She Kills Monsters

The play She Kills Monsters by Qui Nguyen is a show breathing new life into theatre. Its reliance on sword fights at important moments is making the study of stage combat more popular, and because the story focuses on two sisters, it encourages women toward action-hero roles. Here’s the short synopsis from the publisher, Samuel…

Read More…

Simulation over Style

My approach to stage combat has three priorities: Safety, Simulation, and Story. This is a small but important departure from the standard Fight Directors Canada version that students will see in their glossary: safety, storytelling, and style. Here is why I believe simulation beats style and gives us a clearer understanding of what we do…

Read More…

Emotion in Action Film Editing

As combat performers, we often get obsessed with the improvement of our physical performance. We often assume that the emotional aspect will happen by itself. But, it’s important for both choreographers and performers to incorporate the anger and fear and pain and exhaustion of battle into your rehearsal and practice. I’ve expounded on this before.…

Read More…

Taste of the Renaissance Beginner's Course

Four Strategies to Combat Technique Repetition Boredom

“The difference between an advanced action and a simple action is that an advanced action is a simple action done very, very well.” A student and colleague of mine reminded me of this quote recently. I very much enjoy its sentiment every time I’m exposed to it. It reminds me of how much of my…

Read More…

What Are You Simulating?

In stage combat, we have three priorities: Safety: all movements must have built-in safety so the risk to actors is minimized. Simulation: every movement should look genuine and feature authentic-looking intent. Storytelling: the combination of movements should match each character’s personality, level of aggression, goals and further the plot of the story if possible. The…

Read More…

Theatrical Deaths with No Blood

Blood adds horror. That’s the single reason to add a blood effect to a death scene. So, the only creative question in whether to consider a blood effect is: does this scene need more horror? In Romeo and Juliet, for example, do we need Mercutio’s death to be horrific? I’d say yes. Do we need…

Read More…

Pause for Effect

Recently, the most effective tip I’ve been giving actors again and again is “take a moment”. It’s very easy to go to the next move in the fight choreography. However, there are important times to pause for effect. Laugh Lines You shouldn’t build a pause into your performance expecting that the audience will laugh. However,…

Read More…

Skill Retention Tips

Any skill you want to keep should be rehearsed weekly. Any skill you want to improve should be practiced daily. Spaced repetitions In the case of learning new vocabulary, or memorizing names, we have a lot of good data from psychological studies. It is well known that there is a certain frequency of reminders that…

Read More…

Infinite Things to Learn

Does the list of things to learn seem endless? It is. The more you think about the possible shows that require fight choreography and their potential needs, it can seem like an impossible task to be prepared for it all. One hand, two hands, look ma, no hands! When it comes down to it, you’ve…

Read More…

Things To Do With Your Mouth for Valentine’s Day

You might not associate the mouth with fighting, except maybe to “slug them in the kisser”. But there are plenty of actions that a desperate person might do in combat using their oral cavity. Here are a few suggestions for your maw: Spitting is an Option Spitting can be a taunt or a direct insult.…

Read More…

Keep Your Method Out of My Combat

Stage combat and Method acting don’t mix. What do we mean by “Method acting”? Here’s part of what Wikipedia has to say: Strasberg used the term “Method” to describe his philosophy of acting and his techniques of training actors, which built upon some of Stanislavski’s early ideas. Strasberg’s method is based upon the idea that…

Read More…

Performance Traits and Virtues

Mastering a physical skill is a long process. Although most beginners need to learn the fundamental movements and the terminology to identify them, there is a constant development at all levels of general traits and valuable “soft” skills. Despite the lack of attention given to these virtues, they are universally acknowledged among the best performers.…

Read More…

Paul Dennhardt on Stage Combat

In the article linked below, Paul Dennhardt, a theatre professor at the College of Fine Arts of Illinois State University, explains important aspects of stage combat that should be understood by everyone in theatre by now. Sadly, most productions still don’t know where to begin with a sword fight, or what the process involves, but…

Read More…