The Liberty Princess Company recently added an entirely new set of characters to its repertoire, and they don’t wear high heels.
The program’s founder and director, Gianna Marchese ’17, said that she decided to add the new cosmic characters from one of childhood’s favorite hero movies after Our Child’s Advocate, a Michigan-based foster care and adoption agency, asked if her nonprofit, volunteer company would help them with an upcoming event.
“They asked if we have galactic characters, because their other group dropped out, with the event happening in two weeks,” Marchese said. “So we pulled things together and created all of these characters just for the event.”
Marchese and four other Hillsdale College students traveled to PRO Martial Arts in Canton, Michigan on September 24, clad in galactic gear. Between 50 and 75 children attended the event, taking pictures and getting to meet all of the characters.
Andrea Wallace, a junior and student director who has volunteered with the company for two years, said the children were pretty excited when the students entered the room in costume.
“One of our favorite things to do was to try to recruit small children to either the dark or the light side and say, ‘you have these really cool shoes, and I bet you’re a really fast runner, and you’d make a great recruit for our rebel group,’” Wallace said.
Wallace said one particular child was both excited and apprehensive about getting a picture with the Dark Space Lord.
“He looked at his mom and said, ‘I’m not scared. I’m brave,’ and the rest of the time, while his mom was taking 50 pictures, was this kid saying ‘I’m brave, I’m brave,’ like this self-assurance loop… It was really cute,” Wallace said.
She added that the Liberty Princess Company volunteers always do their best to accurately portray the characters they represent.
“The Rebel Princess’s voice is very forward and commanding and tight… and usually, I let my words kind of softly round off to a finish, and so I tried to have that extra edge to the way I spoke,” Wallace said. “I also want to invest in colored contacts before I play her more because that made me uncomfortable having the wrong color eyes. Even though kids don’t usually notice, I want to be 1000 percent character accurate.”
One of the company’s other members, senior Gary Dunkerley, said he also tried to adjust his mannerisms and voice to be consistent with the character of the Space Smuggler.
“I’m not a huge galactic heroes buff, but what I was told is that he’s kind of arrogant, a little cocky, a bit of a flirt, but overall, he’s a nice guy,” he said. “I tried to make my voice a little bit more gravelly, but not a whole lot. Just make it sound like a guy who’s seen some stuff.”
At most of their events, the Liberty Princess Co. has a discussion with the children about what it means to be a true princess, or, in this case, a true hero, from the perspective of kindness and inward character. Wallace said that since the Our Children’s Advocate event was more of a meet-and-greet format, the group did not have a chance to present their regular talk, but they did try to point out particular character aspects they observed.
“If we saw a kid helping out his little brother, we’d say ‘wow, that’s a really heroic thing that you did there,’” Wallace said.
Dunkerley said the group also tried to encourage good and moral behavior through their own example.
“Because we couldn’t directly instruct the kids, I think we just wanted to be not disappointing as heroes and let our example teach them instead,” Dunkerley said.
Wallace said the galactic heroes have been a hobby of hers since she was very young.
“I love the galactic heroes. I’m so obsessed,” she said. “My brother was able to take a Make-A-Wish trip down [to a famous amusement park], and they funded all of our gift store purchases, so we bought pretty much the entire galactic heroes gift store, and it’s still in our basement… I remember when I was casting myself as the Rebel Princess I was like, ‘Is this really happening?”
Dunkerley said he first got involved with the company when a volunteer asked him if he would act as one of the company’s princes.
“I went to The Source booth for the Princess Company, and I was like, ‘Hey, could I dress up as a princess?’ and they were like, ‘No, we don’t think so, but we do need princes,’ so I was like ‘Ok, sounds fun,’” he said. “So I signed up, and they seemed to be genuinely excited, because there’s kind of a need for it.”
Marchese designs a lot of the costumes for the company herself, and she made the galactic costumes for the Space Scavenger and Space Smuggler characters completely from scratch. The company bought and rented the other costumes, but had to perform major alterations, especially after realizing that the Dark Space Lord’s costume had a calculator for a chest plate.
The company already has their next event planned for the second week of October. Marchese said people generally contact her over Facebook to schedule events.
“We don’t do much advertising,” she said. “We have our hands pretty much full through word of mouth.”
Wallace said she is inspired to be part of the program because it allows her and other students to be good role models to children in the community.
“My favorite part is when a kid first sees you and their eyes light up,” she said. “They’re just so excited because their role model and the person they watch in a movie every day is in front of them and cares about them.”