Well good golly gee, lovely lurkers—looks like I’m presenting at Boulder Startup Week again this year. They’re doing a virtual thing again this year, and again, my workshop is focused on body language in business. This year, though, my talk will be more hands-on (more like a workshop), and I’ll be focusing more on subtext and first impressions. I’m super-psyched!
Here’s the description:
“Tell Us What You REALLY Feel”
It’s been said that honesty is the first component to cultivating healthy relationships. But do you know what you’re sharing in your interpersonal communications that isn’t being said aloud? Is your body betraying you? What sort of a first impression do you give potential clients, partners, or investors? How do you know? Do you know how to read a room? In this hands-on workshop, join body language expert Jenn Zuko as we explore the multiple ways in which we read and transmit messages under and alongside the words we say. Breakout room exercises will include: basic body language vocabulary; what is subtext and how can we clarify it; how we can (literally) position ourselves to maintain the best relationships possible, in business and beyond.
The MSU Denver Stage Combat students have concluded their first unit, which was Unarmed. Since Unarmed usually takes being closer together than pandemic rules allow, we decided to do one of those linked-clip videos you’ve seen so many other stunt groups do during social distancing mode. Here’s the final, knitted-together version for your enjoyment. And remember, if you’re moved to comment: these are beginners. And it’s a pandemic.
I’m going in a brand new direction in the stage combat course this Spring: we’re going to be doing our unarmed unit all online! Check out this video in the vein of those stunt compilations you’ve seen around during lockdown: the participants are all MSU theatre students, alumni, or faculty. Oh, and my partner, too.
We have this lovely little collection of hand-and-a-half broadswords at Metro, and before now I’ve never had the time to bring them out and play with them in class. But now that I’m shifting the course curriculum a bit and making the semester more about having long weapons in our hands (easy social distancing), I thought I’d go ahead and fit them in this coming semester.
Broadswords are a bigger, heavier, thicker-bladed, and earlier type of sword than the rapier, though many of them tend to be no longer. The ones we have at Metro aren’t heavy, solid-steel, enormous longswords or claymores, though—they’re built a bit lighter than most I’ve used and learned on; they are about the same length as the rapiers (though obviously the blades are much wider), and the hilts are your basic cross hilt and with a grip that’s easy to use with one hand, or the hand-and-a-half technique, where you steady your hold with your off hand on the pommel. This will be a lot of fun and will be an easy segue either from or into the lightsabers, which can also be used one handed or two.
Plus, our broadswords make this gorgeous chiming sound as they clash together, with proper stage combat technique of course. We haven’t really used these weapons hardly at all, so if you’re a Metro, CCD, or UCD student, you won’t want to miss this iteration of the class—I don’t know when or if I’ll be able to use them again, if we go back to “normal”…
There’s still just 5 people signed up. Register now!
Okay, okay, here’s the deal: there are still only 5 students signed up for MSU Denver’s stage combat class next semester. I’ve been regaling you with the things I’m adding, changing, and planning for with the pandemic rules in mind, and the class is looking like it’s going to be a heckuva lot of fun.
One of the changes I’m making is I’m going to mainly do weapons work, keeping our safe distance and etc. So I’m adding staffs back in to the curriculum, as I mentioned, and we’ll be doing not one, but three kinds of swords!
My technique for cool looking lightsaber fights for stage are not based on the Star Wars canon styles, but on Japanese katana technique. I do this for several reasons, the main two of which have to do with the fights needing to look real (instead of a twirly non-fight dance like in episode 1), and that originally? Star Wars is a combination of a western and a samurai flick, and the “elegant weapon for a more civilized age” lends itself very well to katana technique.
Also, katana technique is much more versatile—anyone who’s an anime fan can then use the basic style for any sort of Japanese-looking fights, and the drill is based off of actual swordsmanship/martial arts, as opposed to a fictional or purely theatrical system. Learn lightsabers from me and that’s not all it’s useful for (though it’s some of the funnest).
How can you resist? Let’s get more masked avengers signed up, so we have these experiences! What are you waiting for?
One of the coolest weapons to learn in the field of Stage Combat is the sword. In my not-so-humble and professional opinion, the rapier is one of the coolest looking and funnest (I’m also an English professor–that’s totally a word) swords to learn, too. It’s also most likely the sword you’ll find you’re using onstage most often in any number of productions–other types aren’t used nearly as often as rapiers.
Rapiers are the swords you use in Shakespeare, in Three Musketeers, in Moliere stuff… even in some Restoration comedy they’ll use the very slightly earlier rapier. Fantasy worlds, too, like to feature the ornamental quality of the rapier, and for good reason. Rapiers are pretty, slender, and quick without being tiny and invisible onstage, and let’s not forget Princess Bride‘s role in popularizing them for theatrical use. Pirate flicks often use rapiers over cutlasses, too, because they look so cool.
