Con Report from the Xena Convention 2007: Renee´s appearance

Over the years I’ve gotten used to the ritual of watching Xena Convention DVDs in my living room in Germany. However, this year it was different. This time I was THERE: in Burbank, in the (formerly) Hilton hotel, and in the same room with all the stars that I have seen on TV for so long and whose careers I’ve always followed with great interest. And I had the opportunity to meet (for real, not just on the internet) these nice people who call themselves “Xenites” and who are regarded as the most generous and supportive fandom of a TV series.

Meeting people from all over the world in a kind and loving atmosphere was simply amazing. It’s funny that you can feel like a part of a big family with hundreds of people who you have never seen before. But it’s possible: This yearly event seems much more like a family meeting than a weekend where fans come together to adore their celebrities. And it seems that not only the fans feel that way but the invited guests as well. It got pretty personal sometimes.

Some people say it was the best Xena convention ever, not only because of Lucy Lawless’ outstanding concert(s) at the “Roxy”, but also because at this convention Lucy Lawless (“Xena”) and Reneé O’Connor (“Gabrielle”) appeared first separately and then together on stage. What more can a fan hope for: we had time to enjoy each of them thoroughly plus we could witness their well-known chemistry with each other.

When Reneé entered the stage on Sunday afternoon, it was a reunion for most of the fans because the majority of us had already seen her as a surprise guest at Lucy’s Roxy concert. Consequently her first words to the audience were that her dancing at the Roxy had been Lucy’s idea. Just to clarify that. She told us that she had gone out to buy a dress but that Lucy had another one in mind. Reneé held her fingers a few inches apart to demonstrate the size of the dress. “It was this big.” And she added that with that kind of dress, dancing was the only option: “You have to keep moving because if you don’t, it does.”

When a fan asked if she had a nice evening, Reneé responded that she “had a great time, just sitting back and watching Lucy. I can see why you guys love her so much.” She choked up when she said this and needed a few minutes to compose herself. Later some fans who couldn’t join the convention asked us what it had been that had touched Reneé so much. Some people speculated that the fans’ reaction had reminded her of her own love for Lucy (some subtexters never sleep). WelI, I can only tell my own impression here: Reneé was touched by the love that is always there when Xenites come together but that was especially perceptible during the concert. Because that’s what the previous night was about: love.

Lucy Lawless once said about the series that “it was all about love. Every minute of every day was about love.” And she wasn’t only talking about the love between Xena and Gabrielle but also about the love for life, the love for other beings, and the Greater Good, an ethical concept that is based on love and compassion. It’s not surprising that the Xena fandom mirrors these principles. What goes around comes around.

I have to say that Lucy’s concert was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever experienced. Weird in a good way, I should add. From a superficial point of view this was just a celebrity’s concert at a night club on West Sunset Boulevard. But what really happened there that night was anything but a normal concert. Somebody from the club said later that in his 20 years of working there, he’d never been in an atmosphere like that, not even when Bruce Springsteen had played.

Let’s face it, being a fan is known as a pretty one-sided business. You adore somebody who doesn’t even know you. You are ready to die for the sight of the loved person, even when he or she is on the other side of the room - or so they say. This concert however, was not one-sided at all. For me it was a symbol of how stars and fans are with each other in the Xenaverse. It was a giving and taking, and taking and giving, and most of the time you couldn’t say who was giving and who was taking. It happened at the same time. And isn’t this what love is about?

Lucy said about her songs that “the songs are about me and my relationship with the fans and about their relationship to each other in a cyber community.” She celebrated us, we celebrated her, and altogether we celebrated what had grown over the last 12 years. And I think it was this that made Reneé cry when a fan asked her about the concert. She had felt the same way we had, especially because she had been right among us in the audience. Until her appearance on stage that is. At that moment, by the way, when Reneé joined Lucy on stage and started her crazy go-go dance, the crowd went completely, totally nuts, and never really calmed down afterwards. So Reneé had the privilege of three different points of view that night: She was the audience, she was the colleague, and she was the celebrated star.

Since I was standing more on the right side I couldn’t see Reneé immediately, I only heard the screaming. My first thought was that we probably had one of L.A.’s famous earthquakes, my second one was that Reneé must have entered the stage, it was the only alternative explanation. And really, there she was with her little blue flying something making us all dizzy (and probably herself, too).

How awesome to have my uber-celebrity go-go dancer!” laughed Lucy one day later at the convention. And we all agreed.

Anyway, back to the convention and Reneé’s appearance. She told us that she had finished “Diamonds & Guns”. No kidding! At first I didn’t trust my ears because it felt as if Godot himself had dropped by. But no, the audience applauded and so I figured that I must have heard it right: “Diamond & Guns” is done and will probably be available on DVD in a few months. Congratulations, Reneé! You deserve an award for your stamina and loyalty!

