun in a case signed by Amanda Tapping.
For me, it was a particularly sweet occasion: What’s better than visiting your beloved hometown and meeting (for the first time) your favourite actors and mentalists. And on top of this, mixing with the oldest of friends and newest of dorks. Words fail. I dare Shakespeare to attempt it!
On arriving to registration queue outside the main doors of the Business Faculty, University of Melbourne, early last Sunday morning, I quickly skimmed around to see what the energy of the patiently waiting fans was like. It was pretty early in the morning (MichelleDaGreek and I had ended up catching a taxi to the city…IN MELBOURNE! BLASPHEMY, I KNOW!), so people weren’t very talkative (I’m on the national register for motormouths).
And then I saw this guy in full SGA combat gear. Epic SGA combat gear. And this Rob-guy said “Hey come join us over here!!” So that was it! From there on in we blabbed to all and sundry, and everyone blabbed back. That’s how AMAZING Australian Scifi fans are. I’d forgotten how friendly a people we are. C’mon Kiwis, time to flash those teeth and wag those tongues…!
My ticket was ready and waiting, so I breezed through registration and made contact with the chief. It’s a pity we couldn’t catch upon the day, she was utterly swamped!
All of the main action happened in the Spot basement theatre. It’s exactly that, a basement, so tweets were nigh impossible from down in Hollow Earth! So my apologies for the sporadic twitter updates. It wasn’t long before all the minions had torn themselves away from the pretty merchandise, and seated in what looked like a gigantic Repli-Carter cave. There’s no other way to describe it, though Robin Dunne called them teeth. I was waiting for a gooey Samantha Carter to emerge from the walls…any moment now…
The Hub people are true Aussies; openly friendly, you can strike up a conversation with any of them (provided they’re not chasing an emergency!). As we were welcomed, it was straight into business, and while VIP and Platinum pass holders were called up first for their photo opportunities, we played celebrity heads Stargate-style (NO HE’S NOT A GOA’ULD. GOOD THING HE CAN’T HEAR YOU OR HE’LL SMITE YOUR FACE!), then watched the Season 1 pilot of Sanctuary in epic, cinema-scale! There’s nothing quite like watching Druitt looking into the barrel of a gun held by his former lover, on a screen that’s twice the size of your living room. Yes, you heard correctly! TWICE.THE.SIZE.
So as row by row, we were called up for a massive cuddle and photo with the actors, Stargate SG1 was played on that gigantically epic screen. At some point Amanda came dashing down the stairs (she could hear it playing) with her handlers straggling in her wake as she cringed and facepalmed at seeing herself in ‘The Tok’ra’. As Amanda said later, she practically had a whole ten, no wait… fifteen (‘Okay, I’ll be serious!’) years of her life documented on camera. Olivia has some things to say about it. But more on that in the transcript!
Let me just say a word or two about the attendees here. Oh, wow. My mind is blown. Like Amanda once said, as much as these conventions are about the guests, it is the fans who make them what they are. Sitting in the midst of the cheery, diverse crowd, I couldn’t believe it. EVERY.SINGLE.PERSON here…WAS A FAN! It’s a bit like what I imagine heaven to be. Finally, we can squee and debate and totally geek out, with pretty much every single person in the building. Utter paradise! It’s as if one can finally be oneself and stand tall, because you know that you have your own part to play in this family, and everyone shares in the humour, the laughter, the tears, the strangling hugs, and the outrageous dorkism. I arrived there with five friends, and came away with fifty. THAT is what Australian scifi fans are like. BEAUTIFUL.
In the queue for photo with Amanda. Meeting her was nothing like what I’d expected. For all you people out there who respect this incredible woman, please take note: She may be generous, loving, talented, genuine, sincere and darn good-looking. But she is, above all, human. Don’t ever forget it. So walking up to her, big fat grin on my face, I said “I come bearing the love and hugs of EVERYONE *gestures* on your website!” Her face melted with an ‘AWWWWW’ as I was smooshed against her in a gigantic cuddle. “See you at AT5! “GREAT!!! :D”. One flashbulb later, I came away with an even fatter grin on my face, knees slightly wobbly, and ready to bring on whatever was in store!
Whilst hanging out with a group of these wonderful fans, we heard Robin Dunne raucously yelling from the photography corner. On trotting curiously over, we found that Robin and Amanda were just hanging out..you know, chilling. She quickly kissed him on the cheek and padded away to sounds of ‘awwwwww’ while Robin stood there pointing emphatically at his other cheek. With a sigh, Amanda shuffled back to him, pecked his other cheek, and walked away to the sounds of his claps, bounces and squees of “SHE KISSED ME, SHE KISSED ME!!!”
