MSU

Sign up for Advanced Stage Combat plea #4

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?

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Plea to sign up for Advanced Stage Combat #3

And the central reason in this post, that you should sign up for Advanced Stage Combat at MSU this Fall?

One word: broadswords.

A few years back, the theatre department purchased a bunch of beautiful hand-and-a-half broadswords that are big enough to warrant good broadsword technique, but short and light enough that they’re easy to wield. And the sound they make, clanging together, is diviiiiine…

Thing is, whereas the rapiers are used in the beginning course, and every so often in productions (like, when we do Shakespeare, for example), the broadswords are rarely, if ever, used. So we’re gonna break em out in advanced class. If I can get six more people to sign up, that is.

(The pic below is not class, and not those particular swords, but is an image from my time in the late ’90s as a stunt performer at the Renaissance Festival. It shows how much awesome fun playing w broadswords can be.)

Plea #2: sign up for Advanced Stage Combat

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.

Advanced Stage Combat

Remember a few months back, when I posted a series of pleas, extolling the virtues of my Stage Movement class, so that students at Auraria campus would sign up for it? I ended up with a good number of students in that one, and now I’m beginning a series of pleas about a new, vastly exciting course.

Well it’s not new, exactly, but the last time it was offered was …. gosh 8 years ago? Is that true? Anyway, suffice to say I wasn’t expecting the good folks in charge at Metro’s Theatre department to ever offer it again. But guess what? This Fall, it’s there, with a real course number and everything. It’s called ADVANCED STAGE COMBAT, and I am pleased as punch to be teaching this again. (At least, I’ll be teaching it if enough people sign up.)

I’m planning on putting up a post dedicated to each of the things about this course I’m most looking forward to, so let’s start with what’s the very first and very last fight scene the Advanced Stage Combat students do: the big group fight scene.

Big group fights are challenging, as there’s more that goes into a 3 person or more fight than just orchestrating pairs. For the first assignment in this course, I have the students do a full-class-member fight scene. One year, it was an 8-person fight. Another year? It was 12. One group set the opening scene of Romeo and Juliet on a pirate ship’s port, including cannons, ladders, “water” and grog along with the biting of the thumbs.

If you’re a student at any of the schools on auraria campus, do sign up for Advanced Stage Combat. I need 12 people to join me, or it’ll get cancelled. Plus, it’s a very unusual thing for an undergraduate program to have this robust a Stage Combat training offered to its theatre students. You’ll see it (sometimes) in MFA programs, but this is something special to have on your undergraduate cv. Take advantage of it.

Upcoming Events and Things and Stuff

I know, lovely lurkers, you’re just plain tired of listening to me apologize for being an infrequent blogger. So I’ll stop doing that. Instead, I’ll be more pro-active and tell you about the things going on in my world.

The three Regis grad students I’m advising, facilitating, and otherwise guiding through various reading and writing projects are about to conclude their sessions. They had some lovely things, including magical realism romance, and analyzing novels in YA literature.

I was movement coordinator for MSU’s The Country Wife, which was a super-enjoyable comedy of manners that the young actors tackled quite well, movement-wise especially, if I do say so myself. I was just chatting with one of the actors the other day, relaying some compliments the SO had given them. I told this student that it’s a pretty impressive feat, to move in that stylized, elegant way (think 1675: wigs, fans, calves, snuff…) when he no doubt just got to his height, what, a couple minutes ago (he had just turned 21)?

I was also, even more recently, brought in to advise the scuffles in Local Theatre Company’s production of The Rape of the Sabine Women by Grace B. Matthias. This is a high quality, tight, and of course timely play that I am delighted to be a part of. The challenge of this one is the thrust stage (audience on 3 sides), and though it’s not exactly realism (there are dreamlike aspects to it), it still needs to have a level of verisimilitude that will insure the audience won’t be jerked out of the story. They open this weekend, here in Boulder at the Dairy Center, so if you’re local, lurkers, go see it!

