A few of my current and recent fight directing projects are plays that I've done previously in other venues (or, in the case of Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth, contain pieces of plays I've done in other contexts). In the case of Romeo & Juliet, I've done that play so many times I can pretty much recite the dialogue around the fight scenes as well as all the commentary about how the characters might fight that takes place in other scenes.
A question I've been getting a lot is whether I just recycle choreography when I repeat plays.
That would be a resounding No.
The actors are different, the space is different, and most importantly, the director's vision is never the same. Then there are also the logistical factors. How much time are they planning to spend composing and rehearsing the fights? A production with a three month rehearsal period, plenty of time to train, and a commitment to rehearse diligently will have different ambitions for a fight scene than a company with less time and money for the same play. A production set in the Italian Renaissance will very likely have Mercutio and Tybalt face off with rapier and dagger, where the post-apocalyptic version may go with chainsaws (I am waiting for that version to happen).
Context shapes the presentation of text. This is something you learn in any branch of theatre. As a writer, if you're fortunate enough to see multiple productions/workshops/readings of the same play, you get a feel for what has fluidity and what has consistency.
By way of example, here are three videos of the same monologue. Two are performed by my friend and collaborator Zillah Glory, the third was performed at Brooklyn College as part of the Gi60 short play festival a little over a year ago:
The piece is called Lying Makes Me Feel Like a God. It is a portrait of pathological liar. I had done some research into Borderline Personality Disorder to get the motivations, paranoia, and methodologies down. Iago from Shakespeare's Othello was also a model for this.
This is the latest/last installment of this particular monologue. I find it kind of overtly terrifying. The character seems to be speaking from a place of confidence after having succeeded in something horrible. This was probably the first time I'd seen Zillah play an unsympathetic character.
Now then, taking this back to where I started the post, if the same set of words can lead to such completely different, valid, and effective performances, in two cases by the same performer, how can the stage direction, "they fight," possibly allow for recycled choreography? As a fight director, one of my goals is that it be difficult to tell when the director's work ended and mine began. Very often I get to work with the moments that lead into a fight, and of course whatever text is spoken during the fight itself. The escalation of tension before physical hostilities break out is an important part of the storytelling process. And each cast in each space will have a completely different chemistry in those moments, leading to very different choreography when the fight itself breaks out (to combine Clausewitz and Stanislavski, stage combat is the pursuit of character objective by other means).
Should anyone be interested in seeing more of either of these projects, the section of this site dedicated to my playwriting has embeded links to playlists of both my collaboration with Zillah and many of my Gi60 plays.