Avengers and stage combatants assemble!
A friend of a friend has a dilemma: without any experience in a particular weapon, he’s been asked to choreograph for it, because he has the most stage combat training of anyone available. When he asked for tips on Facebook, two conflicting points emerged:
1. For safety’s sake, this show needs someone else to fight direct it.
2. This show is back-of-beyond community theater and there aren’t a lot of options, or budget, for fight direction.
I see both sides of this one: It’s safer to have someone more experienced at the helm than someone less experienced. By the same token, it’s safer to have someone paying close attention to the fights than to let the actors and director, who have lots of other things on their minds, thrash it out. (An arrangement that gives us “Just slap him!” and the occasional horror story like this one.) The key would be to tailor the fighting to the skills of the fight director and actors and the time and money allotted to the violence — same as always, really. Bob is the only fight director available and he doesn’t know how to use a bat’leth? Okay, how about scimitars? No money for stage-safe scimitars? Well, a bat’leth is like a sharp quarterstaff, so let’s make it a really brutal quarterstaff fight. Boom. Meeting in the middle. (And we’ll add some yelling in Klingon. Oh, draaamaturg!)
But the best thing that came out of the Facebook discussion was a suggestion to “activate the phone tree” — that is, go to the Society of American Fight Directors site, see who’s in your area, and get in touch, starting with your regional representative. Theater folk are busy bees, so give anyone you reach out to plenty of time to respond, and be sure you’re not asking people to do your work for you, for free, over the internet. That said, you may very well find someone who’s happy to chat about ideas, safety, technique, weapons vendors and rentals, or any of the things that make our violent hearts go shhhing!.