Stage Combat

What It’s Like To Be A Female Fight Director

“We will not glorify violence” Visit Ruth Cooper-Brown at the weekend and you might find her “getting bloody” in the kitchen. Just how bloody will depend on whether she wants to produce a splat or a spurt. Making and selling different types of theatrical blood is part of the “recipe for violence” the fight director offers through Rc-Annie, the dramatic violence company she runs with Rachel Bown-Williams. The pair choreographs fight and death scenes for stage and screen, and are behind the stranglings and stabbings in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s current production of John Webster’s revenge tragedy The Duchess...

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“Dutchman” At Secret Theater

One of New York City’s most dynamic young theater companies makes a bold addition to its repertoire with its engaging production of Dutchman, Amiri Baraka’s provocative chamber drama. Dutchman is a companion piece to Albee’s The Zoo Story, another mid-1960’s urban-set dialogue between two strangers featuring a tragic ending. In this case, a Central Park bench is switched out for an MTA subway car. Where Albee’s characters are both white males, Baraka’s play features an African-American man and a white woman. A play so clearly aligned with the turbulent Civil Rights era requires contextural reconsideration; that’s precisely what this...

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Nine Pieces of Advice for Martial Artists Beginning Stage Combat Training

Surprisingly, in the early stages of studying stage combat, a martial arts background is often an obstacle before it becomes an asset. I write this not only as a fight director, but as a lifelong martial artist and former competitive fencer. While I found my martial arts background to be an invaluable asset in my fight directing career, there are several things I wish someone had pulled me aside and told me early on. These words of advice are aimed at those coming into stage combat with a strong martial arts background but with little theatrical experience. They come...

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Dramaturgy of the Duels in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton”

Pistol Dueling in the Early United States as Presented on the Broadway Stage Two men face off in Weehawken, NJ just before dawn.  They hold muzzle-loaded flintlock pistols, primitive firearms by today’s standard.  The moment determining life or death will be that instant that triggers are pulled.   Once that mechanism is engaged, flint will strike steel, creating a spark that then ignites powder, which in turn propels a lead ball towards their opponent.  This lethal action provides some sense of justice over an insult and satisfies the honor of both combatants. The field, in reality, is a revolving platform...

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The Fight Director’s Bookshelf: What Early Career Fight Directors Should Be Reading

What early career fight directors should be reading? This post addresses what I feel should be the seed texts in an early career fight director’s library and why.  I maintain several pages of resources for those interested in stage combat on my personal website, but I have not written anything prescriptive prior to this outside of course syllabi. These readings assume that the person in question is receiving and pursuing proper hands-on training in the physical techniques of stage combat, training and mentorship in fight direction, as well as having had a general theatre education, first aid/cpr training, and other...

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Please Think Twice Before Putting ‘Stage Combat’ On Your Resume

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...

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