It is a dark, dark world that we whistle in...
A close friend who does a lot of work with students and recent college grads recently asked me to articulate my "Love or Money Policy."
It goes like this...
"Professional Fight Director and Stage Combat Instructor
" is apparently one of the best jobs one can possibly have when attending a cocktail party (though for the record, I would like to state that I always say "Playwright
" first). A surprising amount of intelligent and educated people are unaware that the job actually exists. And once they do know, there is a lot of curiosity about how our work is done.
Recently I've been teaching a whole lot of Intro to Stage Combat workshops in various settings, and I have a few more coming up in the near future. I've been saying for quite some time that the basics of stage combat are essential skills for actors, as well as incredibly useful for other disciplines within theatre & film. I would also say that taking such a workshop could also be a really interesting adventure for those outside of professional entertainment. I've written a whole lot about this subject (a dissertation and several articles)
and have been the subject some interviews and so on in this capacity as well, so some of what I'm saying here I've said before, but anything I'm repeating is worth writing about again.
The first priority of a fight director is the safety of the performers. For a profession with such a badass reputation, the practitioners spend a whole lot of time and energy being concerned with the well-being of everyone involved. Stage combat has more in common with a combination of ballroom dance and stage magic that it does with any actual fighting discipline. Once an illusion is decided upon, it becomes a matter of figuring out how to best execute it within the skill level of the cast and in the time allotted. This can be as "simple" as someone being slapped and/or falling down, or as complex as a duel to the death with chainsaws. The illusion must also further the story being told and support character development. If the fight director has done their job well it should be nearly impossible to determine where the director's work ended and where the fight director's has begun.I'd like to take a moment to discuss why the the study of stage combat is important and why acquiring some familiarity with the skills involved in portraying violence in performance should be given some priority across the various disciplines.
In the past few days I've had three major projects come to fruition: my round table of Burning Up the Dictionary
at the Lark Play Development Center
, my devised piece, Ghosts of Hamlet
in Something Rotten: Hamlet Remixed
at the Boston Center for the Arts
, and my talk as an alumni speaker at TEX: Tufts Idea Exchange
. In the middle of all of this, I did the fights for The Nutcracker
at Stoneham Theatre
and continued my work on The Miracle Worker
at Salve Regina University
.TEX will most likely get its own blog post some time after the videos are posted online. So I'd like to discuss the new plays, Burning Up the Dictionary and Ghosts of Hamlet.
One piece is a fairly straightforward full length play, the other is a short piece of devised experimental theatre.Let's start with the less conventional of the two:
"Be well versed in the arts of pen and sword." - Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings
I recently joked that on principle, scholars of John Milton
and Paradise Lost
should all skydive. In part because the opportunity to fall screaming from Heaven like Lucifer
himself would be wonderful fieldwork. And also because the study of great literature should be visceral.This was because not so long ago I went skydiving to celebrate my graduation from my doctoral program, and also because
lately I've been having more and more realizations about what I've come to call "fightaturgy," or, the dramaturgical
revelations of the analysis of violence and movement implied in a performance text and their effect on character development in a play. I brought this up in a recent conversation with my friend and colleague Ryan Hartigan
, which led me to realize that I need to write about this if I'm going to keep talking about it.
A few of my current projects have some great examples: