Saturday, February 24, 2024

‘I’m With The GSA’: Ally Beardsley On Fantasy High Junior Year & Chaotic Lesbian Representation

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Fantasy High Junior Year is the third season of Dimension20’s flagship setting – a John Hughes inspired adventuring academy. The show’s 21st season highlights not only the popular actual play’s upgraded production capabilities, but also the cast’s development as performers, players, and storytellers. 

The Fandomentals had the opportunity to sit down with multiple members of the Dimension20 cast and crew about their growth as actual play performers and as people, and will be releasing those interviews over the next few weeks. 

The first interview in this mini-series is with Ally Beardsley, who plays Chaotic Lesbian cleric Kristen Applebees. In Fantasy High Junior Year, we see a significant shift in Kristen’s disposition as Beardsley explores the emotional nuances of the Disaster Queer trope, in an antagonist relationship with her new patron deity.

In this interview with, we sit down with them to discuss what the realities of publicly transitioning as a performer and player, forging your own path as a queer person in the world, and to uncover some honest truths about their game-altering rolls on Dimension20.

In addition to transitioning publicly through Fantasy High and Unsleeping City, you’ve also very publicly learned the game of Dungeons & Dragons. Have those two experiences informed each other? Have they had any impact on each other? 

Ally Beardsley: Yeah, I really like that question. I don’t think they’ve necessarily informed each other, but it has been a really crazy experience. I do think when I was playing Kristen first, I was playing myself in this way that I think a lot of people [do]. When they play D&D, either you go the route of, Oh, I’ll play this version of me, or I’ll play this aspirational version of me that doesn’t look like me at all. It was kind of fun to play this church camp girl. 

Now we’re coming back to it five years later. I don’t look like this person. I don’t identify with this person. And now it’s almost like I am getting that full experience of playing a full fantasy version of myself that I look and act nothing alike. That’s been pretty fun. 

I recently wrote an article about gender and TTRPGs and how you can explore gender in TTRPGs. How is playing an ostensibly cisgender woman, unless we explore gender through Kristen at all in Fantasy High Junior Year, compared to playing a trans man in Unsleeping City. How are those two experiences different as a performer? 

Ally: I can only speak for my experience, but when it comes to sexuality or gender, when you’re first coming to grips with these kind of “jumping out of a plane” decisions you’re like, Oh my gosh, this is gonna change everything, this is so scary. Afterwards, that’s kind of all you wanna talk about. You’re like, I did this really scary big thing. You kind of think that’s what life is gonna feel like forever. I will always be on the tip of my tongue talking about my journey with hormones and then that stuff kind of starts to fade to the back. 

I had this moment where I was like, It’s so awkward that I’m always talking about gender and sexuality. There’s so much more to me. There’s so many other interests that I have. And so with Fantasy High and all of Dimension 20, I think I’ve gotten to really play different characters on the spectrum of that. All the characters that I play are queer in some way, but that’s not the driving force of their story. 

For Kristen, a high schooler, it is. Her queerness is super important to her. So it was really fun to kind of hop back in and be like, I’m out and proud. I’m with the GSA.

I’m a straight girl in the GSA, I don’t know what you’re talking about. 

Ally: Yeah, yeah, exactly, exactly.

In that aspect of not feeling as you need to talk about it as much, I very much understand feeling boxed in by that, in certain ways. In one of the Behind-The-Scenes interviews for Fantasy High Junior Year, you speak on the consequences of growth and learning that you need to take care of yourself. Especially as people going through big transitions, such as coming out or taking hormones, you have a very chaotic period of growth and change, emotional dysregulation occurs. Can you speak a little bit more to that experience of what you’re trying to convey with Kristen in this season? 

Ally: Something I wanted to explore with Kristen in Junior Year, is this idea of the Chaotic Lesbian. People love that, they’re like, Oh my gosh, Kristen, so chaotic, ha ha. But I’m [exploring], okay, what is that stemming from?

I do think that with queer people, we have a lot less containment because we’re really having to forge our own paths. A lot of queer people aren’t born to queer parents. You’re really figuring out your own leadership, you know? And sometimes that’s very chaotic rock stars. Who are the people that we’re looking up to? 

Crazy, chaotic lesbian is a type. Why is it a type? What does it mean? Is there a better way of living? You know, so I think it was kind of a little bit of a reckoning season for Kristen, having to face what it means for [her] to be the chaotic friend and not the friend who is looking out for everybody else. Do I always need to be taken care of? Am I ever the caretaker? And if the answer is I’m never the caretaker, am I a good friend? 

I love that, especially in conjunction with the spirituality aspect of Kristen’s character. How does that play into the season of growing up and maturing in this way, embracing a new version of spirituality that has changed every season of Fantasy High. 

Ally: And it doesn’t stop. Real searcher. Yeah, no, I think her kind of changing the punctuation mark behind the word “Yes” has been kind of her MO and that doesn’t really change in this season. I think she’s truly still trying to figure out what it means to not have all the answers, coming from There’s this big holy book that has all the answers religion. She’s kind of a pendulum for sure. She’s all answers, to no answers, to hopefully finding her middle somewhere in college probably. 

My final question. I’m gonna ask a real hard-hitting journalism question and if you want it to be off the record it certainly can be, but have you ever faked a roll on Dimension 20? 

Ally: I have not, and I love this question. 

This comes up so often, and we thought about putting a camera on my roll box. Because these Nat 20s are actually crazy. But it really is… I think this upcoming season, Zack has a ton of 20s, and someone finally was doing a tally of the rolls. 

I don’t actually have so many more Nat 20s than everybody else. They just come at these crazy moments and Brennan really rewards them in this way that highlights them a lot. So I do think we’re both working together to make it seem like there are these epic roles, but he has story and gameplay that he needs to get out. So he’s kind of like, “Okay, great. Yeah, now you get this huge lore dump” and I look like I win a jackpot.

I do love that it stays honest to what actual play is, the authenticity and the improv. 

Ally: People have been like, you need to get new dice. And so I get new dice each season, and they’re still rolling hot.

Dimension 20: Fantasy High Junior Year premiered on Dropout.tv on Jan. 10 at 7 p.m. EST. Episodes air every Wednesday.

Imagery Provided by Dropout

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Author

  • Rowan Zeoli

    Rowan Zeoli is a journalist with a focus in tabletop games, actual play, gender, and revolutionary thought. You can find her work in Polygon, Autostraddle, Tripsitter, and more.

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