The 14th Annual Xena Convention… Live!

Blogging the 14th Annual Xena Convention — to see all Xena Con posts, click here.

In case you’re looking around your hometown and wondering where all
the lesbians have gone, they’re in Los Angeles at the 14th Annual Xena
Convention
.

Proving that geekiness is always in fashion, hundreds
of fans of the groundbreaking female-centric action/adventure/fantasy
series starring Lucy Lawless as a warrior with a dark past and Renee
O’Connor
as her soul mate and sidekick will spend the weekend loving on
the show and its stars.

Unlike the last two years, I wasn’t able to be in Los Angeles this weekend. My mother is ill and not even Xena matters more to me than my mom. But AfterEllen.com’s KT Jorgensen, who has photographed the convention for the last two years along with me, is phoning and texting in reports, and will be uploading photos all weekend. She’ll also give us full coverage of Lucy’s two concerts at the Roxy Theater tonight and Saturday night.

Just a word on how this works: I’ll be adding to the posts from the top down this year, so the new stuff is always on the top. If you want to read it in chronological order, start at the bottom. 

We’ll have one post — this one — for the convention coverage and photos, and a second one for Lucy’s concert. Just hit refresh from time to time to see the new information at the top.

———–updates below———————

[Update 14] We have photos of Sunday’s appearance by Lucy Lawless and Renee O’Connor!

First, though, we have Claire Stansfield‘s (Alti) suprise visit to the convention… always a nice surprise, especially when we get her hugging on Lucy. And for this photo, I’m truly trying not to let my imagination go there.

Hard to believe they played mortal enemies:

Then again, Xena and Alti had a few things in common, including that horrible laugh they both did when they were fighting…

Renee came out and spoke to the audience:

KT took some incredible photos this weekend, but this may be my favorite:

Have I mentioned how much I love Renee O’Connor?

Oh… you’d noticed?

You’re saying I was kind of obvious about it? 

 

I wonder who she’s looking at here?

I knew you could guess!

I’ve never seen Lucy in a haircolor I didn’t love, but this might be the one I like best.

Lucy was fresh off her two incredible concerts at the Roxy… do you think she’s happy?

 

Maybe she just really loves her fans. 

Or perhaps she’s just incredibly happy to be sharing a stage with Renee again… as happy as we are to see them sharing one!

Do you think they called each other up and decided to wear the same thing, or that it just happened?

I could stare at that picture all day. Kind of how Lucy keeps staring at Renee… 

 

Taking a question from a fan…

Then KT went backstage to take some behind-the-scenes shots of Lucy and Renee.

Did you think all those commemorative items signed themselves?

Then Renee smiled pretty especially for all of us at AfterEllen.com…

And so did Lucy — although it was more of a D’Anna Biers smile. But definitely pretty.

KT’s exhausted, but she does have more photos, and I’m going to pry more details out of her when she recovers from the weekend, so there may be more.

But in case that’s it, let me just thank you all for spending the weekend with me — the next best thing to being there! Battle on!

[Update 13] Isn’t it completely fitting that the 13th update … ooooo scary …. is to tell you that Claire Stansfield (Alti) just showed up unexpectedly?

Photos later; until then, this will have to do: 

[Update 12] As promised, a surprise from Renee for her fans.

She’s screening her new short film, Words Unspoken, which she completed just a few days ago. It’s the story of a man, long estranged from his father, who helps him realize his dying wish. Renee wrote, directed, stars in, and produced this film, and it’s a work that comes straight from her heart.

Speaking of heart, this is an excerpt from the interview I did with Renee last week, in which she speaks about her new film and her future plans:

Christie Keith: So you’re in post-production on your short film, Words Unspoken?

Renee O’Connor: I am.  Today I’m going to finish the final pass of the sound mix, but Emily Saliers from the Indigo Girls wrote the whole music for it. She’s amazing. I keep telling her I’m one of her biggest fans. And I really am, and Amy as well.  I love their music.

It’s funny, because she knows how much I just love and respect her and her work.  And, our sound mixer — this wonderful man who I’ve worked with many times — he has a family and he goes to church, and when he saw Emily’s name he was blown away.  And he said to me, “She and Amy write the most sincere, truthful music I’ve ever heard.”

And I went, “I know.”  And then I tried to tell him more about Emily and the different things that she does in her own personal and political life.  But it was so nice to have that connection, to take the two different worlds and pull them together, you know.

Christie: I had no idea that she was doing the music.  That’s so incredible.