First up was the adorable Chuck Campbell Q&A panel. All of the panels were delightfully informal, the atmosphere throughout the whole day was relaxed and somewhat on the mental side. As most of you will know, Chuck Campbell has appeared semi-regularly on Stargate Atlantis, and recently on Sanctuary as two-face man (“I WANT TO EAT YOUR FACE!”), and he is as quirky and fun as he seems onscreen. Chuck told many hilarious anecdotes about working on SGA and Sanctuary.
Most awkward moment? He had an…um…an embarrassing man moment in the middle of shooting a scene. “Who was the scene with?!” someone in the audience yells. Chuck flicks his nose and replies, “well that’s the embrassing thing, it was with a guy!”. Said guy headed straight to his trailer afterwards, and wouldn’t speak to poor Chuck for the rest of the day. Ironically enough, Chuck got engaged this year! CONGRATULATIONS CHUCK!
When asked about his funniest prank onset, Chuck thought for a moment, pensively staring up at the Repli-Carter ceiling. Amidst a barrage of grins and chuckles, he related a time he had secretly turned David Nykl’s (Dr. Radek Zelenka) SGA computer screensaver into an explicit photo of the male anatomy. When the screensaver loaded in the middle of filming a scene, David didn’t know what to do.
As for Sanctuary, Chuck spoke a fair bit about working with Chris Heyerdahl. As fans well know, that revered actor is one of the best character artists in Canada, and an absolute gem. Sometimes, when in prosthetics for Biggie, he’d forget, and it was almost impossible to have a normal conversation with him for the enormous hair and flat nose staring you in the face. More than once, Ryan Robbin’s little daughter (who normally ADORED Chris) was too scared to go near him, until he started telling her about his new kitten and she relaxed somewhat!
Beef jerky? Apparently on a visit to his hometown In Nova Scotia, Chuck found a brand of it called ‘Sasquatch’, and the guy on the poster looked frightfully like Biggie. When he asked if he could buy the advertisement to take to set with him, the wary shopkeeper just told him to go home.
Who would he like to play as himself if a movie were made about his life? “Colin Farrell! Have you seen ‘In Bruges’? FANTASTIC film!”. How would he feel about Chuck Norris playing him? “EVEN BETTER!”
Chuck has nothing but the utmost respect for Amanda Tapping and Christopher Heyerdahl.
Dear Carmen Argenziano is a Pandora’s Box of wisdom and graciousness. His entire panel had a spiritual zen about it, and his pride and adoration for his wife Eileen (who was sitting in the audience) was beautiful to behold. Carmen had many beautiful and personal memories about beloved Don S. Davis, and moved the audience almost to tears. He discussed much about working with Amanda Tapping in Stargate SG1, on developing their relationship as father and daughter, and he described her as a Meryl-Streep class actress: When she comes into a scene, she never takes the limelight. Instead, she challenges your reactions and tries to drag it out of you in the humble manner of a true artist. The relationship just sort of happened.
What character would he most like to play? Carmen stared thoughtfully at the back wall, and after a pause, pronounced “God!” Laughter!
For Robin and Amanda’s panels, the transcripts are currently in progress!! There was too much gold and hysteria in every passing second with each of these fabulous people, so they deserve nothing but a full narrative. Robin Dunne had the audience in hysterics throughout his hour, dramatically re-enacting every anecdote he had to tell…including their trip to Tokyo, and the Holden MacPhillips saga. The first thing he warned on arrival was “I WARN YOU, this may become very x-rated!!” and then proceeded to vent his excitement and admiration for the beautiful city that is ‘Melbun’.
After a somewhat failed Aussie impersonation, and many successful Christopher Walken, Jack Nicholson and Russell Crowes, the questions began. In the last ten minutes of his panel, the organisers gave him a blank white teeshirt, on which audience members could volunteer to write or draw. The teeshirt was to be auctioned in favour of the Starlight Foundation.
The first fan wrote “Sanctuary” across his chest. After a few more demure notes, Robin bawled “WHO WANTS TO MAKE THIS INAPPROPRIATE?!”. A Kiwi girl ran down the stairs, and knelt in front of him. When she came away, the front of his teeshirt read ‘GOT YOUR SANCTUARY RIGHT HERE vvvv’. Oh the hysterical laughter! As Robin stood there astonished and exclaiming “Well I warned you that I would get inappropriate, but YOU GUYS…!!!!”, there was a familiar yell from the back of the room: “I WANNA DRAW ON IT!!”. As everyone turned, Amanda Tapping came running down the stairs, giggling madly and steepling her fingers to the accompaniment of screaming cheers and laughter.
