Pokémon — the beloved Japanese media franchise that started as a video game and has since expanded to trading card games, animated television and film series, comic books, toys, and at one point, even a theme park — is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2016, and All Geeks is all over it with an unofficial anniversary party. All Geeks is an all-inclusive cosplay party based in Chicago that tours nationally. The show features drag, burlesque, and other acts, all dressed in character to bring a theme to life. This Friday night, All Geeks celebrates Pokémon with Gotta Catch 'Em All at Berlin Nightclub in Chicago! The party starts with the Berlin Region Tournament at 9:00, followed by a variety show at 10:00.
So this is a perfect excuse for me to talk with actor and All Geeks cast member Connor Konz about his craft!
Aria Baci: We hear a lot in queer culture about identity and the terminology that surrounds it. The list (and the abbreviations) seem to go on and on — because it's a spectrum. But performance style is a spectrum too, and we want to know: how does Connor Konz identify as a performer — burlesque, circus, comedy, cosplay?
Connor Konz: I get this question a lot. Up until my involvement with All Geeks, I've been comfortable calling myself an actor. The work that I've been doing lately, however, is more than that and I don't really have a term that I identify with. Sometimes I say cosplay performer, but that seems limiting. Some people have referred to me as a Bio King, which I don't mind, but the term seems a bit silly — an over-justification for someone who just wants to dress up like a raccoon on occasion. (Editor's note: Connor has actually done this.) People love to categorize to make things easier to understand, and I get why that's important, but at this point, I don't really understand exactly what it is I'm doing and that's exciting for me. Call me what you want, just don't call me late for dinner. We raccoons need our garbage.
What first inspired to you start performing?
I think it was a tube of toothpaste, honestly. There used to be these free-standing Aquafresh toothpaste tubes that I was really obsessed with, and one year, my father made me an Aquafresh Halloween costume. I wore a lampshade on my head and encouraged good dental hygiene. My father really did a lot to fuel my imagination. I'd really be interested in revamping the look if anyone is interested. The party could be called Cavities and I think it would go downhill in a hurry.
I think it sounds fresh! (Sorry.) Can you tell us a little about your experience as an actor so far, and how that brought you to All Geeks?
I moved to Chicago about a year and a half ago to wait tables and cry myself to sleep — I mean act. My first audition in the city was for a small play about fan fiction, and they were looking to cast someone to play a very gay Harry Potter. To no one's surprise I got the part. Adam Guerino (of All Geeks) came and saw the show one night and reached out to me about hosting the All Geeks Harry Potter night. I figured I'd do one show as something weird to tell my kids about, but then it was such a unique event that I couldn't stop. I was terrified beyond all reason for that first show (shaking, I opened the show by uttering a solid paragraph of unintelligible "English"). It has really pushed me as a performer to be comfortable without a script.
Connor Konz by Joe Lewis Creative
Do you remember your first Pokémon?
You always remember your first, right? I was a Bulbasaur kid. I actually entered a raffle at a Luby's (a Southern senior-friendly cafeteria with a solid post-church crowd) and won a big Pokémon prize package. This was the time in my life when I had the most friends, and also the only time I've ever won anything besides an iPod shuffle (but those don't really count for anything).
As inscrutable as it might seem to the uninitiated, Pokémon does actually tell a classic story. But how does this tale of empowerment and adventure translate to a nightclub where Fireball will be served?
Pokémon is about friendship and community, or at least that's what they scream about in the theme song ("You teach me and I'll teach yooou"). I'd like to find a friend who can teach me about holding my alcohol. But seriously, I think this event is going to bring together a bunch of weirdos who want to celebrate a franchise that brings them joy. We'll be having a Pokémon Tournament with mini-games before we dive into a show that has some really unique (sexy) takes on these beloved characters.
So what do you have planned for the show this Friday night?
I’ll be performing as Exeggutor — essentially a five-headed palm tree. I take back what I said about sexy in the previous answer. It's something I've wanted to do for a while because it's just so ridiculous and I haven't seen anything like it. What really gets me jazzed about an idea is when I have no idea how I'll pull it off. If you're reading this before the show, cross your fingers say a prayer and send me all your positive voodoo. I can guarantee I'm in a dark corner burning off my fingerprints with a hot glue gun trying to make this work.
If I counted them correctly, there are 722 species in Pokémon. Is there a single species that means more to you than the other 721, or is that just Sophie's Choice in pocket monster form?
Somehow I’ve managed to make it 24 years without figuring out what choice Sophie has to make. (My acting professor is rolling in her grave right now. Get out of there Judy, you aren't dead!) The choice is difficult though. I really like Alakazam. And Muk. And Chansey. And Poliwag. And Porygon. I've been told before that I'm most like a Meowth, which I only marginally resent. But I suppose there are worse things than being a rich, annoying cat.
And speaking of Sophie's Choice, do you have a favorite actor? It doesn't have to be Meryl Streep.
OK, OK, I'll watch the damn movie! It's Vincent Price at the moment. Also Julia Louis Dreyfus. I have a shocking tattoo of them that made a woman go into labor once. So the answer is no, you can't see it.
What would be more challenging for you as an actor: performing onstage with another actor whose work you respect and admire, or knowing that person is sitting in your audience?
Knowing that person is in the audience, for sure. I'd assume they were watching in judgment because that is, unfortunately, one of my default settings. In an ideal world, I'd be on stage with this respected performer and we would have a stellar tap routine followed by a steamy love scene, in which my body is tastefully masked behind one of those Japanese paper slidey walls. The audience is full of people that I actively disrespect and they have to hate-watch me be talented.
Do you have any future plans you can share with us?
Besides learning to tap and meeting with the Event Planner for Cavities? Lots of All Geeks shows, for sure! I’ll be finishing up the Improv Conservatory at The Second City Training Center later this year, as well as performing with the sketch comedy group The Lullabisexuals. I really fell in love with performing Nosferatu at our All Geeks Halloween show, and I am trying to find other ways explore what's really going on with that character. I can't officially say that's it's a blockbusting Hollywood trilogy with four installments, but the message boards have been going crazy over the international trailer. I never really know what's next for me, but I do know it'll be weird.
We'll be counting on that, Connor.