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Gaming geeks save the world in "Planetary Defense Force"

For the past month, Andy North and the crew of the “Planetary Defense Force” (PDF) have been holding shows at The Public House Theater. Delightfully combining elements of sketch comedy, LARPing and dodgeball, the PDF takes the audience – and a few choice “rookies” – on an adventure where they travel across the globe - and sometimes the solar system - to save the world.

After attending the show myself - and participating as “Rookie #2”- I had a chat with North about the show and its origins, the cast, how the show is put together, and what the future holds for The Planetary Defense Force:

Elliott Serrano: How did you come up with the idea of Planetary Defense Force?

Andy North: I wanted to go on adventures! Growing up I didn’t want to be a doctor or an astronaut, I wanted to be a wizard.

Then about three years ago I saw this British game show called “Knightmare”, where kids go on a "fantasy adventure" and try and make it through this castle without dying – which sounded AMAZING, but if you actually watch it it’s not very exciting.


There were lots of riddles, and mostly kids lose by tripping and falling down a well or something. I thought “This show is totally wrong, this isn’t what being a hero would be like.”

So I thought what sort of show would make you feel like a hero? It would have to be like “American Gladiators” crossed with “Star Wars” or “The Princess Bride”. The P.D.F. is us trying to make that show.

Serrano: The cast of PDF have a real rapport with each other. Is that something that came over time? Have you all been together for a while?

North: Some of us have been together for a long time: Cynthia Kmak - the time-travelling Countess - and I have been doing comedy shows together for about five years. Keith Hand - who played the unsettling Harold - has been in every PDF show. Sam Roos, Sarah Albritton and Matt Sevcik are new. We cast them because they got it right away and showed up on day one with such huge and amazing ideas! Sam just emailed me today with this mind-control/zombie/Edison vs. Tesla plot which I can’t wait to run some players through.

Serrano: While the show has a plot, I'm curious as to how much of it is scripted and how much - if any - is improv?

North: Each week we plan out what the bad guys are trying to do – blow up the world, for example – and basically lay out “What happens if the good guys never show up?” That's all we can plan for.

Then of course we turn the players loose to try and wreck the bad guys’ plans, and we react to what they do.

Like when you played, you guys did pretty well at wrecking some of the Alien Queen’s plans in the first half. So when you went to confront her on the mothership at the end, you had some weapons and friends with you for help, and she was not as strong as she’d hoped to be. So you guys beat her!

If you’d lost more of those early missions, she would have been much better prepared and probably would have eaten you.

Serrano: Yikes! Okay, I've seen the website, the Facebook page, and even had you explain it to me, and yet I didn't know what to expect when I "played" as a part of the show.

How would you describe "Planetary Defense Force" to someone who had no idea what it was?

North: Our shows are big interactive adventures. We introduce a plot - the Shadow Corps is trying to take over the world - and tell our Players what they can do - these dodgeballs are your weapons, throw these dodgeballs at bad guys, don’t get hit by dodgeballs yourself.

We then turn them loose and just let them deal with what happens.

If they win, they feel like Luke Skywalker and everybody cheers!

And if they lose, it’s hilarious.    

Serrano: I see that you also offer the show for events outside of the Public House Theater? If so, how does the show change, if at all?

North: Yeah! We’ve done a bunch of different games – we get asked to do special events, and you can’t play dodgeball everywhere.

Once we made a giant board game where you battle a robot army through beer pong; we made a game where you fight a T-Rex with swords; we created a live-action version of Super Mario Brothers 3.

We design the game around the event, what the client wants, and the space we’re going to play in.

Serrano: This Thursday is the last show? When will the show return? 

North: We’ll be back! “Crisis on Planet Earth” will be back very soon, and our fantasy show Dodgeball Dungeon is starting April 12th, so we’ll be around. The website and Facebook page are always kept up-to-date about upcoming events. 

Serrano: Finally, be honest, you guys let the "good guys" win at the end, don't ya'? ;-)


 I give the cast specific orders never to go easy on the Players. And the Players have lost plenty of times – in our universe the moon is gone because the bad guys blew it up.

You earned your victory, Elliott! Relish it!

Serrano: That’s good to know! Thanks for taking the time to talk about “Planetary Defense Force” for Geek To Me!

3914 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60613





Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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