About This Blog

I really like theatre, and I like writing and talking about it.

This blog is mostly about my relationship with theatre, the moments that make me fall in love with this art form, and the times when we don't always get along.

I'll be writing about things that I like, that I think are good and interesting and want to share. I will probably also write about things that I don't quite get, or think are wierd. I may also write about things that aren't theatre, strictly speaking, because it's my blog and I can.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Stage Combat

I gotta be honest; I love doing fight choreography. It probably comes from my latent desire to be an action star. I took Kung-Fu lessons when I was a kid, and I was part of a filmmaking club in college that specialized in action/thriller films, so I got to learn how to do stage fighting.

I remember doing one really long day of shooting for a thriller about a home invasion--my attacker and I spent most of it wrestling on the floor of a tiny bathroom before I chased him into the kitchen, and ultimately killed him with a meat cleaver. The bathroom was barely big enough to fit the crew, and we did a lot of shots with the cameraman standing on the toilet and the director hiding in the bathtub. I was so sore I couldn't move the next day, but it was extremely rewarding, and we got a great reaction from the crowd at our school film festival for the brutal fights.

So I'm really excited to be doing a lot of stage combat in the show that I'm rehearsing right now. Fights present a lot of challenges on stage; you need to make sure everyone stays safe, but you want the fight to look chaotic and spontaneous, but you need to keep the movement clean enough that the audience can follow the action.

One of the most important things is to make sure the audience isn't concerned about the safety of the actors. It's a weird dichotomy, but you need to maintain suspension of disbelief. The audience needs to believe that the character is being hurt, but not the actor. If they're actually worried for the actor, it will pull them out of the moment.

In my opinion, the most importants traits are to appear deliberate and determined. Each movement has to have a specific purpose; you can't flail or stumble about, even when you're the one taking the hits. I think the best way to sell taking a hit is to "ragdoll", but you still need to make it clear where the impact was, and how much it hurt. Which leads to the other element: determination. You have to act the fight. Are you angry? Scared? Tired? The fighters need to look determined to win the fight, both in their body language and facial expression.

When learning the fight choreography, you have to start out v e r y  s l o w l y, and then speed the action up. If you've ever watched DVD outtakes about fight scenes, you've probably heard the stunt coordinators say that learning a fight is like learning a dance. It sounds a bit cliche, but it's really true. Something we just started doing organically in rehearsals, and which I now use as an actual technique, is to narrate the fight as you walk through it. To literally say out loud:
"I go for a right hook"
"I duck and punch you in the ribs"
"I stumble back"
"I grab your shoulders and knee you in the gut"

It sounds really cheesy, but not only is it a great way to help remember the fight choreography, it results in clean fights.

So those are my thoughts on stage combat. We're learning another big fight tomorrow, and I'm really looking forward to it. Because not only is fighting on stage fun to do, when done well, it makes your show more memorable.

It also looks really cool.

No comments:

Post a Comment