Dragon Con attracts Upper School science fiction fans


Freshman Stephen Eisenhauer vanquishes another opponent as he plays chess to raise money for charity.

Crowds of blue-skinned teenagers, Jedi impersonators, and superheroes of every color cape gathered in Atlanta this Labor Day weekend. Westminster students and teachers donned their own costumes for Dragon Con 2015, joining the people wielding lightsabers and wearing gladiator helmets.  The convention, which is the world’s largest mixed-media event for science fiction and fantasy, is held every year in Atlanta.  The four day event is attended by famous actors and actresses, science fiction fans in elaborate costumes, and this year, Westminster’s own chess-playing Jawa, freshman Stephen Eisenhauer.

While attending Dragon Con last year, Eisenhauer became tired of visiting the many panels at the convention, so he came up with a fun alternative to engage other Star Wars fans. Donning the costume of his favorite character from the movie, he set up a booth and began playing chess for charity.

Being a Jawa chess player required a well-planned costume. With monk robes as a cloak, Eisenhauer wore a black mask with LED lights attached to give the impression of glowing eyes. The outfit even included sound: a speaker was hidden inside one of his bandoliers.

“I had a lot of fun,” said Eisenhauer. “Anyone could walk up [to my booth]. There are people who would play me in costume, too.”

In the last two years, he has played against a Plague Doctor look-alike and a Jedi, but mostly his competitors are dressed in normal clothes. Collecting donations from both competitors and spectators, Eisenhauer raised more than $400 this year.

“We donate to whatever charity Dragon Con supports that year,” said Eisenhauer. “This time it was the Lymphoma Research Foundation, and the year before it was the Atlanta Community Food Bank.”

While donning Jawa robes is not an everyday occurrence for him, Eisenhauer was completely at ease while playing chess for two straight days. A competitive chess player, he plays in Georgia tournaments as well as in national competitions. Since beginning his career in chess, Eisenhauer has been coached by International Master Carlos Perdomo, a teacher in the Lower School. Not surprisingly, he won every game at Dragon Con.

For his return to Dragon Con next year, Eisenhauer has set his sights even higher. He hopes to play even more chess, and was challenged to raise $1000 for charity. Besides the fun of being a Jawa chess playing champion for the weekend, Eisenhauer will return to Dragon Con for the fun of visiting the many Star Wars panels, one of which, a trivia booth, is run by his brother, senior Daniel Eisenhauer. Due to their Star Wars related accomplishments, the Eisenhauer brothers have achieved the equivalent of Dragon Con celebrity status.

Another Westminster member drawn to Dragon Con every year is computer science teacher Eliot Kaplan. For the past several years, he has participated in the tournament for Netrunner, an online board game. A self-described board gaming nerd, Kaplan is happy that the world’s largest science fiction and fantasy convention names Atlanta as its home.

“I think it’s fantastic, that, in addition to a lot of other things, Atlanta gets to be the nerdy capital of the South.” said Kaplan.”

Besides playing in the Netrunner tournament, Kaplan attended a panel hosted by a magician and a famous disprover of fraudulent physics.

“As a nerd, it’s nice to be in a nerd-dominated space for a weekend,” said Kaplan.

The numerous actors and actresses at Dragon Con also attracted several Westminster students. Juniors Josh van der Eerden and Anna Harrison arrived as Fitz & Simmons from Agents of SHIELD, a popular TV show on ABC. After ordering lab coats and SHIELD badges, they went to Goodwill in search of more props, even using their lab goggles from eighth grade to complete their costumes.

“We saw a ton of the Lord of the Rings actors, and a ton of people who worked for Joss Whedon,” said Harrison. “We saw Karen Gillan from Doctor Who, and even got a picture with her.”

Other than visiting panels in hopes of taking pictures with celebrities, Harrison and van der Eerden attended Dragon Con’s costume contest at the Aquarium.

“[It] was very impressive… a little scary, but impressive!” said Harrison. “A Galadriel look alike from Lord of the Rings and a Groot look-alike from Guardians of the Galaxy stood out, as well as a woman who used her own bionic arm to impersonate Charlize Theron’s character in Mad Max: Fury Road.”

Ultimately, like both Eisenhauer and Kaplan, Harrison appreciated the community atmosphere of Dragon Con above all the other attractions.

“The people we talked to were so nice,” she said. “Everyone isn’t so weird, and it’s really the people who make it so exciting!”