stage combat

Link is the Hero, Not Zelda

Well here we are again, lovely lurkers–time for a list of links, for your educational and/or entertainment needs. Please to follow any and all of these, and enjoy!

Denver Unique Week of Fashion was the first in-person live theatrical type event I did as the plague began to clear up a bit. It happened in April of this year, and it’s happening again at its normal Fall time of year. This event is focused on local designers and showcasing those designs on all kinds of beautiful models (not just the conventional type). I know right know I’ll be walking for Misfit Missy on that Friday, and will likely be strutting the catwalk on M and W as well. Keep up on my Insta to see more.

Speaking of live events coming back, we at BLUE DIME Cabaret are in talks to come back in September. We are still in very early preliminary talks, so no deets yet, but the place to find updates is our FB page.

Burlesquey friends of BDC are doing a horror themed burlesque show called HQ of 1000 Corpses, over at HQ Bar in Denver, in early October. I’ll have a sexy bloody act, and will be helping the whole show with the gory bits, too.

The Problematic Tropes (both of Badass Women and Toxic Masculinity) series of mine on Writers’ HQ were defunct for a short bit whilst they updated their website, so all those links in the earlier posts here aren’t working. Now they’re back, with all working gifs and such. And of course, the last few in the series are still up on Friend Jason’s blog.

My memoir is going swimmingly, as coached along by author Herb Childress. His book was an inspiration for the project, and his blog is also some very well written food for thought, on a much more regular basis than my posts here.

Finally, as I have had the hesitantly joyful experience of shooting some firearms over at a range near the SO’s family’s place, I have therefore become more interested in firearms in a theatrical context. I’m a sword guy–the gun thing is a big gap in my expertise when it comes to stage combat. Luckily, a local-ish colleague of mine is an expert in these things, both having written a stellar textbook on the subject, and heading the fantastic video content over at his Youtube page, called, cutely enough, PewTube.

Me awkwardly shooting a pewpew. It’s pretty fricking fun, as bad as I am at it.

Unarmed Pandemic Violence

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.

Stage Combat in the Pandemic #4: fighting on film

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.

Sign up for stage combat so it won’t get canceled!

Stage Combat in the Pandemic #3c: Swords (broadswords)

Me, Brian, and Geoff performing at CO RenFaire, 1998. I like to call this pic “Broad’s Swords.”

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!

Stage Combat in the Pandemic #3b: Swords (lightsabers)

Honestly, need I say more?

We had lightsaber day once in class in the BeforeTimes. This is the 9-cut drill from Japanese swordsmanship and it’s super cool looking.

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?

Stage Combat in the Pandemic #3a: Swords (Rapiers)

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.

Perfect social distancing. Plus gloves are required when using 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.

In a past Advanced class, the students adapted the opening scene from Romeo & Juliet into a pirate rivalry, cannons, Captain Hook, piecemeal costumes, rapiers, and all.

Stage Combat in the Pandemic #2: Staff Meetings

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.

Chris and Wee Katie rehearse their pirate vs. ninja fight.

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.

Scott and Jordan used staffs, swords, and canned food as weapons for their fight scene from Waiting For Godot. Yep, you heard right. They also used their new-found knowledge of fake blood to help with verisimilitude.

Stage Combat in the Pandemic #1: Distance

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.

Work From Home, armed with steel… (sketch by Paul Bradley)

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!

⚔️🗡🦠🥊😷

All of the Things!

And there are so very many, lovely lurkers.

My DU quarter just finished–that was a grad level class in the Professional Writing department called Writing Fiction. They all did great. On deck for them is Writing the Short Story, also online only, as this one was. So that’s a lot of great writing and huge effort in feedback for same.

Metro is on their Fall Break, which is the whole week of Thanksgiving, This semester it’s an online Staging Cultures, as it so often is, and a section of Intro, which means they’re working on their big one act project that goes up next week. That’s a crazy-involved project that I love; it’s an entire one-act play, written anew, and completely produced. It’s bananapants as an undergrad (first year, even!) project, but it always but always turns out crazy good. Teaches them more than a written exam ever could about theatre, at any rate.

Stage Combat has their finals coming up, too, which should be a ton of fun also. They’ve picked some amaze-balls scenes for their finals, from Shakespeare to Love, Actually (I know) and I’m very much looking forward to them. This semester they got a few special lessons: the all-class Roadhouse fight scene was something to behold, and since they met on Halloween, we had a fake blood construction day.

That’s current work, besides the writing stuff for Your Boulder I’ve been doing. That’s been a fascinating education: learning how SEO works and such. In this summer’s thin months, YB fed me and paid my phone bill, so. Plus it’s good to build a biz-type writing portfolio.

What else? I taught the rambunctious middle schoolers over at Drake how to do both Unarmed and Sword stage combat, which was extra special, as now I have a pair of steel rapiers of my own I can use for classes at mine own discretion.

Blue Dime Cabaret is going strong as all get out! We had a very successful Fall circuit, including Dangerous Theatre

Me & Brandy in burlesque producer finery, at a BDC show. Yes, those are big googly eyes.

and a rocking Halloween show in Boulder. We’re planning all of 2020 now, and it’s looking kind of awesome: Roaring 20s, Boulder Arts Week, going back to Dangerous, and probably back up to Central City, too. This whole thing is becoming a big deal in the denvermetro scene, and I’m both surprised and delighted.

Oh, and? I’m a runway model for the first time ever, next week at the Rawk event. No, seriously–I’m kind of both squeeing and completely amazed at the same time. Come to this event and see what this local fashion designer has designed for mine, a body she averred was “my perfect size”!

What’s happening after all this? oh man, that’s a whole nother post.

No, really. I promise. Before long.