Like any other design discipline, fight directing begins with the text. I'd like to take a moment to discuss approaching a text as a fight director and/or a movement specialist. While it's obvious that the play must be read before any other work is done, what one is looking for when they read and how one's findings are utilized hasn't had a whole lot of public discussion.
The review below was originally commissioned by The Journal of Asian Martial Arts, just before the journal discontinued their print edition. I am presenting it on my blog as I feel that this book is deserving of attention. I've added a small handful of hyperlinks for the purposes of this post.
Shin Gi Tai: Karate Training for Body, Mind, and Spirit by Michael Clarke (YMMA: 2011)
Michael Clarke’s Shin Gi Tai: Karate Training for Body, Mind, and Spirit is simultaneously an auto-ethnography of a prominent Karateka, a series of history lessons on the system as a cultural practice, and an anthropological analysis of the current state of karate from a very definite perspective. Instructionally, it is not so much a “how to” book, but a guideline for those who are finding their own way (though there are detailed descriptions of example exercises).
I've recently been asked several times (in part because of my recent article in Backstage, though there is some irony there) about best practices in picking a martial art.
Now, there are several people far wiser and far more badass than me who have a bit to say on the topic, but I suspect that I reach a different demographic. I also intend to address studying martial arts for the purpose of improving oneself as a choreographer and/or performer. I'll also address self defense training a bit and how it might differ from what you might usually think of in martial arts.
Before I go much further, I'd say the first law in picking any physical discipline has already been laid down by Rory Miller: "Train in something that makes it a joy to move."
That being said...
I've noticed what appears to me to be a disproportionate amount of anxiety from people at several levels of the field about writing bios for programs and such.
What I intend to present here is a series of templates and principles that should make the task take under five minutes and be a relatively low stress endeavor.
The purpose of the bio is to let the audience (including other industry professionals) know a bit of additional relevant information about you. While to some degree it can serve to establish the credibility of the artistic team, if you are early in your career (or even doing your first show) that is also an interesting bit of information to an audience. (With that in mind please realize that no one worth knowing is going to judge you harshly for being new to the field, so don't worry about having a short bio.)
This post is particularly aimed at people early in their careers. Remember that you'll be getting more credits as you go, which means that your bio can change constantly throughout a season.
These are all fairly flexible and geared for short bios. Long-form bios are basically expansions on the template. (I have bios for several of the disciplines I work in throughout my site).
As some of you know, I became an Artistic Associate of Whistler in the Dark Theatre in late 2011 after numerous collaborations. Part of what this means is that I have the ability to initiate projects through the organization.
I'm currently curating two ongoing projects that are near and dear to my interests: the Playwright Incubator Program and the Schollah Holla Project.
I'd like to take this opportunity to discuss the Schollah Holla Project, as it has already had public events, and as we have one more Holla coming up soon as part of our programming for our production of Vinegar Tom (January 27th for those of you intending to come).
PETER PAN @ Tufts University - Photo by Elizabeth Herman
Attention Young Actors: You don't always know what you think you know. This is especially true when it comes to stage combat. And you may want to think twice before you claim it on a resume. This is true even if you took a workshop or two and/or performed fights onstage a handful of times.
I'm talking mostly about the "Special Skills" section of the resume. As many of you know, common wisdom dictates that you should not put anything down on there that you cannot do on short notice. I want to work on the assumption that people are making their claims in good faith (liars are a whole other issue). That one would not put down a language that they do not speak, an instrument they do not play, or claim a degree that they have not earned.
But unfortunately, sometimes stage combat ends up on an acting resume when it really shouldn't be...
The ICA in Boston, MA
This past weekend I had the pleasure of performing in Experiment America 2012 at the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Art) in Boston. My director was Mikhael Tara Garver and the event was part of the Emerging America Festival.
During this process I also had the opportunity to work closely with Will Pickens, the sound designer and voice director, who directed and recorded me in an A Brief Guide, an "audio tour" written by Jason Gray Platt, as well as with Jeff Stark, who guided me through the suitcase installations (more on those later on).
Experiment America was a large immersive theatre experience utilizing the entire museum. It was a big project. Really big. The sort of thing that falls under Richard Schechner's concept of Performance of Magnitude; that is, a performance that is too large for any one spectator to experience the entirety of. Keeping that in mind, I cannot hope to describe the event as a whole. My own small part, however, was interesting and fun enough to give me plenty to write about.
It is a dark, dark world that we whistle in...
Shooting An Abuse Prevention Video for IMPACT: Ability - Acting On Camera In Somewhat Unusual Circumstances
Not very long ago I shot an abuse-prevention training video/PSA at Triangle Inc with Ablevision as part of their new IMPACT: Ability program.
The last time I acted on camera was a little over a year ago for Malarkey Films, which in turn was the first time I'd done that in several years. That shoot involved a stuffed monkey puppet and a gas mask. This project however, had a significantly more serious tone.
It was great to be a performer again, as very few other arts have the same degree of immediate gratification. I had almost forgotten how fun it is.
This however, was not a typical shoot...
On the Continuing Evolution of a Script: My Reading of BURNING UP THE DICTIONARY with Vagabond Theatre Group
Graphic by Alison McDonough
Last month I had the pleasure of having a public staged reading of my new full-length play, Burning Up the Dictionary, performed with Vagabond Theatre Group. This took place at Trident Booksellers & Cafe as part of their "There Will Be Words" reading series.
Before I say much more I do have to point out that I was very amused to have a play that's largely about language appear in a series called "There Will Be Words."
Readings are a step in the development of a new play. I once discussed this process with a computer programmer friend and we realized that we had something significant in common: neither playwrights nor programers really know what they've done until they get to see it running. The staged reading is a sort of a test run of a play wherein the writer can figure out what changes they intend to make as the work evolves.
This was the first time I've heard the play in its entirety in front of an audience. I did have the privilege of a table reading of an earlier full draft at the Lark Play Development Center this past November (which I blogged about here) and I got to hear a chunk of it at a Small Theatre Alliance reading back in September (which I also blogged about) after earlier development through Playwrights' Commons' Summer Playground. All three were really useful experiences, and the script has come a long way because of them, but this last piece was a larger step as it was an opportunity for me to evaluate the current (more advanced) draft under more public conditions and figure out what to do with it next.