Renee: Yeah, she’s amazing.  She is so amazing.  It’s a short piece — the film is only 17 minutes long, and there’s only music at the end, but this is hopefully just a stepping stone for me to keep doing different and larger pieces.

Christie: Are you going to take it around to film festivals?

Renee: I will.  I will.  I will definitely.  Hopefully everyone will get to see it in some capacity that does it some justice, because it’s a nice little piece.

Christie: I would really like to see you break out as a filmmaker into a larger audience.  It seems to me where your passion lies.

Renee: Oh yes, it’s definitely who I am.  So we’ll see.  We’ll see where it goes.

Christie: Do you want to keep acting though or would you rather - 

Renee: Oh. I love it all.  I’m acting in this piece as well.

Christie: Yes, but sometimes directors act in their own pieces because there isn’t someone else, or because they want their name attached to it.  I just wondered, would you rather move beyond acting in other people’s work and focus on your own films instead, or would you rather just keep doing both?

Renee: I don’t see myself limited by having to choose.  We’ll see.  There are other people I would love to work for as an actress, and even as a director. But while I’m being open to other people’s projects, I still have to keep nourishing my own.    

Christie: Who would you like to work with?

Renee: Oh, you know.  It’s some of the biggies, like Clint Eastwood and Ron Howard are still two people that their whole body of work I look to and respect.  And I would love to work for them as an actress.  It would be incredible to have that opportunity, to keep learning from them.

And Jodi Foster, she’s amazing.  Meryl Streep, all these people. 

Christie: Have you ever met Jodi Foster?

Renee: I have not.  No, no, I have not.  That would be a real treat, though.

Christie: Any television in the works?

Renee: I’m more open to television than I have ever been, because my children are older and it’s been a long time now.  I think I have enough juice in me now to give back that much energy.  And I can now start to visually see how you can do it all.  You can be on a TV show and still make your own projects, and be a mother.  And there was a time where I didn’t want to give anything up, so I chose to give up television.

But it all seems to be a little more effortless now.  So it’s a good thing, you know. So it’s definitely an open area.  I’m writing and nurturing different projects.  I’m doing a lot of internal work where I’m writing a lot. Which will all, you know eventually come out and you’ll get to see it.


Then she told me that they’d be sneak-previewing Unspoken Words at the convention, and I told her I wouldn’t be there because of my mom’s illness.

And that’s when Renee asked for my address so she could send me the DVD, so I wouldn’t have to miss it.

Have I mentioned before that Renee O’Connor is the nicest person in the world?

But you knew that.

I’ll be back soon with photos and reports from Lucy and Renee’s appearance at the convention!

[Update 11, Hudson Leick is freaking gorgeous edition] KT just sent these to me, and I’ve realized something for the first time.

I always thought we liked Xena: Warrior Princess because of its revolutionary portrayal of strong women and its female-centric cosmology. Because it showed girls kicking ass, and a transcendent bond of love between women.

But you know, I’m seriously considering an alternative hypothesis: we liked it because the women are all so incredibly hot.

This is the woman who brought Callisto to life, Hudson Leick. And yeah, you know, yoga has apparently been very very good to her.

This is the dress she auctoned off to benefit a cancer charity:

Help me come up with some kind of justification for including this photo:

She’s glamorous from her head…

To her toes:

Although of course, we really love her most for her sense of humor.

I’ll be back soon with convention news!

[Update 10, Sunday morning] The convention doesn’t pick up until 11 AM Pacific Time. Guests today include Lucy and Renee — who promises us a special surprise — as well as XWP writer Steven L. Sears, Victoria Pratt, who played the northern Amazon queen Cyane in "Adventures in the Sin Trade," and in a rare US appearance The Widow Twankey, interviewed by Jennifer Ward-Lealand.

Updated with photo:

 

 

For those who don’t know who "The Widow Twankey" is, she’s a well-known pantomime character dating back to Victorian days, always played by a man; Sir Ian McKellen has portrayed her.

Michael Hurst, the New Zealand actor who played Hercules’ sidekick Iolaus in the Xena/Hercverse, played the Widow Twankey three times on Hercules. Jennifer Ward-Lealand played British warrior queen Boadicea on XWP, and is Michael Hurst’s wife. 

And while I remembered Cyane very well:

I didn’t know anything about Victoria Pratt, so I Googled her. And now I know this:

Good thing KT has her camera.

Updated with photo of Victoria Pratt from the convention, courtesy of Christa Morris:

 

 

I’ll be back later this morning with photos of Hudson Leick from yesterday, and news from Lucy’s Saturday night concert at the Roxy.

[Update 9 -- Saturday final] It’s official: Xenites love them some Hudson Leick.