She also told us about her new role in the Western “Ghost Town”. Her character “Little Jack” had originally been written for a male, but then they decided to give Reneé the part. And from what I understood they didn’t change much. It’s just that now Little Jack is a woman. Should be interesting! I’ve already seen pictures on the internet and I can’t wait to see Reneé in that movie. We all know she was cool as “Janice Cavington” in the X:WP episode “The Xena Scrolls” so of course everybody looks forward to “Little Jack”!

Reneé also played a part in Rob Tapert’s and Sam Raimi’s “Boogeyman 2,” which will be finished in 2008. Reneé plays the psychiatrist, Dr. Jessica Ryan, “and you know they’re in trouble if I’m a psychiatrist!” She informed us that the movie is very violent, so I know already that I won’t watch it. I will wait for MaryD’s clips and screenshots and that will be enough for me.

By the way, when Reneé talked about her role as a psychiatrist she mentioned a character she had played long ago in a short film called “A Place for Sarah”. Surprisingly enough, nobody in the audience seemed to have heard about it. But don’t forget that we are talking about the Xenaverse, which means that it is only a question of time until the ROC fans have found out more about that short movie.  Well, I should say it was only a question of time because meanwhile we actually do know a lot about that movie, thanks to some diligent Xenites in the cyberspace. Very interesting role for a young Reneé O’Connor: She played a schizophrenic patient, and the idea of the movie was to encourage other schizophrenic patients and their relatives to deal with this disease.

Reneé said “I got to learn about schizophrenia. That’s what I love about acting. It gives you the opportunity to study many different things.” Later she told us that she “had forgotten about acting” because she was so busy with directing and producing. It was the project of her friend Katherine Fugate that brought her back to acting. Last year, Katherine produced the show “Army Wives” (which probably will be aired in June), and it was planned that Reneé would have a part in it. It turned out that she didn’t play a character, but riding along with police officers she realized again that “I’m an actor. I love the research and creating a character. Because of Katherine’s project I realized that I wanted to act again.”

Somebody from the audience asked how she separates her acting emotions from her real life, and she responded that this is still a real challenge for her. “There were times as Gabrielle that I would go home with nightmares.”

Of course, people asked Reneé about the short film “One Weekend A Month”. We knew that after the short movie had been shown at several film festivals with great success the producer Eric Escorbar was planning to write a feature film. Which he did. The big surprise however was that he didn’t give Reneé the part of “Meg McDermott” that she had played in the earlier short film.

I think it was completely silent when Reneé said that. Or maybe it was only silent inside of me, I can’t really tell. We couldn’t believe it. This short film was a big success, rightly so because it was brilliant. And you didn’t need to be a ROC fan to realize that this movie was brilliant because of Reneé’s authentic acting. It moved me to tears (and it’s uploaded on Reneé’s official website, by the way). It was all the more incomprehensible to us that Eric gave the part to somebody else.

Reneé seemed to have been as stunned as we were when she had heard about Escorbar’s decision but she was keen to stay fair. At this point it would have been easy for Reneé to set a pack of furious Xenites on the poor producer. But she had no intention to do that: “I respect his artistic vision.” Okay, Reneé, that’s very generous and noble of you and we didn’t expect anything less from you, but I don’t. I’m a fan and I’m disappointed, and I don’t find it fair. But for Reneé’s sake I will keep my mouth shut and write something about her artwork instead.

Reneé told us that she’s working on a painting of Gabrielle with a dragon and on a picture of Xena and Gabrielle walking through the woods. She warned us that it takes her forever to finish a painting, but of course that doesn’t bar us from looking forward to her new projects.

Then she was asked about the Xena movie and she answered that of course she would do it. “If you guys show up, we’ll be there.” Another Xena related question was about Gabrielle’s true way. Would it be the way of the warrior or the way of the bard? Reneé didn’t hesitate one second: “Gabrielle’s way was the way of friendship, the way of love.” She would have done anything for Xena. “This was her true way.”

After 30 minutes of chatting with the audience Reneé informed us that she heard “a Kiwi accent”, and then Lucy came on stage. A quick hug and Reneé disappeared behind the curtain. The 30 minutes with Lucy were great and very interesting but I will skip it because this is a ROC website. When Lucy’s 30 minutes were over she told us about a poll that voted for the top lesbian icons. “Xena is number two, want to meet number one?” And then, to thunderous applause, Reneé came back on stage.

30 more minutes with Lucy and Reneé together. We didn’t get to hear any ground-breaking news but it was great fun. We enjoyed the time with Lucy and Reneé, they obviously enjoyed the time with each other, and they enjoyed the time with us. So it was perfect.

by Imke