by Ed Fortune
Marisha Ray is an American voice actor, best known for their role as Keyleth in The Legends of Vox Machina. Their credits include video games such as Persona 4. Fire Emblem and Metal Gear, though they are better known for their various beloved characters on hit actual play TTRPG show Critical Role. Marisha is also Critical Role’s Creative Director. We caught up with her to talk about her latest role in a brand new live-play show, the horror based detective mystery, Candela Obscura:The Circle of Needle and Thread.
STARBURST: How would you describe Candela Obscura,The Circle of Needle and Thread, to a fan of Agatha Christie style murder mysteries?
Marisha Ray: Instead of investigating a murder, Candela Obscura is an investigation into the human condition under extraordinary circumstances. The Circle of Needle and Thread really leans into that concept. Horror is such a provocative genre that allows you to explore very real existential and systemic issues with a removed layer of reality separated by a thin layer of latex and exploding blood packets. This next chapter of Candela hosts a very thin veil between fiction and the global nightmares that keep us up at night. In a way, it’s very cathartic, albeit extremely vulnerable both from a player and an audience perspective.
Who is your character? And why did you make those choices? Did you draw upon anything specific for that role?
One of the many beauties of Candela Obscura, the game, is that you go through character creation with your fellow table members. This allows you to build characters with rich connections and integrated backstories. When I entered into this chapter, I already knew I wanted to play someone older and wiser, and a bit off type to what I usually play. But it was quickly revealed in our Session Zero, our kickoff where we build our interpersonal relationships, that these kids needed a mother figure! The more we all talked as a group, that informed Aunt Beatrix’s disposition and outlook on life. There was so much shared trauma – all of them broken and beaten from the choices of bureaucrats that none of them will ever meet. This pushed me in a direction to make Aunt Bee the optimist of the group. There needed to be someone with the heart of gold who defends the choice to fight for the good side of society, even if that same society is what broke you to begin with. It’s fraught, and flawed, and I love it.
How do you prepare for this role, and is it a different routine for Critical Role?
It’s certainly more intense. It’s like deciding to eat a packet of concentrated lemonade powder without diluting it with water – It’ll make your eyes water, and you’ll feel the burn, but damn that rush is worth it.
What draws you most to this particular world?
I’ve always been fascinated by anything that is weird historical fiction and adjacent. Those worlds that feel similar to our own, but are just a few clicks away into an otherworldly dimension. You’re allowed to have a certain amount of agency while simultaneously never being able to rest on your laurels. Everyday items, environments, or situations can quickly shift into an interdenominational cosmic nightmare that makes you question your entire reality. This world is nothing less than spine-tingling!
Why tell this story in this format? Why not an audio drama or a short story?
With Candela Obscura, and any TTRPG Live Play, there’s always two stories happening simultaneously: the communal story that the GM and the players are telling within the game, and the meta story that’s happening above the table as everyone is experiencing what’s unfolding together in real time. When it comes to horror, like with Candela, there’s a kick you get in your brain when you imagine what’s being described. And, as always, whatever you imagine tends to be far worse than if you had a visual representation. But then there’s a whole other layer of enjoyment watching people get the absolute shit scared out of them! HAHA!
Candela Obscura is a very specific genre, as is Critical Role. Is there another types of world/genre you’d like to explore, and if so, what and why?
Oh, so many. Truly, this is just the first of many worlds and genres we wish to explore. Whether it be a sci-fi space opera, or a gritty crime drama – ultimately, we just want to tell stories about the human condition. Various genres allow us to do that while informing the tone, pace, and backdrop. It’s always refreshing to mix things up. Variety is the spice of life, both in fiction and the real world.
If you were to rescue a piece of media/art and keep it safe until the sun died out, what would it be?
Can I say Drag? Just the entire art form that is Drag. Not that it needs rescuing, but it does need to be kept safe. Drag has always been very informative and important to me since my early days in theater. Even if you’re not a part of the LGBTQ+ community, Drag can introduce you to incredible ideas of self expression and freedom. If you haven’t been to a local live drag show before, GO! It’s a blast, and you’ll see some true artistry!
What recent piece of media has delighted you the most and why?
Kentucky Route Zero. I am almost evangelical about this game; I’ve never played anything like it. For those unfamiliar, I try to describe it as being like a point-and-click ‘choose your own adventure’, but instead of choosing how the plot of the story progresses, you choose how to view it and through which character’s perspective. Beyond that, the whole thing is an independent project made by a handful of creators with the help of crowdfunding. It’s a magical realism masterpiece that explores the horrors of debt, and the trickle down effect of trauma that it causes. Plus it’s got some great original bluegrass tunes! I’m always a fan of when people make something new out of an old toolbox, and KR0 is a great example of that. Even if you don’t like games, I highly recommend you check this out for the story alone.
What is the future of TTRPGs? Is it okay to pronounce TTRPG as ‘Titterpig?’
Well it seems the future of TTRPG’s is ‘Titterpig’ now doesn’t it? Done and done.
Where can we see the show? Should we dress up?
This is absolutely your opportunity to pull out those Edwardian clothes you have in your closet that you wore once for Halloween that one year when Sweeney Todd was super popular. I love a good opportunity to dress up! And you can show off your sick duds at any of our Cinemark showings of Candela on Thursday, August 31st! You can also watch the premiere on Critical Role’s Twitch and Youtube at 7pm Pacific!
For more details on Critical Role and Candela Obscura, click here.