One of the elements of Dragon's Breath which has gotten the most attention has been the character which I play myself, Rocco McCafferty. In a nod to all those angry voices in cyberspace who are mad at Stephanie Meyer for making vampires sparkly, Rocco is the angry Internet troll who bedevils the main character for all the ways she gets dragons 'wrong.' He quotes James Joyce and J.R.R. Tolkien with equal authority, is poorly behaved, and has been described as a "vitriolic turbo-nerd," and yet most people who have seen the show have noted that such an over-the-top character still comes across as real. Disturbingly so, they say.
And there's a reason for this. Rocco's a friend of mine.
As I was first working out the story some months ago, I realized that my two leads, Justine and Laura, needed to be able to bond over a shared antagonist in order to drive the rest of the plot. No sooner did I realize this than I thought of my friend - a fantasy-loving Internet critic who studies James Joyce. And is named Rocco.
For a while, I wrestled with coming up for another name for the character, to spare any kind of embarrassment or hurt feelings. I soon realized, however, that no man can improve upon what the good Lord has seen fit to create - a Joyce-quoting fantasy geek Internet critic named Rocco is just too perfect. So I met up with my friend, described the play to him, and asked for his approval to borrow his first name and salient biographical information. He cackled maniacally (as he is wont to do) and gave not only his blessing, but $25 to our IndieGogo campaign.
Even so, I had a slight degree of trepidation this past Saturday, when Rocco came to see Dragon's Breath himself. It's one thing to approve of an idea in theory, and another to see it fully realized. In all honesty, there's just as much of me in this particular "vitriolic turbo-nerd" (seriously, I just can't get enough of that phrase), and it's ultimately more of an unflattering self-portrait than anything else. But would Rocco see that? Would he be offended?
As it turns out, Rocco loved the show and its version of "Rocco." He even made the rounds of the cast, who knew that there was a real-life analogue to the character they'd come to know and were awestruck in the presence of the genuine article. He was happy to let the relation be known, since as a reviewer, he needs the name-recognition and notoriety (which, as it happens, is a recurrent motif in the play as well). And as he told me, it was the first time in his life he felt like a celebrity.
And perhaps, that's what the Fringe is all about. For a few short weeks in August, artists and writers from vastly different worlds get to rub shoulders with each other and see what they're all about. Everyone's the star of their own story - but for these magical seventeen days, other people get to share our stories with us, and recognize that all of us are stars too.
(By the way, if you're looking for reviews of comics, games, and other fantasy literature and movies, you might be interested in checking out these. Just sayin'.)