Just look at the mini-documentary about my stage combat class that one of my students made for his Video Production class. Just look. (and kudos to Ian!)
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.
Honestly, need I say more?
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?
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!
Whew! Goodness, lovely lurkers, what’s been happening? Yet again I realize I have been neglecting you whilst writing personal essays and memoir type stuff (read: whining a lot) under my pen name. That writing, plus the robust article needs of YourBoulder, all are keeping my wee swordfighting mitts away from here. Owa Tana Siam. (Say it aloud. It’s one of the many sillinesses I remember uttered by the Great Yendor, mathematician and magician, the wizard that was Everything Good And Pure About The Renaissance Festival, back when I used to sling steel there.)
So let’s see, what mischief have I been managing lately? Here’s a list:
Work! I’m still reaching out all my feelers in the process of this career change. Peddling Your Body Tells Your Story to everybody that needs it. Which is, of course, everybody. In the meantime, I continue to tread water with my academic work: this summer it’s an online section of Staging Cultures, which you’ve heard me discuss before. An online Children’s Lit is coming up soonish for the grad students at DU, so that one should be fun–let me know if you’d like to be an audience for my read-aloud vids; I plan on making a bunch of new ones. Haven’t heard from Regis in a while, which makes me wonder if I’ve been canceled like a Whedon franchise there. But I’ve also applied to teach comp at CCD, so that might fill in some gaps come fall if they decide to have me on.
Play! er, I mean, Plays! I’m the fight director for an all-female production of Richard III at Lost & Found Theatre, which should be a gas. I taught my basic movement seminar to the cast the other day, and will go coordinate the fighty bits next week. My kingdom for a horse… After that, my next gig of that nature that I know of will be fight directing for FRCC’s production of MacBeth, in September. Is this a dagger I see before me?
Boobies! Burlesque, that is. Blue Dime Cabaret is going strong; still the crazy be-tasseled geniuses we are, we had two shows up at Charlie’s Bar in Central City for Lou Bunch Day, which looks quite likely to turn into a yearly commitment.
Which is cool. For those, I channeled the late great Madeline Kahn and did my quirky Zuko version of “I’m Tired” from Blazing Saddles. Then the very next week we were back in Boulder for our June Is Busting Out All Over show, for which I sang two numbers and also emceed. Our next show will be Back To School themed, which makes me realize I’m going to need to get myself a schoolgirl skirt. I’ll keep you posted on the date for that–it’ll be in August.
All that plus all the writing, plus divorce proceedings? I’m lucky I get to see my partner at all. Or, he is, I guess. Ahem. 😉
That’s all for now, folks. I’ll try to get back here for some Sherlockian nerdiness very soon. Ciao.
Sheesh, lovely lurkers. I need to take a moment and list my stuff coming up in the new year. I just wrote about New Year’s resolutions under my own name on my other, memoir-y blog, and it made me need to come here and share with you all the amazing shit that’s on deck, in the hole, and whatever other baseball or double-entendres you like.
School: Regis’ next 8-week session starts mid-month. Those are all one-on-one grad students in all kinds of subjects, you’ll recall. So far, I’ve got a student who’ll be learning about Editing Non-Fiction.
Metro starts soon after. I’ve got an online section of Theatre History and Crit II, which should be great once I revamp and update it. I also have a Stage Movement class assigned to me, but as there’s only 8 students enrolled so far, that might not actually go. Good news is, the department chair is going to go into battle w the dean on my (well, its) behalf, and it is a required course, so I am allowing myself a modicum of hope.
It would not be a good thing for that one to be canceled, for more than one reason, not the least of which is: this is my specialty and I’d like to have something to show non-academics in that area. Also that I don’t know what’s up with DU; if they’re planning on ghosting me too or not. I have to function as though they are. Pray for me.
Writing: I’m slated to write the next series of Problematic Tropes articles over at Writers’ HQ, so stay tuned. If I can get disciplined, and get help from the SO, I’ll be putting forth one per month starting in January. So stay tuned there.
Performance: I’m doing lots of Blue Dime Cabaret, and a big fight direction project, all of which start in January.
Blue Dime Cabaret has three performances in January (starting on the 11th) over at Dangerous Theatre, and one at Full Cycle on February 16th. I’ll be performing on the 18th, and no idea what’s going on on the 16th, since we haven’t curated that one yet.
