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Backstage at the Masquerade

Lisanne Norman

As a seasoned masquerade entrant, I thought it would be useful to point out some of the problems that I have seen arise at various times. Problems for the contestants, that is.

Floor Plans

The first things we always ask about when planning an entry is the size of floor we will have to perform on, how close is the audience, what kind of seating, and is the floor wood or carpet, raised or flat, are there any steps to go up or down, and where are the entry and exit points? Once we know these things, we can plan our action sequences safely without getting too close to the audience, falling off the stage, or having the wrong type of footwear to get a good group on the floor. So a floor and rough seating area plan, with exits and entrances marked on it makes life a lot easier for any contestant. Also, in costumes with restricted movement or sight, it is essential to know if there are flights of stairs from the gathering area to the con hall.


Most entrants would like the chance to use the hall for a practice session. If this isn't possible, then any room where you can mark out the exact area for them to perform on, will do. Please remember when you allocate a room and time to rehearse that it is no good doing it on the afternoon of the day of the masquerade. Most contestants will be bathing or getting into costumes, or realising they have to go to the shop for a metre of elastic or a spray can of black paint! Be realistic. The latest they can start rehearsing is about 10am on the morning of the day. And you will have to allocate a time for each entrant to be there so you don't have one group hogging the stage. A tech rehearsal in my mind is a must, especially if you have special lighting and tapes to play for an entrant. Nothing throws an entry off like having no sound when you should have, or bright lights when you need dim ones. We've had both happen to us several times!


Conspiracy in Brighton last year had a gopher for every entry, and masquerade-entrant experienced ones wherever possible: having been contestants before, they could anticipate the problems that can arise, as well as cope with attacks of stage fright and prima donna nerves! They were indispensable.

It isn't necessary for an Eastercon to go to these lengths if they don't have a large number of entrants, but it is, I think, necessary for every con having a masquerade to have several - at least 5 - are necessary and helpful, especially if you have a warm costume. In '79 Worldcon, several contestants suffered from heat prostration because of the lack of drinks and gophers to get them.


Conspiracy provided squash backstage for us as well as crisps etc to nibble. Again, very necessary since a contestant tends to miss tea because they need to get into costumes and be ready for around 6.30 to 7pm. Hunger doesn't help nerves, you know. Sugar cubes provide instant energy and refreshment. When he did as Viking show in Denmark, the Danish first aid chap hidden amongst the "village" huts, had cubes of sugars to give us when we took a breather between bouts of scripted combat before the melee began.

Repair section

with sellotape, stapler, needles and thread, and glue. OK, so experienced entrants take their on along, but anyone can find their costume developing a major split at the last moment. Again, Conspiracy provided this.

First aid

It would be sensible to have a first aid kit and a first-aider backstage to deal with any injuries, though I haven't heard of anyone hurting themselves. But anyone can twist an ankle and fall badly, and how much more useful to have someone immediately there to help than put a bleep out for them.

I hope these few tips will be of help to you. If you think the masquerade entrants are too few to warrant all this organisation and fuss, remember it is one of the events that has the largest audiences.


This page updated on 09 July 1999