KT says that Hudson gave a one-hour performance that ranged all over the place. She flirted with her audience — actually, the phrase KT used was "sexually playful" — joked, took questions that she mostly didn’t answer, and made everyone very, very happy.

She then auctioned off the dress she was wearing and raised a thousand dollars for a cancer organization that helps people with cancer and depression, and their families.

She has two potential film projects on the horizon, including a martial arts film in which she wouldn’t be doing, sadly, any of the martial arts.

It was "cool, but odd," said KT. "And the fans loved it. Loved it."

She’s processing the photos now, and I’ll add them when she sends them, but KT is going to the second of Lucy’s shows at the Roxy, and might not get them to me before she leaves.

I’ll update with photos when I can, but that might be it for tonight. See you all in the morning, when Convention guests will be Lucy Lawless and Renee O’Connor — and we’ll have some exciting news about "Words Unspoken," the film Renee O’Connor wrote, produced, directed, and acted in, with music by the Indigo Girls’ Emily Saliers.

[Update 8] KT just reported that Hudson Leick had a few words about the way the entertainment industry defines her:

"Don’t box me in because I’ll come and I’ll kick your ass."

I know she’s a yoga teacher now, but it’s good to see the Callisto spirit is still in there.

Kicking.

I’ll be back soon with photos from her appearance today.

[Update 7] Renee at the Bitch Slap panel!

If somehow you’ve been hiding in an undisclosed location for the last year (and if so, I’m assuming you once worked for Darth Cheney and you should be ashamed of yourself) and are unaware, Lucy and Renee are making a cameo appearance in the film that’s going to single-handedly bring back the B-movie, Bitch Slap. It’s the product of a lot of ex-Xena folks, which explains why the girls have a small role as, er… nuns.

And it’s also why they had a Bitch Slap panel at the convention today. Renee wasn’t listed as appearing, but she did.

In character, no less.

And yes, there were panelists other than Renee, but if you haven’t figured out Renee O’Connor is my favorite, you really haven’t been paying attention.

Panelists included Bitch Slap stars Julia Voth (Trixie), Erin Cummings (Hel), and America Olivo (Camero); ex-Hercules sidekick Michael Hurst, who also appears in the film; Bitch Slap and ex-Xena director Rick Jacobson; screenwriter Eric
Gruendenmann and associate producer Brian
Peck. I’m working with KT to identify each person in these photographs… but if you know, please help a fangirl out!

I don’t know; I think it’s time for some more Renee. 

Back soon with Hudson Leick! 

[Update 6] Renee just made an unscheduled appearance on the panel for the film Bitch Slap!

Lucy and Renee have a small, humorous role in the film, and at today’s panel discussion with the filmmakers and two of the stars, Renee joined in. We’ll have photos and more details soon!

[Update 5] I just read the comments, and yes, Lucy did an on-stage kiss with "Pleasuredome" co-star Laura Sperrazza last night. I don’t know if Lucy was just trying to keep it a surprise or if I can stand up and take full credit for that, but either way, here’s a snippet of my interview with her last week:

Lucy Lawless: (Lesbians) finally get a little sugar. 

Christie Keith: Well, you always give us some sugar, Lucy.  Is it actually going to have scripted or improvised dramatic stuff in addition to the singing?  Or is it primarily just the music? 

Lucy: There really isn’t dialogue, per se.  There’s a line here and a line there, but it’s just a funny, wild romp through high times and low places.

Christie: Oh, fantastic.  Will we get a kiss? 

Lucy [flustered]: I think there’s – well, ummm.  Will you get a kiss?

Christie: Yeah, will there be a kiss for us, a girl-girl kiss in the show?

Lucy: A kiss.  Good God, you know what, I hadn’t even thought of that. 

Christie: Well, let me the first to request one.  

What do you all think?

[Update 4, Saturday] The biggest news is that Lucy Lawless nearly burned the Roxy Theater down with "The Pleasuredome" last night… our coverage, including tons of photos, is here.

This morning the convention kicked off with actor Tony Todd, who played Cecrops in "The Lost Mariner."

In a rapid-paced and very funny session, Todd, who is currently playing General Juma on 24, told fans he’ll be "playing God next." He’s been in dozens of television shows and films since working on Xena, but he loved doing the episode. There was discussion of a sequel, but he "was working on something else and Gary Coleman couldn’t fill in." 

I talked to XWP writer Steven Sears (who wrote "The Lost Mariner") last year, and he said the proposed sequel would have been set in modern times. Cecrops, who is immortal, would have been seen on the street in downtown present-day Los Angeles… when he spots Xena.

