Crowds come out to see glad­i­a­tors at Spar­taCon

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­ Twit­ter: @Tif­fIndyNews

It was a scorcher in Mary­land last week­end, but the weather didn’t keep gla­di­a­tor fans from at­tend­ing this year’s Spar­taCon in Charles County.

Spar­taCon II, a con­ven­tion hosted by a group of fans called The Red Ser­pents, was the en­ter­tain­ment high­light of the week­end in Wal­dorf. More than 1,000 peo­ple from around the world came to­gether Aug. 13-14 to en­joy in­tense train­ing dur­ing Gla­di­a­tor Academy, play with fire, try archery train­ing, see a long staff weapon tu­to­rial and par­tic­i­pate in a meet-and-greet with their fa­vorite celebri­ties from the STARZ net­work show “Spar­ta­cus,” all at Re­gency Fur­ni­ture Sta­dium.

“We did ex­tremely well for a sec­ond year con­ven­tion and we had a great turnout,” said Kelly Mont­gomery, pres­i­dent of The Red Ser­pents. “We didn’t have as many at-the-door sales as last year be­cause of the heat, but we had no heat-re­lated in­ci­dents and my vol­un­teers were on point with mak­ing sure that peo­ple stayed hy­drated. The sta­dium was amaz­ing at mak­ing sure there was wa­ter sup­plied through­out the pro­gram.”

Even in with the ex­treme tem­per­a­tures, “Spar­ta­cus” fans went crazy dur­ing the gla­di­a­tor show when ac­tor Liam McIn­tyre (Spar­ta­cus) and ac­tor Manu Ben­nett (Crixus) acted out their ini­tial fight scene with Theokoles from the show.

“Spar­taCon is such a great com­mu­nity,” McIn­tyre said. “We are now go­ing into our sec­ond year of Spar­taCon. The first one was such a fun ex­pe­ri­ence, no one knew what to ex­pect, but this sec­ond year they re­ally upped the ante. There’s more cool stuff, there’s gla­di­a­tor fights and spe­cial Spar­ta­cus train­ing. It’s fun be­ing a part of a show that is still rel­e­vant be­cause you never know how a show is go­ing to con­nect with the fans, so for us it was an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to see how the fans re­sponded.”

Ben­nett is a fan fa­vorite also known for his roles in the movie “The Hob­bit” and the tele­vi­sion show “Ar­row.” He said The Red Ser­pents are a nice or­ga­ni­za­tion that works hard to bring to­gether the fans of the show.

“This was re­ally just a genuine fan gathering or­ga­nized by genuine fans of the show,” Ben­nett said. “The most spe­cial thing is com­ing to see peo­ple that are pas­sion­ate about the show and ac­tu­ally talk about the way it was made, the funny anec­dotes, and peo­ple want to know about Andy Whit­field [the ac­tor who orig­i­nally por­trayed the role of Spar­ta­cus but lost his bat­tle with can­cer in 2011].”

The “Spar­ta­cus” cast mem­bers trav­eled to the con­ven­tion from as far away as Austria, Aus­tralia, New Zealand, Los An­ge­les. Ac­tor An­to­nio Te Maioha was seen en­joy­ing the warm weather and brought along his long staff fight­ing weapon to teach a brief class to the glad­i­a­tors in train­ing. He said he is still re­cov­er­ing from a con­cus­sion, but couldn’t re­sist the op­por­tu­nity to en­joy the con­ven­tion.

“We are brothers and sis­ters [the cast] and we don’t get the op­por­tu­nity to see each other most of the time, so at Spar­taCon we get to meet and catch up,” Maioha said. “We’re all pretty down to earth. We spend time with the fans and make a con­nec­tion with each one.”

Many of the cast mem­bers have new pro­jects and were glad to share their ex­pe­ri­ences with fans.

Ben­nett said he is happy to be repris­ing his role as Al­lanon in Sea­son 2 of MTV’s “The Shan­nara Chron­i­cles.” He de­scribes his new char­ac­ter as com­plex but said he loves play­ing char­ac­ters that have roller coaster rides through­out their jour­ney, that res­onate with an au­di­ence and even tell great tales of war.

McIn­tyre is star­ring in a video game called “Gears of War 4” and has also cre­ated a new tabletop card game, “Mon­ster Lab,” that will be man­u­fac­tured soon.

Professional stunt­man and ac­tor Stephen Dun­levy (The Egyp­tian), said he has been on the road of­ten within the last few months work­ing on quite a few films. He said he en­joys act­ing in vil­lain­ous roles and he’ll star as another vil­lain in the “John Wick” se­quel movie com­ing out in February 2017.

“It’s awe­some tak­ing a break to come to Spar­taCon, in­ter­act­ing with ev­ery­one and learn­ing their ex­pe­ri­ence with the show,” Dun­levy said.

His fi­ancée, ac­tress Ellen Holl­man (Saxa), said it’s still amaz­ing to see how im­pact­ful the show has been even years later and how it is still in­flu­enc­ing peo­ple’s lives. Holl­man said she just fin­ished film­ing for the up­com­ing “Lethal Weapon” tele­vi­sion show last week and en­joys be­ing at Spar­taCon with her “fu­ture hubby.”

Ac­tors Dustin Clare (Gan­ni­cus) and Dan Feuer­riegel (Agron) said Spar­taCon was just as awe­some as last year de­spite the heat.

“It’s hot out but there’s so many peo­ple who came dressed up,” said Clare. “I’ve been work­ing on the mini-se­ries ‘Wolf Creek’ which comes out in the United States on Oct. 17 on the Pop Chan­nel. But it’s great see­ing fans, see­ing our trainer Ty­rone Bell and it’s amaz­ing that there’s still a lot of fans who are still en­gaged in the show.”

Ian White, cos­player and stunt per­former from Or­lando, Fla., said Spar­taCon II was the first con­ven­tion he’s ever at­tended. He won third place in the Spar­taCon cos­tume con­test along with sec­ond place win­ner Laura Santana from Tampa Bay, Fla., and first place win­ner Wes­ley Alexan­der Yost from Da­m­as­cus.

“I never miss a chance to dress up in cos­tume,” White said. “It was a 15-hour drive here, but ‘Spar­ta­cus’ is my fa­vorite show.”

Mont­gomery plans to have next year’s Spar­taCon dur­ing a much cooler time of the year, pos­si­bly in April. She is also plan­ning Vik­ingsCon which will be held at Re­gency Fur­ni­ture Sta­dium next Oc­to­ber, so it seems this is only the be­gin­ning of con­ven­tions to come.

Rayne Dun­bar from Jack­sonville, Fla., cos­plays Nae­via from “Spar­ta­cus” and plays with fire at Re­gency Fur­ni­ture Sta­dium in Wal­dorf.


Ac­tor Manu Ben­nett (Crixus) par­tic­i­pated in the Gla­di­a­tor Academy class with “Spar­ta­cus” fans at Spar­taCon at Re­gency Fur­ni­ture Sta­dium.

Professional stunt­man and ac­tor Stephen Dun­levy (The Egyp­tian) and his fi­ancee, ac­tress Ellen Holl­man (Saxa) sign autographs at Spar­taConII in Wal­dorf.

Spar­taCon II cos­tume con­test third place win­ner Ian White of Or­lando, Fla., poses at Re­gency Fur­ni­ture Sta­dium in Wal­dorf.

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