Who is Wallace Shawn and why is he at Dragon Con?
The diminutive actor with the elfin smile is perhaps best known (by the Dragon Con crowd) as Vizzini in “The Princess Bride,” uttering the meme-worthy “Inconceivable!”
Some of his comic convention fans know him as the voice of Rex, the timid tyrannosaur in the “Toy Story” franchise, and a few recognize him (behind the extensive prosthetics) as Grand Nagus Zek, a Ferengi boss, from “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.”
“There are even a few ‘Gossip Girl’ fans who end up in there,” said Shawn, “and I’ve even met one or two people who know about ‘My Dinner With Andre’ and who know about the plays that I write. One of them was debated in the House of Lords.”
“My Dinner With Andre,” which he co-wrote with theatrical director Andre Gregory, is a classic art-house film that consists of a single, long, cosmic conversation about theater, life, death, the supernatural and the mundane. It is a long way from “My Dinner With Andre” to talking dinosaurs.
But that’s what makes Wallace Shawn such an interesting Dragon Con guest. Is it likely that a “Gossip Girl” fan will also admire Shawn’s playwriting, or his filmed adaptations of theatrical works by Anton Chekhov and Henrik Ibsen?
Perhaps not. But this doesn’t trouble the 73-year-old writer, who feels that he’s stepped into a weird and engrossing world.
“I’ve been to about five of these conventions,” said Shawn, calling from Manhattan. “I never heard about the comic cons until this year. It’s something that I’m becoming addicted to now. I meet people that I would not ordinarily meet. I lead,” he explained, “a very sheltered life.”
This we don’t believe. We also don’t believe Shawn when he says Dragon Con is a critical source of income because he’s overspent on taxis. (Subways make him claustrophobic.)
“I’m a desperate man!” he exclaimed, unconvincingly. “I’ve lived beyond my means!”
The more bookish of Shawn’s followers will know that his father was William Shawn, the legendary editor of The New Yorker, and that Shawn the Younger has continued in that literary tradition.
One of his plays, “A Thought in Three Parts,” provoked debate in Parliament because it included nudity. “If you had never seen a human being without clothes on, you might have had the opportunity to do that, in that play,” said Shawn.
The book is being described as a philosophical memoir. “Shawn would like to pass on anything he’s learned before death or dementia close down the brief window available to him,” reads the description by host A Cappella Books.
Shawn himself implies that the book is distinguished chiefly by its bargain price and brevity. “It only costs 11 bucks,” he said. “It’s everything I feel I’ve understood over a very long time. It’s only 65 pages long, so you can see I haven’t understood much.”
After his literary moment at the Horizon Theatre, Shawn will appear Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Dragon Con, including a turn as a judge during the Miss Star Trek Universe Pageant.
(He will not be wearing his latex foam Ferengi makeup. “It’s difficult to spend 12 or 15 hours and not be able to touch your own face,” said Shawn. “The role has been quite influential, in that our leaders are now Ferengis. They are an alien species who are obsessed with greed and money. They have a lot in common with Ferengis except the Ferengis got along with people of other species, which our leaders do not.”)
Otherwise, he said, “I’ll be sitting at one of those little tables, signing pictures. I think I probably will be in a panel. I’ll do what I’m supposed to do.”
Wallace Shawn will discuss his latest work, “Night Thoughts,” in a book signing. 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 31. $20; sold out; tickets include a signed copy of the book. Horizon Theatre, 1083 Austin Ave., Atlanta. www.acappellabooks.com.
Dragon Con runs Friday through Monday, Sept. 1-4, at five downtown Atlanta hotels and the AmericasMart center, with some activities Thursday, Aug. 31. (Wallace Shawn will be at Dragon Con on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.) Four-day membership: $140 beginning Aug. 31 at the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel (online sales have ended). Three-day, two-day and single-day memberships $10-$120 depending on number of days and which days. Tickets available on a day-of basis at the Sheraton. Free for ages 6 and younger. Sheraton Atlanta Hotel, 165 Courtland St. NE, Atlanta. For information, go to dragoncon.org.