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MISTI-Con: We’ve Got Magic To Do

I love the Harry Potter fandom. It’s kooky, creative, and smart. When I spend organised time with Potterphiles, it’s always good fun.

A homemade dragon, surrounded by eggs, decorating the con area

I first discovered MISTI-Con in 2015. I know one of the showrunners, Clay Dockery, from the Doctor Who fandom. He’s a co-organiser and the creative director. It was in this capacity that he tapped me to come to add to the con experience. Clay is a showman as well as a showrunner, and he likes performance at his cons. I’m an actor and a musician. He invited me there to play music and help with a show they were putting up. I had a blast.

Entertainer Cat Smith, onstage with her ukulele
Miss Nerdstiles

I love helping run MISTI-Con because it is such an amazing experience, because the attendees are so intimately connected. It’s so much more like a family reunion than any other con. —Clay Dockery, Creative Director

MISTI happens every two years, and up until this year, has been held in Laconia, New Hampshire. This year it was moved to Tarrytown, New York. A great bonus for those of us in the tri-state area, to be sure. However, believe me when I tell you that magical pilgrims come in from all over for this event. It’s worth the trip, just like it was worth it for me to go to New Hampshire that time. I’ve played lots of other cons, including other Potter cons. But MISTI is an experience unlike any other con I’ve done.

Cosplayer Evan Ockershausen, as Newt Scamander
Evan Ockershausen

The name, “MISTI”, is an acronym. It stands for “Ministry Interdepartmental Service Training Institute”. Unlike most cons, which are about guests and panels (and I love those too), MISTI is an immersive experience. It’s not about big-name guests. The premise is that it is set sometime after the Second Wizarding War, and the event itself is part of a larger story. The time I went in 2015, the plot of the weekend was a Wizarding World Fair, reminiscent of a renaissance festival. This year (and remember how I said the showrunner was my friend from the Doctor Who fandom?) the theme was time travel.

My job was to help write and perform in the big Friday night stage show. It was part jukebox musical and part parody show. Lawrence Neals, the founder of GeeklifeRules, was the host and the con’s entertainment director. He’s a fantastically talented and glorious nerd with whom I hope to perform a great deal in the future. When he’s not performing for a living, Lawrence helps his other nerdy friends find a performance venue. His regular Cosplay Cabarets in Manhattan are marvelous.

Host Lawrence Neals, onstage
Host Lawrence Neals

I don’t want to spend too much time gushing about the performances at this con. I really don’t. The panels, the cosplay, the merchandise, everything was amazing. And I’ll get to them, I promise. But damn, playing this show was fun. It was called “Albus and Scorpius’s Excellent Time-Travelling Adventure”. If you think that sounds like a perfect venue for ridiculous antics, clever lyrics, and some damn fine entertainers, you’re right. Imagine “Cell Block Tango” rewritten for six Azkaban inmates. And that was only the tip of the iceberg of awesome.

Full disclosure, I didn’t personally get to any panels this time. But MISTI offers a huge variety of panels and discussion groups. They run the gamut, from the literary and academic, to straight-up fandom. A highlight for me was chatting with a woman for a bit about a panel she had just attended. It was about Squibs, and how they are basically the service animals of the Wizarding World. See what I mean?

This year also boasted panels with topics like LGBTQ Issues In Fandom, Cosplay 101, and Wizard Dueling. Dueling. How cool is that? There was also a craft fair, where merchants strutted their fabulous homemade stuff. You could buy a new wand, a witch’s hat, clothes, art; you name it. Among other things, I came away with a Gryffindor keychain-type holder for my lipstick. I told you these people were creative.

The proprietor of vendor Evercrumbly and Witch, at her booth, selling witch's hats

I wasn’t the only musician there that weekend. The Wizard and nerd rock experience was extensive and eclectic. Among other things, I led a Les Miz singalong with my ukulele. The Blibbering Humdingers did a song comparing love to a natural twenty. Kate the Chanticleer, a fantastic local singer/songwriter, had her MISTI premiere on Friday and rocked the house. When I asked her how her weekend was, she said, “what a wonderful, creative, and supportive group of people. I’m so happy that I got to attend and perform!” Also making their MISTI debut were The Misbehavin’ Maidens, a bawdy and funny quartet of women from the D.C. area. Google these people, download their music. You will thank me.

Misbehavin' Maidens promo shot
Misbehavin’ Maidens

This was our very first MISTI-Con and it was fabulous! We’ve been to a lot of conventions, and this experience was something entirely unique. The atmosphere was relaxing, everyone was welcoming, and we felt like we were ‘preaching to the nerdy, nerdy choir’ with the more educational aspects of our music. We hope everyone has a good a time as we did! —Misbehavin’ Maidens

I wish MISTI happened every year, as opposed to every other year. I get why they do it that way, though. It’s for fans and by fans, and they pour their heart and soul into it every single time. They’d probably drop dead if they did it more often. It’s very clear that it is a labour of love for all involved, attendee and showrunner alike. And it has appeal for every sort of fan. From cosplayers and roleplayers to gamers and people who just like to talk about their favourite books and movies, there is something for everyone. And it is just heartwarming, from the minute you walk in the door. If I could make a whole con my Patronus, it would be this one.


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Written by Cat Smith

Cat Smith is the reigning Miss Nerdstiles, having inherited the crown from absolutely no one, because she made it up. She is an actor, a musician, a cosplayer since before they had a word for it, and a general nuisance (General Nuisance *salute*). She and her ukulele have charmed the collective socks off of LI Who and LI Geek, ReGeneration Who, WHOlanta, Potterverse, Coal Hill Con, Time Eddy, MISTI-Con, Hudson Valley Comic Con, Wicked Faire, SqueeCon, The Way Station, and The Pandorica Restaurant . She has written for "Outside In" and "Why I Geek" (among others), and you can find her music on bandcamp at https://missnerdstiles.bandcamp.com/album/who-riginals. Consider supporting her continuing adventures by becoming a patron at patreon.com/missnerdstiles

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  1. You have no idea how much this meant to me. I was the presenter at the session on Squibs, cats, and the service animals of the Wizarding World. Since I’m the Academic Programming Coordinator and that was the last MISTI, I was feeling a bit down about my contributions and whether they were valued.

    I am still a sucker for ukuleles, by the way.

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