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11/7/2016

Stage Combat

Stage combat is perhaps the most all-encompassing tool that an actor can have. It teaches active listening, physical characterization, and the highest possible level of objectives, obstacles, and stakes; moreover, if one feels safe, one can collaborate to create more engaging and dynamic stories. With a firm grounding in stage combat, an actor increases their presence on stage, much the way a confident martial artist does in real life. No actor worth their salt should turn away such an opportunity.

I consider stage combat to be a modern martial art, focused on storytelling, rather than defense, much like many Eastern disciplines teach that, at the highest levels, violence and destruction are set aside in favor of aesthetic creation. A master becomes an artist, as the understanding of violence reminds one of their human nature (the earth, the id, the beast, etc.) but channeling that directionless passion are the creative and rational drives. As artists in the theatre, the consummation of all arts, we have the ability and responsibility to bring this violence as realistically to bear as we are able in order to confront and discuss ā€” and perhaps, to change ā€” the way in which we accept and cope with our natural tendency toward violence.

To that end, it is essential that we as fight directors, give our actors the tools required to tell these stories. By necessity, we begin to help with precautions against harm; after all, beyond the obvious preservation of the actor, if the actor must hesitate because of a safety concern, then we have hindered the story by whatever fraction that hesitation costs. Contrarily, when we instill in actors the knowledge and practice to free them of the constraint of fear, we not only allow that particular scene to come alive, but we bring the actors to a greater state of awareness and commitment, which can only serve them in all aspects of performance.

The responsibility is colossal for fight directors, as with any teachers, to keep this always in mind. We must understand fear, violence, and all of the darkest parts of our humanity in order to create compelling art, but we must be in command of those forces, and teach others to be in command of them, if that art is to be of value.

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