by Jackie Zwirn, “Bazingirl”
One of the great things about being a geek is that I get to meet so many other nerds that are into the same fandoms that I’m in to.
I recently had the pleasure to sit down with a man that I am proud to call my friend, Robb Yanagihara. He’s a Star Wars nerd, and he’s also a member of a wonderful group called The Saber Guild. And with May the 4th and Revenge of the 5th upon us, what better way to show love for Star Wars than by interviewing someone who’s had a huge impact on the Star Wars fandom?
Robb (also known as “Lord Mirsyllus”, a Sith Lord) and his band of Jedi and Sith was at Star Wars Celebration last April 16-19 in Anaheim, California . He was sadly without much voice on this particular day, but was able to answer some questions for me.
Bazingirl: What is the Saber Guild?
Robb Yanigahara: Saber Guild is a LucasFilm Ltd. recognized costuming group that specialized in choreographed lightsaber performances. We perform at charity and community events, as well as comic book and sci-fi conventions, so share our love for Star Wars and raise funds for charities, such as The Make-a-Wish Foundation and others.
BG: How did you find the Saber Guild?
RY: Saber Guild actually found me. I was a part of another group, but it was just a simple fan group that met up and played with lightsabers in the park. Saber Guild had a show scheduled for the OC Fair, but some of the members had planned to be out of town during that weekend. The leader knew someone in the group I was in, so he stopped by to see if anyone would be interested in performing in that show. Being that I already had a costume and the necessary skills, I was asked, along with a couple others, to perform at the fair. I had so much fun, I decided to be in both groups for a while, but the group that I was in previously was less fulfilling, so I went exclusively to Saber Guild.
BG: When did you join the Saber Guild?
RY: The fair was early May 2008. I have been with Saber Guild ever since.
BG: What is the Saber Guild’s goal?
RY: The main goal of Saber Guild is to raise funds for charity by entertaining children with our shows. We try to make it entertaining and somewhat interactive, so the kids can feel like they were a part of the show, without actually getting up and getting on-stage. The Saber Guild raised $5933 at Star Wars Celebration for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
BG: Why did you pick Sith over Jedi?
RY: Since I apparently have an intimidating way about me, I use it for the performances. Besides, the hero is only as good as his villain. That being said, if someone triumphs over me, that makes him/her look like the greatest hero ever. People root for the hero, because it’s what they’re supposed to, but even though people are rooting for him/her, they want to be a bad ass like me.
BG: Can anyone join?
RY: Anyone is welcome to apply and join, provided they follow the rules. The only real requirements to join Saber Guild are an approved costume (we have costume standards on our website) and a battle ready lightsaber. That, combined with an interest in doing charity events, is a great start. We have links and references for those who wish to join and need help finding the necessary items. The lightsaber and performance skills come with practice. For those who aren’t interested in performing, we also have use for costumers that just want to attend events, take part in the costuming and photos, or even just help out as support members.
BG: Do Siths always have to use red light sabers?
RY: for purposes of making things as clear as possible, Sith in Saber Guild use a red lightsaber, unless they are a canon character that uses another color. If someone were to portray Mara Jade, during the time she was the “Emperor’s Hand,” she’s a bad guy, but she used a purple light saber.
Cases like that, colors other than red are acceptable, but for the most part, we like to keep it simple. Jedi wear earth tones and have blue, green, purple, even yellow sabers. Sith wear black and red, typically; dark colors, and use a red lightsaber, as these are standard recognized features of each.
BG: Is the Saber Guild part of a larger organization?
RY: No. Saber Guild is actually the first of its kind, as far as being an LFL (LucasFilm Ltd.) approved lightsaber performance group. There are other saber groups out there that do charity events. We’re the only one that has the LFL approval to do so. Saber Guild started as a group of 5 people in Orange County, who were from the other LFL approved groups. Due to those groups’ charters, lightsaber fighting was not allowed. The founder of Saber Guild put together a list of safety regulations and rules, pitched the idea to Mary Franklin of LucasFilm and we got approved, due to our high quality costumes, plus the safety regulations that were made to keep the audience and participants safe.
When I joined, I became the 6th member. That’s when things really took off. We started having mandatory practices and people from the group I was originally in quit that group and followed me to Saber Guild. We went from 6 members to approximately 15 within a few weeks.
Events starting coming in, or may have been coming in, but we had enough members to accept everything that came our way.
BG: You’re now the head of the guild, correct? Do you have an official title?
RY: Yes, two titles. I’m the Local Director of Saber Guild: Temple Prime, which is the original group. And I’m also the Global Director of Saber Guild. I oversee the other Saber Guilds that have sprouted up over the last couple years. We performed at Celebration VI in Orlando, FL. After those performances, we met leaders and members of other saber groups in different states. They were curious how we were able to get approved for performances, rather than just having a table. When we explained that we were actually approved by LucasFilm to do so, many inquired about how they could join Saber Guild to get the same privileges. Some groups just converted over to Saber Guild. Others had members quit the groups they were a part of and started their own “Temple.”
A final note would be, being the leader of Saber Guild is fantastic, but a leader is only as good as his team. I wouldn’t be able to do all these amazing things without the hard work of all my members. It’s hard work to be a volunteer for all the events we do all over the world. I’m proud of my team and happy that they chose me to lead.
If the Force is with them, Robb Yanagihara and the Saber Guild will be around for a very long time. I for one, am amazingly proud of these volunteer Jedi and Sith.
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