Pioneer Press Article

PIONEER PRESS ARTICLE
Published: Monday, May 1, 2000 

Xena-philes

The Warrior Princess has attracted loyal fans throughout
the country, but none can rival the commitment -- or the
costumes -- of local club members.


KAY HARVEY STAFF WRITER 

Aaaaaaaiiiiiiioooooooooii-oh!! Recognize that war cry? It's Xena,
Warrior Princess. As played by Lucy Lawless on Fox TV, Xena
inspires awe, lust and loyalty. Fans adore her.

Especially in the Twin Cities. Here, they gather for monthly Xena
meetings and much more. They dress like Xena characters, brandish
swords and act out Xena episodes onstage in front of a live audience.

``It's amazing a TV show could bring out all this,'' says AmadaSullivan,
the club's 20-something newly elected president. ``Most of it is social.
We can't wait for the meetings to end.''

The club claims to be the only Xena fan group in the country whose
following -- 50 members and growing -- actually holds a regular,
face-to-face meeting. Most other clubs connect online. (The local
chapter does have a Web site, Xenaversity.com, which attracts about
150 cybermembers.)

And while most Xena clubs are built around hero worship for one of
the series' characters, Twin Cities devotees are stars of their own show.

``This concept is all about the fans,'' says club past-president James
Gottfried, 30, a graphic designer who built the Xenaversity site. ``The
basis of our group, from the first, was we want to get together. We
share our artwork, writing and video creations. Any event we go to we
make into a blast.''

In recent weeks, they've perfected costumes and choreography for a
Sunday production of ``Bittersuite,'' a musical revival of a favorite
``Xena'' episode by the same name. In weekly practices, they clank
plastic swords, march in unison and sing such lyrics as, ``Forgive those
who harm you, do good to those you hate.''

Lisa Linderholm, a recent import from Chicago, plays Xena. The
amateur costume designer can sing, too. She even looks like a shorter
version of towering ``Xena'' star Lucy Lawless.

``It's a great opportunity for club members to express their natural
talents,'' says Linderholm of the production members hope to repeat at
coming sci-fi and Xena conventions. 

Powerful themes that teach life lessons attract these fans to ``Xena,''
they say. So do the show's human relationships and use of archetypal
characters derived from Greek mythology. 

``The show gives us a good morality play, and we've lacked that,'' says
Dayna Jean Wolter, a singer and actress in her real life, too. ``Like
when death happens, it's not taken lightly. It's always dealt with as a
significant event.''

Archetypes in the show allow producers to cloud hints that Xena and
her best friend, Gabrielle, might be lesbians.

``Are they lovers or not?'' Wolter asks. ``That's the nice thing about
archetypal characters. People can perceive them as they want to
perceive them.'' 

Club members include a teen-ager, college students, adult singles and
married folks, some with young children. The oldest member is
42-year-old DeAnn Sullivan, an avid collector of ``Xena'' memorabilia.
Members hail from as far away as Mankato and River Falls, Wis.

Acting out

The club started two years ago when founders Bev Gores and Lizzy
Smith met online and began inviting others to start-up meetings in their
homes. 

``When I first came here, it was like, wow!'' says Aimee Fielder.
``Other people are as into this as I am.'' 

When Fielder got a Gabrielle T-shirt, she wore it for a week. Teresa
Fehn, a newcomer at club meetings, admits to viewing all of the
100-plus ``Xena'' episodes. Matt Savelkoul has created 80 videos,
which he now sells to other fans, using clips of the show set to music. 

At club parties, members play games with Xena themes and sing
karaoke. When conventions pop up in the Twin Cities and across the
country, some dress as a different character for each day of the event. 

``We dress in costume any chance we get,'' says Amada Sullivan, who
works up skits for conventions and musical numbers for karaoke
contests. She is always in costume. Her platform for election was the
promise of an episode-related theme for every club event.

Even meetings at the Roseville Public Library are lively. A game tests
members' quotient for recalling ``Xena'' trivia. In a show-and-tell
session, Elena Beltran shows off her Claymore sword, an extra-long
Scottish weapon worth about $50. Robin Kinney displays a $350
collection of dolls made in the likeness of Xena's family of characters.
James Gottfried and Matt Savelkoul hold up a Xenaversity banner
autographed by TV series stars they've met at conventions. The club
plans to sell the banner at an auction to raise money for charity. 

When the club volunteered to take pledges for KTCA-TV, everyone
showed up in a costume, though no cameras were in sight. They also
run a booth at the Gay Pride festival, clear litter from a stretch of
highway and collect toys for kids during the holidays. 

Just like the characters in the show, Gottfried says, ``we take a stand
on whatever we think is right.'' 


Kay Harvey covers aging and family issues and can be reached at
kharvey@pioneerpress.com or (651) 228-5468.


Xena Fan Club

Regular meetings: The club meets from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. on the
second Sunday of each month at Roseville Public Library. (Because of
Mother's Day, the next meeting will be June 14.) Guests are welcome.
Cost to join is $15 for singles, $20 for families, which includes a
monthly newsletter. 

Xenaversity.com: The club's free Web site includes fan club
activities and related events. Chats are Sundays from 9 to 10 p.m. and
Tuesdays from 8 to 9 p.m. Both chats follow airing of ``Xena: Warrior
Princess'' on Fox network TV, Sunday at 10 p.m. After May 21, there
will be a break for the summer.

Production of ``Bittersuite'': Club members will present the
operetta based on a ``Xena'' episode at 4 p.m. Sunday at All God's
Children Metropolitan Community Church, 3100 Park Ave.,
Minneapolis. Admission is free.