education

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 #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!

⚔️🗡🦠🥊😷

Vote for my seminar!

Hey lovely lurkers—it’s been a minute. I do apologize; I’ve had quarantine brain sum’n fierce.

But I have a big favor to ask you all:

I have a seminar submitted to this year’s virtual Denver Startup Week, and I need lots and lots of votes for it in order for them to consider offering it. So could you do me a solid? Could you vote for me?

I did this very seminar the other month at Boulder Startup Week specifically tailored for Zoom, and it worked great!

Anyway, here’s the link. Thanks a bunch!

Deconstruction Workers episode 4.1 (&2): academics on academia in the pandemic

Please to enjoy my latest guest appearance on the Deconstruction Workers. Part 2 coming soon! UPDATE: Part 2 is HERE! https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-deconstruction-workers/id1396862014 

https://blubrry.com/podcastdcw/57757504/s04e01-coronapocalypse-2020-part-one/

PTMTs on the Outrider #3: Bond, James Bond

This time, both Kathleen and Paul joined us for this discussion and….

Golly we sound hammered. Not that that should surprise you, for those who know this series…

Here’s the podcast ep, over on Outrider. Here’s the original article, over on Writers’ HQ.

Please to enjoy.

Sign up for Stage Movement, 3rd & final plea: Clowning Around

What do you call a pile of clowns? A giggle? A clowder?

The semester is creeping up upon us quickly, lovely lurkers, and I have attempted to save my break and my sanity by not checking on my Metro class rosters every 5 minutes, to ascertain whether or not I’ll have a job the next couple months. Spoiler alert: I need 12 students minimum in each class or they’ll be cancelled. I’ll be checking up on everything on Monday, so I’ll let you know then if these pleas have helped or not.

As it is, allow me to put forth a third compelling reason why Stage Movement is such a fun and important piece of education that you must experience: Clowning.

That’s right, clowning: the once sacred art of creating worlds using physicality, of exaggerating your own personality into larger than life antics, exploring the long long journey from problem to (ridiculous) solution, and of course hats. (Clown hats: it’s what we do in lieu of elaborate costumes & makeup.)

In Metro’s Stage Movement class, we learn the basics of mime & gag creation, then we do a rollicking assignment called Clownlympics, in which our new-forged clowns present sporting events. The other fun thing about this event is that I break out my kid’s-dance-class instruments, and the audience clowns then provide musical accompaniment to each event. It. Is. A. Blast.

So sign up for class! I promise it’ll be incredibly fun, and you’ll learn a lot about movement techniques, styles, and how your body works in space (and on stage).

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.

 

The Palm Of My Hand

It’s been said several times and by different people, that I know how to capture an audience, and hold them in the palm of my hand. Those that have attributed that superpower to me aren’t in fact wrong. It’s both a talent of mine, and also a skill. What do I mean by both?

You’ve no doubt heard of the nature vs. nurture argument vis a vis psychology as well as behavior. Is it something passed down in the genes, & inherent in the person from birth (the SO’s half-Asian children loving rice and not doing well with milk; a person’s sexual orientation), or are the things a person is good at and the things they do because of their environment/how they’re raised (there’ve been multitudinous debates about what made the Columbine shooters do what they did, and also about where talent comes from)? I want to talk about the very latter.

Growing up, I was a dancer, writer, and theatre person, habits and behaviors of which having started almost from day 1. As a toddler, it went beyond loving Alice in Wonderland: I *became* her for days on end. At 4 or 5, my obsession with Wizard of Oz went way beyond merely loving the movie and reading some of the books (yes, I was an advanced reader); I cast my family members as the roles. To this day, my mother still gives me shit for casting her as the Wicked Witch of the West (my dad was the scarecrow, I was Dorothy, and my little brother was Toto, natch). It wasn’t till adulthood when I could explain to her that that was the strongest female character in the movie: Glinda, my mom certainly was not, but neither was she Auntie Em. And she couldn’t be Dorothy. It actually fits well with her awful temper and etc. but I digress. Though, not really…

I have also always been an excellent mover & dancer. I’ve had ability beyond my technical skill level all my life, culminating in a prominent aerial dance company casting me in lead roles in their dance pieces in the mid-late ‘90s, while still calling me a “non dancer” the while. The director couldn’t deny my ability, though, and my dancer mom would always confirm by saying everyone can learn technique, but that I had something more: an innate talent.

As far as presence, that would soon translate to stage presence, and my junior high drama teacher always told me something similar: I had an innate talent, a natural knack, of taking a stage and dominating it. Immense stage presence and personal power. I remember he once did a “test” on the class, telling us all about it first: we were to, one at a time, fake some laughter, and he wanted to see if any of our fake stage laughs would be contagious, making the room join in with the real thing. Nobody’s laughter was contagious (fake laughter isn’t, unlike fake yawns).

Well, nobody’s, that is, but mine.

This vast personal power has been good for me in a few ways, very difficult in several others, but that’s another post for another day.

But.

Is this all from some mysterious talent I was born with? Or is it more a matter of my environment, and how I was raised, than any magical gift? I mean, I started displaying these talents and powers very very young. My mother, though, was a dance education major when she became pregnant with me (I always joke that I’ve been performing onstage since *before* I was born). She was a stay-at-home mom for my early development, taking me to the library twice a week, reading to me constantly, and including me in her children’s dance / creative movement classes until I was too old to take them, which is when I drifted into junior high theatre. So, I mean…

My junior high as well as high school had robust theatre and music programs, with brilliant professionals teaching us, which means that by the time I got to college and entered their BFA program in acting (one of the prominent ones in the country), I had undergone literally a lifetime of excellent training. Training, and encouragement. And of course, after the BFA program, I was that much better.

Would I have this incredible ability to hold a crowd as a middle aged adult, this immense personal power and huge presence, had I not grown up in that environment? With, say, parents who despised and denigrated the arts, weren’t artists themselves, or even forbade me to engage in performance the way I did, not only onstage but in everyday life, as I developed? If I had gone to crappy schools, with bad teachers, or no arts exposure in school at all? Well. Maybe. Would’ve been a lot harder, if I even managed to recognize the desire.

But.

That, of course, is a series of questions impossible to answer sufficiently. There’s literally no way to know.

One of the mysteries of the ages: nature or nurture, hard work or innate talent, magic or science…. actually the answer to that myriad mystery, methinks, is: Both.

Both, of each of those things.

And yesterday I cupped the Blue Dime Cabaret Central City audience in the palm of my hand, both as I danced and as I chatted during our producer spiel. It’s a thing that feels natural, for me. I get a little nervously charged before a show, but performing is easy—I know it like the back of my hand. Or the palm.

Then again, I’ve been doing it since before I was born…

Yoga For Misanthropes

My new movement guide, Yoga For Misanthropes, is now live on YouTube. I was asked to go online and be my brand of snarky yoga teacher for those who want to start a habit of health and happiness, but hate people enough that they don’t want to go to a class. No, really: I was literally asked this, on Twitter. And how could I refuse?

I will be posting videos of yoga and Pilates sequences and other combinations thereof, that you can follow at home, of all levels, starting with the first vid that’s up today.

https://youtu.be/rLQuGLd7vv0

This first vid is a long gooey stretch sequence, and the sound may be a little iffy, as I recorded it in stage combat class during warmups. I’m planning on putting up more starting today.

Enjoy!