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For the millionth time, HIRE A FIGHT DIRECTOR

November 8, 2017

I’ve written about why you should hire a fight director even if it’s “just a slap”; I’ve written about the potential benefits of hiring a fight director, even an inexperienced one, instead of hiring nobody. Now I’m going to write about some goddamn common sense.

Last April, though I only saw the article recently, two New Zealand high school students sustained serious injuries during a production of Sweeney Todd, when unsafe props were brought in and then improperly rehearsed and deployed. I’m talking, of course, about the straight razor the Demon Barber uses to dispatch his victims.

Feel that little chill go up your spine at the thought of children slitting each other’s throats? Okay, good. Now, why did the adults in charge of this production not have the same aversion to that scenario?

CNN reported,

In comments broadcast on TVNZ, school head Stephen Cole told reporters Thursday that the students were wounded by a prop razor “covered in all sorts of duct tape and foam and paper.”
“It’s a razor, but it’s been filed down and bound with various things,” he said, adding that the prop did not have a sharp edge and had been used during rehearsals without any problem.
“It was deemed important to make it as realistic as possible,” he told reporters.

Cole sounds like he works for the Trump administration: it was filed down, but also covered, and there was tape and foam and paper, and somehow it still looked more “realistic” than a prop razor?

Right. Okay.


Taping sharp edges works when you’re trying to prevent accidental grazes — not onstage, but in the knife bin at a thrift store or when throwing away X-acto blades. In these scenarios, no one is applying force against the tape with the sharp edge of the knife; when you tape a knife and then use it on someone, you’re doing exactly what the knife needs in order to cut through your “protective” layer. That is how knives work. (Fight directors are not the only keepers of this particular piece of knowledge, or so I thought.)

Asked by a reporter whether a plastic prop blade should have been used instead, [Cole] replied, “In hindsight that may be a reasonable point.”

Hindsight, hell; according to the Theatre People article, the school was warned beforehand by a local prop supplier.

Guys, please, I am begging you, listen to experts.

Say you go to see a doctor because your knee hurts and she asks if you’ve had any blurry vision lately. You have, so you’re like MY KNEE IS NOT EVEN CONNECTED TO MY EYE HOW DID YOU READ MY MIND!?!?! She didn’t. She had special knowledge of what to look for. Any idiot can read the Wikipedia article on reactive arthritis and think, “duh, it’s part of the classic triad of symptoms!”, but the hard part is acquiring and applying a body of knowledge in real time. When you say your knee hurts, a doctor doesn’t look only at your knee; similarly, a fight director isn’t just there for the big set-piece sword fights. When I’m working on a show, I notice every time someone drops or throws a prop, discards a piece of clothing onstage, or stands on a table. If you’re looking at a taped-up razor thinking, “duh, just don’t press too hard,” a fight director will look at the same thing and think of how everyone speeds up and hits harder once there’s an audience. A fight director will think to ask if we’re rehearsing with the actual props. Our body of knowledge allows us to see problems before anyone gets hurt.

A fight director is only a luxury if safety is a luxury.

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