MiniInterview: Geoff Kent

More MiniInterviews recycled from the blog that was, lovely lurkers. This is my piece on Geoff Kent. he has just directed a play called She Kills Monsters (that I’m so pissed I didn’t get to my audition for) that’s playing now. This interview was from…um…a few years ago…

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5 questions: GEOFFREY KENT                Interviewer: Jenn Zuko 

1.) What made you get into the stage combat world in the first place? What theatrical endeavors pointed you to the SAFD and what made you work your way up the rungs to Presidency?

After college I was cast as Prince Hal in Henry IV, Part One and “survived” the fights. I felt uncomfortable and fearful and it affected my performance in those scenes so I sought out local training. If I wanted to be a classical actor it seemed obvious that swordplay was going to be a part of it.

I took several classes locally and completed a few Society of American Fight Directors Skills Proficiency Tests. This is a codified 30 hour course on different weapon styles. At the time there were six: Rapier & Dagger, Broadsword, Smallsword, Sword & Shield, Quarterstaff and Unarmed.

After collecting those I attended a regional workshop in Chicago where I was encouraged to attend the national SAFD Advanced Actor/Combatant Workshop in Vegas. That was the game changer. It helped me to finally connect playable actions and objectives to the physical world of fighting. Story was tantamount, “fancy moves” got in the way.

The local SAFD teacher moved away in 1997 and then the work started coming to me, quite by accident. Eventually it took over and stage combat now provides me with a means to support myself as a teacher and choreographer. It also opened acting and directing doors to me I would not have had otherwise. My acting work at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival and the Denver Center Theatre Company would not have happened without those skills.

As for the route to President? I served on the SAFD Governing Body as the Actor/Combatant representative and, after

Geoff and I performing at my first appearance at the CO RenFaire. 1996.

Geoff and I performing at my first appearance at the CO RenFaire. 1996.

becoming one, the Certified Teacher representative. SAFD President that just somehow happened, not sure anyone else wanted it. ☺ It is a LOT of email as the head of the board of directors, we are also the volunteer employees. It was a pleasure to serve and start to move the SAFD from a club model to a business model. Not an easy transition. Currently I am now the SAFD Fight Director representative as I attempt to collect every seat.

2.) Do you enjoy fight direction, or performing more? What roles/choreography stand out to you in your career?

I love the attention to detail, safety and acting beats that fight direction affords. It is helping me grow into my director pants. ☺ But I still love acting and performing physical action. It is where I feel most comfortable as an actor and where I do my best work. I imagine there may come a day when my knees, back, neck, etc. won’t want me to sling steel. Until then I am still a glutton for fight roles. I’m looking at you Warwick!

Choreography that stands out? Hrm. I loved the challenge of developing Three Musketeers for CSF.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDzzX9WWARQ

The final product couldn’t contain all the ideas I had but it was fun to develop the first fight and play with pre-sketched character rules.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=jseP00TiVt4

In Richard III at the DCTC we killed 17 people. Loved coming up with ways to do that. Made me get inventive.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sit7BEsn6as

For favorite acting it would have to be Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing. I’ve played him twice, most recently at CSF. He is comfortable to walk around in, I share his sentiment, both for and against marriage, and I love peeling away his layers.

This summer I am playing Mercutio. A role I have long pursued, finally have… and am terrified of. Should be interesting.

3.) What’s your favorite theatrical weapon and why?

My favorite is more of a style than a weapon. In early 2000 the SAFD introduced “Single Sword” as a testable weapon. Originally intended as a weapon easier to learn than the complexities of Rapier & Dagger, it has morphed into a repository of classic moves from Hollywood Swashbucklers. We teach it with lightweight epee’s primarily but in reality it works with broadsword, quarterstaff, anything. Errol Flynn did it with anything handed to him.

I love it because it was developed by Hollywood. Most weapon styles have their roots in specific history (Broadsword, Smallsword, etc). “Swashbuckling” was really developed by Cinema. They added things that just look good and they created room for acting beats independent of the logic of martial blade play. O, and It can be ridiculously funny.

Danny Kaye in “The Court Jester”

www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3oURsGzs9o

And for personal mockery, my single sword test from my teacher training workshop.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ooxZ8B0vZ8

4.) I have heard that in the upper ranks of the SAFD they ask that the actor/combatants learn a martial art. You chose Aikido—what about it in particular jived along with your experience in stage combat?

The SAFD doesn’t have an official stance on martial arts. I know great martial artists that are great stage combat teachers… and bad stage combat teachers. I know stage combat teachers with no martial arts training that are awesome… and some that really need training in a martial discipline. It is all subjective really.

For me, I studied a little boxing and then Gracie ju-jitsu to get started. Loved both but neither suited me. I can’t really spar and work as an actor. Can’t roll into a show limping or visibly bruised, ya know? I stumbled upon Boulder Aikikai by accident through SAFD Fight Master Chuck Coyl. His words, “What are you an idiot? Go take classes there.”

It suited me. Classes are very quiet, no “Ki-yaaa!” which always feels ridiculous to me. It is a self-focused journey and non-competitive. It also has a “lifetime to master” attitude and all the veteran students and teachers also regularly take the basic classes. There are no visible belts and the like, everyone is equal. I love the pursuit of a silent slow-mo forward roll. I love the balance.

And it is fun to flip people. ☺

5.) Any interesting horror stories? Joyous success stories?

Too many to list. I’m about to sink my teeth into Tracy Letts’ newest play, “Superior Donuts” at DCTC. It is an epic battle between a 50 year old criminal and a 60 year old hippie. It is of obscene length and is designed to overstay its welcome. The audience wants him to just stay down. Like Cool Hand Luke, but with older actors.

And ours is the first production in the round. I’m expecting a little bit of column a, little bit of column b on that one.

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