I’m choreographing and fight directing for D&D based play She Kills Monsters over at Red Rocks Community College. This play not only has, like, one fight per page, but it’s all fantasy styled, which should be super fun. I hear the director has cast a bunch of extra monsters, too, so that should be a blast. Plus, I’m getting paid a full semester’s worth of community college faculty salary for this project, which will be a huge help.
Career Shift: I need to read Ibarra’s book Working Identity again, as it is a rough patch in this area at the moment. I keep applying for multiple random things in the realm of content creation and such. More importantly though: I am doing my best to push my body language consultation / seminars, etc. to the hilt. This is what I’m needing to do next, and I know there’s need and demand out there; I just need to find it and bring it to the right places.
Hm, that’s a lot of “need” in one short paragraph. Welp. It’s apropos of the topic, so I’m leaving them.
Oh, and I applied to Denver Comic Con (sorry: Pop Culture Con) and Page 23, too, so let’s hope I’ll be presenting there again this summer the way I have for many years now.
Also? Pray for Pirates. I’ll explain later, just do. That’d be very cool too.
That’s a lot, innit. Well. Bring it (ring it)…🍾🥂🎉
The third in my Problematic Badass Female Tropes series is live, lovely lurkers! I call it Down The Rabbit Hole. Have a look-see over at Writers’ HQ.
And the reason this time is:
Strange and unusual weapons.
At Metro, the beginning Stage Combat class covers the basics of both unarmed and rapier techniques. And as you might imagine, the whole 16 weeks’ worth of time is necessary for the introduction and especially the practice, of the bare basics.
In the advanced class, everyone enters knowing the basics, basically (we of course do a review session on our first day), and so we can use that knowledge to move forward into other stuff. This coming semester, we’ll be doing broadswords and staffs, as you’ve already heard about.
But there’s other stuff we’ll cover, too: some have to do with harder versions of the basic weapons. For example, large group fights, sword fighting up and down stairs a la Errol Flynn, circular or erratic footwork in sword fighting, advanced taihenjutsu like dive rolls, simulated (and real) martial arts throws, falling from a height, etc. (See me below, playing around on a climbing wall with a past advanced class–we learned some aerial dance rope stuff as well as basic climbing, plus falling from a height.)
In the past, I’ve also done micro-units on martial arts styles and found weapons (which are normal everyday objects used as weapons–something that pops up in current theatre far more often than, say, swords), and then of course one can also use classic weapons techniques to inform other, more unusual ones.
For example, a knowledge of basic Japanese katana technique will make you pretty decent at wielding a lightsaber (and staff knowledge helps with that double-bladed number Darth Maul had).
This coming Fall (if I can get 12 students signed up), we will be doing a video-game fight unit. And wouldn’t it be cool if I got UCD’s renowned film department in on that project. Is mo-cap, animation, or film technique in our future? Will I bring this class (as I have done for one of our summer private courses) down to one of the Parkour studios in Denver for specialized training? Time will tell. That’s if I get the enrollment numbers.
A reminder: anyone can audit, but anyone attending the three schools on Auraria campus (MSU, CCD, and UCD) can sign up for this course. As of last time I checked, I had 6 enrolled, which is half the required number I need for the class to go.
So. What are you waiting for?
Reason Number 2 of thousands:
Six foot staffs.
Even in SAFD land, the six foot staff (what they call quarterstaff) is not often taught in the basic stage combat courses. This is certainly understandable to a certain extent, as it’s not one of those weapons that most actors will most often find themselves wielding.
This coming fall semester, however, I will be adding staff back into the Stage Combat curriculum. Fun fact: when I first designed the beginning Stage Combat course for Metro back in 2005, there were three weapons systems they all learned: Unarmed, Staff, and Sword (rapier). I later axed the staff unit, for to spend more time with the swords and the finals, and with the knowledge that the staff (though basic weapons training for me at the time in martial arts) wasn’t really a fundamental weapon most beginners would need to know about.
But it’s so very much fun!! And so this fall we will be wielding them again for the first time in about a dozen years. So if you’re an Auraria student or want to audit, get on your registration now so I can hit my minimum enrollment before cancellation. Do eet.