We at MSU Denver are beyond fortunate that we own, in the theatre department, over 20 beautiful, custom made rapiers for use in class and in productions. This gorgeous and well made arsenal was constructed by the late, great Denny Graves; who in his life was one of the very best stage combat weapon makers in the country, and certainly in this state. He’s no longer with us, so our collection of Graves masterpieces is something to treasure, being irreplaceable and made like no other swords you can get anywhere these days. (Rogue Steel is a close second, so if you’re in the theatrical weapon market, they’re the ones to go with nowadays–I have two of their rapiers and I’m very happy with them.) But the fact is, unless you are the lucky owner of a Denny Graves piece, you won’t be able to work with them pretty much anywhere else unless you take my classes at Metro.
Plus, a 4-foot sword at the end of an extended arm equals around 6 feet of safe distance between you and anyone else. Win-win.
I’m writing these posts, lovely lurkers, for a few reasons: one is to share with my colleagues in the stage combat community what sorts of things I’m doing with stage combat instruction, with safety in the pandemic in mind. Masks and social distancing are the ways to guard against the plague, and as such, some of the things I used to teach (especially the types of techniques involving touch), will be tossed aside this year in favor of other, safer, things.
This year, I’m adding back one weapons system that I used to include as part of the regular syllabus (and it has a dedicated chapter in my book, Stage Combat): six foot staffs.
Since safe social distancing is six feet apart, I thought it was the perfect thing to once again teach in the beginning course at Metro. European style staffs of this type are called Quarterstaffs, and in the Japanese style (which I am most heavily trained in, from my years in Japanese martial arts) is called rokushaku-bo, or just bo staff.
Staffs are a super fun weapon to learn–I know it’s not nearly as commonly found in theatre as unarmed or swords are, but hey. It’s a pandemic, and needs must. Besides, “normal” theatre ain’t normal anymore, and won’t be anytime soon. So. Speak with projection, and carry a 6-foot stick.
If you’re a student at MSU Denver, UCD, or CCD, sign up for Stage Combat in the Pandemic this Spring semester. It’s gonna be a lot of fun.
When the plague first hit, lovely lurkers, I was just about to embark on the last unit of Metro’s Stage Movement class, and had to be quick about yoinking the whole unit to an online-only format. Since then, I’ve participated in three theatre productions on Zoom, one online-only stage combat class, and am just concluding teaching an asynchronous, all-online course at DU called Visual and Physical Communication, which is focused on body language.
Clearly, since March, we in The Biz have gotten pretty good at doing things you wouldn’t imagine you could do without being in-person; we figured out how to do these things remotely. Work has changed forever, methinks, and theatre certainly has.
I have been assigned my customary stage combat course at Metro this Spring (the semester begins mid-January), and I have to admit that I’m having a pretty good time shifting my curriculum in order to make the class safer, not the way it always is as far as theatrical combat, but to keep me and the students who take it plague-free.
The class will be meeting Fridays only, and there are several pandemic rules that all of campus is adhering to, including testing, flu shots, mandatory masks, sanitation mandates, and keeping the physical population of classrooms down. I am adding more of my own rules to my stage combat course, so as to keep it as safe as possible. Here’s the rundown, in a nutshell:
-our unarmed unit will be remote: students will learn basic punches and slaps, but no techniques that include touch (like chokes or grapples). We will learn these techniques for film, as opposed to emphasizing a live theatre approach. This unit will also be shorter, because…
-I am adding 6-foot staffs back into the curriculum! Back when I first taught this course (in 2005), I was just completing my textbook, and as such I followed the book’s lineup, including staffs. Later I would take the staffs out of the beginner course, because a) actors will rarely find themselves needing to know staff technique—sword are way more common; b) I was running out of time with three weapons systems crammed into 16 weeks. But now, staffs are back, and unarmed is a smaller unit.
-we will be mainly working with swords through most of the semester. After all, you add a 4-ft sword to the end of your extended arm, and you’ve magically got social distancing.
-Since the class will mainly be about swords this time, we may just break out Metro’s beautiful broadswords.
-also: lightsabers. Need I say more?
I’ll be posting in more detail about all these things in some separate posts here, in an attempt to get enrollments enough to not cancel the course. Stay tuned, and if you’re a Metro or UCD or CCD student, sign up!
Problematic Toxic Masculinity Trope #7: Violence is Normal
by Jenn Zuko
Guh that ad always makes me cry. Ahem…/attempts to salvage eyeliner/
Why does it make me tear up?
I think maybe it’s the sort of chantlike description of this trope (boys will be boys = men are violent), and the bare bones showing of what it means to say No to this norm. But the norm is powerful and real, and even in this supposedly enlightened year of Our Lord 2020, it’s still a powerful message being given to our boys and men today. And let’s be real: #metoo is directly and literally because of this … well I was going to call it a trope because that’s what I’m talking about with this series of articles, but this one is far, far more than a trope; it’s ingrained not only in our arts and our pop culture, but…