A massive hug, some feeling up of deltoids, and many giggles later, Robins’ teeshirt had an extra ‘(keep going vvv)’ on the lower front, and ‘AND THIS IS MY BUM vvv’ on his lower back. “I’ve never felt like a piece of meat!” He bawled, and proceeded to strut his catwalk around the aisles with Amanda grinning massively under the enormous screen. “Modelling ith FUN!…..I’m too sexy for this shirt…”.
The auction winner got to take his shirt off…the poor girl was so shy!
Robin: “I WILL NEVER FORGET MELBOURNE…NEVER!”
As Amanda had crashed his panel, she was told to sit down and wait for her film reel to be played. After a second of flopping in a corner seat, she spun around clapping and bouncing excitedly and cried “I wonder who’s next?! I’M SO EXCITED!!! 😀 :D” Laughter!
Amanda’s panel began with a passionate talk about Sanctuary for Kids support of the Nepal Orphan’s Home, which moved the very ground beneath our feet, before heading into Question time. I will leave it entirely to the transcript for you to see what the experience was like. Ever question asked was thoughtful, intelligent and Amanda’s humble and eloquently dorky answers made the entire panel absolutely soul-touching, moving, hysterically funny and an experience all in itself! Amanda Tapping ‘Owns her Dork!’, and I have never laughed, nor cried as much as I did that day!
It’s an incredible experience. When you ask Amanda a question, she wholly absorbs herself in you, and her reply is always from the bottom of her heart. She does not stare at the floor, nor around the room in general, but directs her answer straight at you as if it were a heart to heart discussion on the topic at hand. I was lucky enough to ask the very last question in her panel, before she was dressed with a white teeshirt, and the hilarity began. I wanted to go down and write ‘CHECK OUT MY NUBBINS ^^^’ But thought better of it.
Amanda grabbed the pen herself, and tried to write on her own chest while someone held the mic up to her, and she started pulling faces with “GRNNGHGHREEEEEEERRRRRRR”. She ended up drawing a huge heart over her own, “because I think we should all wear our hearts on the outside” and proceeded to tell about the necklace she had given her dear friend, Cynthia Semon, and how Olivia had started to love painting hearts. Amanda took off her teeshirt and wrote her own inspirational quote on the front: Live Peacefully, Speak Kindness, Dwell in Possibility.
True to form, Robin Dunne returned the gate-crashing favour splendiferously, to much laughter and roaring!
He rubbed Amanda’s shoulders until her knees buckled and began writing on her back. Amanda stood nervously with a ridiculously goofy grin on her face, and when Robin turned her to face him, her back read ‘MAGNUS IS HOT!!!’ at which the audience exploded into laughter and cheers. Robin flipped Amanda around to face the back, and as he began signing her shoulder, she threw her hair back seductively and assumed a pin-up pose…after which he wobbled away squeezing his legs together awkwardly, squeaking out: “Okay…I’m…gonna go now!”.
Then the bidding began! At $450, a guy near the front cried out “ONE THOUSAND”, and Amanda flipped up her head and stared at him like he was some sort of crazy person. Needless to say, the guy won the bidding, and was given the chance to take her shirt off. Oh the hysteria! As he nervously tried to grasp the bottom of her teeshirt, Amanda grabbed his wrist and coyly tried to drag him into a dark corner of the room. The teeshirt came off without too much inappropriateness, and after a massive hug of gratitude, Amanda wobbled around fanning her face and giggling. I have never. Laughed. So much. In my life!
After a cacophonic standing ovation complete with cheers, screams and applause, Amanda Tapping was whisked away upstairs for the lengthy autograph process. As every single person queued up for an Amanda autograph, she was signing for a solid two hours. That woman has stamina! I tried to pick a slightly more dorky or relaxed photo of Robin. I said to him “You look so relaxed, utterly fabulouth”, “It is rather!”
I then thanked him for coming so far, as it’s rare that we have the opportunity, down here in the basin of the world, to meet these incredibly wonderful people. I managed to have a wee heart to heart talk with Amanda during the session, and then it was all over. We couldn’t believe it. The day seemed full, yet when it was over …it felt so painfully short.
I had completely underestimated Gate to the Sanctuary, a mistake never to be made again. All of we who attended are still swamped in the experience that was December 12th, every moment of hysterical laughter and moved hearts is stamped in our minds and souls for many years to come.
Even now, we are still swimming in the memories and emotion of this last epic weekend, and it’s impossible to drag ourselves away. Every moment is reliving itself in our hearts and minds. From the rare chance to meet such phenomenal guests, to the warmhearted love of all the fans who were there…and an ENORMOUS bouquet of gratitude to Hub Productions for making such a precious experience possible! I feel blessed to have been a part of it.
Stay tuned for transcripts on Amanda and Robin’s INCREDIBLE panels. Buckle up, it’s a wild ride!
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