Make sure you go back to the previous FitS post, part 1, and read it thoroughly before you read this one. This is my contrasting example to the pointless fight scene that was in the Phantom Menace. It appears at the end of Return of the Jedi. Here it is:
Let’s look at the basics first: this, like the PM fight, is a master and apprentice vs. a solo opponent. What’s that? Oh yes, it is. If you are under the impression that the Emperor isn’t a part of this fight because he isn’t whipping out a lightsaber, that’s where you’re wrong, and that’s also where you’re falling into the same trap as so many storytellers out there, when it comes to fights. The Emperor is a major part of this fight, throughout. In fact, he starts it.
So. 1): Why here, why now, why these characters fighting? What’s everyone’s OBJECTIVE?
It’s quite clear: Luke’s OBJECTIVE: to bring his father back with him. Vader’s OBJECTIVE: same thing, basically: to keep his son here with him, enjoy blissful life in the Dark Side as a family. And our third fighter in this scene, the Emperor? He wants these two to fight to the death. Remember what Vader seems to have forgotten: there’s only a master and an apprentice Sith at any one time. Now for the Emperor, he’d obviously rather have Luke, as he’s younger and stronger with the Force, but hey, if Vader ends up killing his own son, well talk about Dark side, and he’s been a pretty gosh darn good viscount of terror for this many years. Really either way is fine. And no, you don’t have to have read novels or anything to get this from this fight scene–in fact, if you didn’t see any of the rest of the movie, this would still be clear as day.
So, how about 2)? Lots of clear TACTICS going on here, starting with Palpatine’s biggest TACTIC, the one he’s best at: to seduce. Notice that he’s using mainly words in this fight, up until the end, that is. Why? Because WORDS ARE HIS STRONGEST WEAPON! Palpatine has no need to resort to physical tactics through most of this fight. Why? Because HIS VERBAL TACTICS ARE WORKING. It’s his insidious tease and threat to Luke’s friends that spurs Luke to grab his lightsaber and attempt to kill him. And yeah, it’s obvious that that is what he’s trying to do–the way the first move is choreographed makes that apparent. Vader’s objective? To protect his master. Through the first part of that whole fight, every physical move Luke does (after the initial failed one) is to try and get away from his father, so he won’t have to fight him. Kicking him away, only blocking Vader’s blows, jumping up to the catwalk–all these things are attempts to STOP fighting Vader. Why does he start fighting him again? Well, Vader himself pulls out the verbal tactics, to get Luke to come out of hiding and continue the fight. He finds out about Leia, and threatens her safety. This TACTIC works: Luke is overwhelmed with anger and launches himself at Vader, his attacks now vicious.
This is where we see the fight take a major turn. And this is where the biggest fight scene mistake was made in ep. 2 (the ridiculous Yoda vs. Dooku lightsaber fight), when you compare.
Luke accidentally cuts off Vader’s hand. This shocks him, and makes him stop his barrage, remembering what his OBJECTIVE is and how this attack was NOT a TACTIC to get him that OBJECTIVE. Palpatine takes this opportunity to pounce: still using verbal TACTICS, he reveals his OBJECTIVE to the other fighters. He tells Luke to kill Vader and take his place. When Luke turns off his lightsaber, throws it away, and says, “No,” this is the moment when Palpatine’s verbal TACTICS have run out. Then, and only then, does Palpatine resort to physical violence. And he does so in a way appropriate to his character (unlike Yoda vs. Dooku). Does he whip out a lightsaber and supernaturally become agile real quick? No, of course not, that would make no sense. Instead, he uses a physical weapon much more apropos to him: the Force lightning. Luke has no idea this is even a thing, and has no defense against it–all he can do is collapse, screaming in agony. He does have one more verbal TACTIC left in him, though: he calls for his father to help him.
And boy does that TACTIC work: Vader then uses a physical TACTIC to stop the barrage. Because of this balance in the fight scene, it’s my professional opinion that Vader didn’t predict that he’d die from the lightning. It sure doesn’t look like he expected it, but once it was happening, he changed his OBJECTIVE into killing Palpatine, because he knows he won’t survive to collect his previous OBJECTIVE. And thus he succeeds. All of this is crystal clear, not from obscure back story, but FROM THE FIGHT ITSELF.
Not a whole lot of spinning in this fight scene, but what a more compelling, interesting, gripping, and exciting fight this was than the one in Phantom Menace. Well, the music in the other was pretty cool…..