 

Back with more soon! And keep watching for that concert post to go live!

[Update 3] Few characters in all the Xenaverse are as memorable or enigmatic as Lao Ma, a woman from Xena’s past to whom she owes so much that she walks away from everything she’s done for the last several years, and from Gabrielle.

In an extraorindary two-part story known as "The Debt," we go back into the pre-series days of Evil Xena, and meet the powerful leader of the Kingdom of Ma in Chin. She’s the first one to try to save Xena from her own dark side — and saves her life, as well, with an underwater kiss that had us all burning up the Internet trying to decide if we’d seen what we thought we’d seen. (We had.)

Jacqueline Kim, the actress who portrayed Lao Ma, caught Xena fans up on her life and career since the days of Xena: Warrior Princess.

She’s had a lot of success in the independent film world. She had a supporting role for which she won an Independent Spirit Award in charlotte sometimes, and starred in Red Doors, which won the Tribeca Film Festival Award in 2005 for best narrative feature, as well as an Outfest Audience Award (one of her sisters in the film was a lesbian).

She’s taking a break from acting right now, and concentrating on writing with an eye on directing and producing her own films. She’s also been working on her music, and the audience gave her a standing ovation when she sang one of her own songs at the finale of her appearance.

Excuse me while I fantasize about her performing with Lucy…

That’s it for convention coverage for the day. Check back later tonight or early tomorrow morning for our coverage of Lucy Lawless’ concert tonight, and we’ll resume coverage of Day 2 of the convention Saturday morning as well!

[Update 2] We’re back!

Everyone’s incredibly excited to see Lucy Lawless’ show at the Roxy tonight. It’s a concept piece about a Catholic high school girl who runs off to the big bad city and falls in love with a glamorous nightclub emcee named Gloria, set at the dawn of the age of AIDS. KT will be there with her cameras, and we may have some video as well.

Last week, I spoke with Renee O’Connor (Gabrielle), who talked about how excited and hopeful she is at the changes in the country and the election of Barack Obama, and what she called "the love and compassion and power of this incredible generation coming up, that doesn’t see any boundary, that hopefully will not show any limit to who they are and what they’re doing here."

Renee: That’s what it is to me, what I want to work for.  And of course nothing’s easy, and it’s all tiresome when you keep running your head up against these people that are treating others horribly.  How do you deal with it? You can fight, but you can fight in a really open hearted way, that connects to their humanity.  Because we all are human.  We are all feeling the same things. The fight has to reach to their hearts,

Christie: You sound a little like Gabrielle, but you also sound like Barack Obama.

Renee: Well, you know, he’s an inspiring man. 

Christie: He’s kind of a hybrid of Xena, with the ninja secret power thing, and then the sort of open heartedness of Gabrielle, isn’t he?  I mean as a cultural icon; I don’t know what he’s like as a human being.

Renee: I haven’t read his book, and I don’t know his personal life, but from how I feel after he speaks, I’m fired up.  And I would just want us all to be able to sustain that feeling as a country so we can really shed off these, these old coats.

And I have to say every time he mentions "gay and lesbian" in his speeches, I just go, yay! Good for you.  He’s the first one I’ve ever heard as a president to be so inclusive of everybody in our society.  Even talking about all the religions and everything. Isn’t it great?  That is a man that is great. He is a man, but he is a great leader. I just hope people start following and opening up their eyes a little bit more. 

[Update 1] The convention started this afternoon with an appearance by Jennifer Sky Band, who played the bratty Amazon warrior Amarice.

It was Amarice who came after Xena and Gabrielle when the Amazon queen was killed, and tried to get Gabrielle to come back to the tribe and become their new queen. She was intended to be a permanent sidekick, but her character was killed off when Jennifer was cast as "Cleopatra" in a show of her own. 

She told the convention audience that after she moved on from acting and got married, she became very ill with liver disease. She’s now writing for young adults. She invited fans to get in touch with her through Facebook. She also read an excerpt of a book she’s written about her modelling days.

And in case you’re wondering how Amarice, who was not exactly known for her beauty and fashion sense, could have a modelling career, this is Jennifer Sky Band:

Yeah. Exactly.

One last thing before I break for a few minutes: There is a lot of buzz going around that there will be something big on Sunday — and AfterEllen.com may have gotten a little sneak preview of the surprise. Stick around and we’ll share it!

Next: We chat with Renee O’Connor. And soon… photos!

Photos by KT Jorgensen for AfterEllen.com. Xena stills courtesy of Creation Entertainment.

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