Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Fortress Party 2010 Appendix - Sir Nigel Barth's Hunting Expedition

One of the rooms in Fortress Party 2010 was Sir Nigel Barth's Trouphie Room. This series of photos, taken in our back yard a few weeks before the party, was displayed on a shelf to showcase the backstory of Sir Nigel, the famed hunter-explorer-gentleman. 


I was tracking the Muck Caiman. The heart of the jungle is no placed for the faint of heart. 

On the fourth day I spotted her, wretched and mighty, grotesque, yet arousing. 

I swiftly ran my bread knife through one of the beast's celebrated fontanels. 

Though for months, I had studied Buxley's writings on the odors of the Muck Caiman's spinal fluid, I was still whelmed heartily. 

As I was reminded of many previous adventures, the carcass and I shared a moment of quiet reflection. 

Too soon, it was time to return to Coventry.

My exploits were already legendary, but... did I just sense a twig snapping?

ATTACKED by borders of indigenous Thicket-people! Out comes my mink-tail whip.

Half of the Thicket-people are soon fended.

With another lash, I disarm the remainder of the natives and head quickly for my transport.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Fortress Party 2010 Retrospective

By this point, the Fortress Party Steering Committee (FoPSeC) was fully operational. Lots of creative and construction help meant the rooms were getting more sophisticated. 

Pompeii Prom was a delightful mash-up between ancient Roman cataclysm and a high school dance.

The balloon arch made for some classy prom pictures. Note the easel to the left. This was a signboard, where people wrote things like "Seniors RVLE!" and "II Good II be IV-gotten."  

This is the image on the signboard that rests on the easel shown  Note that the lack of apostrophe... this is the high school class of 79 AD.

Mount Vesuvius appears to be erupting right next to the high school gymnasium, but it didn't stop people from dancing. 

Well, at least for a while. 

The prison-themed area was called Up the River. It started with a photo station. Guests had to stand against a sheet that showed how tall they are and hold up a dry-erase sign saying their name and crime. We had a photo printer, and by the end of the night we had hundreds of mug shots pinned to a dry erase board. Here are a few samples.

My favorite if tiny Scarlett, stone faced as she's booked for "General Crime."

Inside the prison, there were a number of inmates, such as Fievel, hard at work making license plates. Note the sexy photo of Minnie Mouse on the wall. 

We had one Death Row inmate, who happened to have to have an uncanny resemblance to Lady Gaga. We had a strobe light attached to a giant switch, so anyone could turn on the electric chair. Morbid stuff. 

Lady Gaga's head was leftover from Festifools, an annual Ann Arbor parade of of papier-mâché sculptures.

We also got a Pinocchio head, and Skippy helped build a functioning marionette on the second story balcony. 

The pulley controls were on the first floor. Guests could watch a video of the marionette from below, so they could see what they were doing. 

The rest of the Festifools heads were mounted on the wall of the notorious British gentleman hunter/explorer, Nigel Barth. 

About an hour west of Ann Arbor, there are some massage parlors/truck stops of questionable legitamacy. Tokyo Health Spa was a bit of a throwaway. 

This was a lot of fun to make. A couple months before the party, we drove around Ann Arbor with a a camera phones pointing forwards and to each side. We synced the videos and projected them from the outside on the three walls of the room.  

This Beatles had a famous concert at Shea Stadium in New York in 1965. We reimagined this as The Beatles Live at Che Stadium, in which the concert actually takes place in Cuba, and all of the lyrics had to be changed to reflect Cuban culture and Communist values. Here are a few excerpts from the redacted lyric sheets we distributed:

"Eight Days a Week"

"Can't Buy Me Love"


With warmest regards,

Friday, October 23, 2020

Fortress Party 2009 Retrospective

In addition to all of the individual room themes, Fortress Party 2009 had a miniature golf course that spanned all three levels of the house. 

They were selling putters at the Kiwanis club for $1 each, so I bought all of them. 

On the top floor, there was a working windmill. (It worked as a gold ball deflector, not as a clean energy generator.) If you successfully hit the ball up the ramp, it went into a PVC pipe that went down to the first floor, turned two corners and dropped your ball at the top of the stairway to the basement. 

As shown here...

In the basement, there was a second hole, where you had the choice up putting from here, or dropping your ball into the tube. If you did the latter, your ball would ricochet off a cymbal, and land about 10 feet from the hole. Both counted as one stroke. 

This hole was named after a quote from Starship Troopers, but I don't think anything else about the room pertained to that movie. 

Guests customized their golf balls, and they were everywhere. (The guests and the balls.) I say this every year, but I'm surprised no one got hurt. 

Cafe de Pamplona
 had Spanish decor and a bowl of Sangria that lasted an hour, at most.

We taped a white plastic tablecloth to the outside of the window, and projected a video of The Running of the Bulls, giving the impression that you were drinking at a wine bar, while all the action was taking place just outside. To pull this off, we had a PC and a projector sitting on a table in the back yard. It snowed that night, and the shadows of the snow could be seen on the image. 

Werewolf: To the Moon was, perhaps, the Fortress room that had the fewest of my fingerprints on it. Jason DePasquale and Amy Sumerton had come as guests in 2007, and had asked to design a room. Their team showed up with most of the meaningful content for this room a few hours before the party started. 

Since the full Moon triggers lycanthropy, this poor werewolf astronaut cannot return to human form until his mission ends and he returns to Earth. 

George W. Bush and John Kerry with both members of the Skull and Bones Society, a secret club at Yale. 

The society is rumored to own the skulls (and other body parts) of various historical figures.  The picture above is a demonstrative sample of the purloined body parts. 

I never seem to tire of lining the floor of Fortress rooms with fake snow. The Retired Quinn also had an igloo, a wheelchair, and a fire put to complete the look. 

This was one of the first times we tried to engage guests in a creative pursuit. There is an urban myth that Inuit people have 200 words for snow. So the retirees had to remember all of them and write them down. We ended up getting well over 100. 

We got our hands on a huge box of fake plants, and used them to make the Garden fo the Triple Goddess, which was sort of a woodsy Pagan thing?

This must be the Triple Goddess herself. 

Finally, we had The Hobo Jungle, where we had live music off and on all night. 

The Hobo King and Queen would sit on their thrones and play the harmonica.

Fortress walls and ceilings have always been hung on clotheslines, but in the Hobo Jungle, it felt appropriate to use them as actual clotheslines.

There was a garbage can on fire.

And during the party, plenty of hobo jams. 

With warmest regards,

Appendix: Fortress Party 2009 Invitation 

You are a very fortunate individual. You now have in your inbox a golden ticket to an evening of truly marvelous wonders and marvelously wondrous truths. Fortress Party is just one short month away, and we've searched the world over to bring you the freshest and most sophisticated fortress styles. We have applied both physical science AND applied science to fabricate what will be the most bewildering, intoxicating, and dehumanizing fortress in the storied 15-year history of the event.

Q: What is Fortress Party and has it really been going on for 15 years?
A: Let me field the second part of that question first. Yes, it has!
Q: Can I bring friends and relatives? 
A:  Please do. In fact, this year, we have made the decision to relax our policy against nerds. (Just kidding: no nerds please!) Children are also welcome if they can be trusted not to pull on things or start fires. Please let me know if you have any questions regarding our policies about children or arson.
With warmest regards,
- Zach
"Whatever you do this December, be sure you do some of it in one of Michigan's largest forts."