Finally, it’s burlesque time again in Jenn’s world. That’s right, Bronze Fox Burlesque is taking over one of the little nooks at License no. 1 bar in Boulder on a Wednesday night, this time in a Clue movie theme, in anticipation of Halloween. I’m dancing a solo, a duet, and I get to do one of my favorite Madeline Kahn moments in cinema. Again, if you’re local, come down to see us on the 25th at 9. But these events always get packed, so if you do come to this, get there early.

Video Killed the Paper Star (Part II)

In the first of these VKPS posts, I discussed and showed the Grammar Video Lesson assignment. Of course, you can surely see, lovely lurkers, how this assignment could work quite well in any class subject, any field.

The second way I encourage video projects instead of writing is in the Reading Response. Now, as a prof of the humanities, I perforce assign lots of reading to my students. I curate the reading carefully, and I always ask for a Reading Response (with a few specific guidelines as far as what I’d like to see in their responses). Basically, I want to see that they’ve done the reading, and I want to know what they think about it. More: I want them to connect the readings to other stuff they’re doing, and synthesize it within the rest of their scholarly (and other) experiences.

The Reading Responses (oh, and these are for ALL my courses, not just the ones on writing) usually end up being a few paragraphs of sloppy writing and an accompanying image up on a blog (my assigning blog creation for classes is a whole ‘nother post). But I always give the students the vlog option. Which is simply that they can record a video of their reading response in lieu of a written one, and they post it the same way they would a written response.

Surprisingly, not many students opt for the video version of this, but two students in particular found the option invaluable.

Nate’s writing skill wasn’t top notch, but his immersion in the stage combat class material was. He would ruminate on the readings into his phone while walking through campus, interspersing his thoughts with footage from class, making for an engaging, thoughtful, and thorough response. I wouldn’t have gotten nearly as much from a written response from him, and he also got interested in video composition, adding these skills to his technological knowledge in classes. There’s a technology requirement in all general ed courses (which this one wasn’t), which is another reason why assigning videos is a good thing in the comp courses. Here are two examples of Nate’s work from advanced stage combat at Metro. These were from a few years ago, so if you wonder at the video quality, that’s why.

the final over view from Nathan Taves on Vimeo.

Another interview with me and suported by the club. from Nathan Taves on Vimeo.

Jackson is a Composition student of mine. Now these classes are all about writing essays, and for him, writing is a major struggle. So when I gave him the vlog option for the reading responses, he jumped at the chance to have some assignments that didn’t involve writing. Thing is, when he shared his notes for his video responses with me, it was apparent that his understanding of the reading was complete, and when you see his videos, you can hear yourself how intelligent and on top of the material he is. If I had not given him the option to respond with video instead of writing, you better believe I wouldn’t have been able to tell this.

Reading Response Chapter 1 from Jackson Stallings on Vimeo.

Reading response ch 14 from Jackson Stallings on Vimeo.

So there you have it. Two instances of video assignments working well for higher education. That’s not to mention the read-aloud assignment for Children’s Literature…..

Video Killed the Paper Star (Part I)

Apologies for those of you that have been waiting on tenterhooks for these posts–like I said before, work has bullied its way in front of any creative/extracurricular work I’ve been wanting to do, particularly that with only internal deadlines. But now I am FINALLY getting my two cents’ worth on this subject down here, in lieu of pitching it over at PitchLX (sorry I can’t be there after all, folks: have fun without me). This concept is one I have catchily titled “Video Killed The Paper Star,” and it refers to replacing writing assignments with video projects.

Now please don’t misunderstand me–I don’t mean to say that papers shouldn’t be assigned ever (that ALL assignments should be multimedia), or that there’s no place in higher education for rhetoric and critical thinking. There sure as heck is, and every single student needs that particular type of rigor. Believe me. Of course I wouldn’t posit such things–I have a mouth to feed.

What I will aver, however, is that academic writing is obsolete (as much as the Ivory Tower folks still cling to it), and that the single most important lesson a student can possibly learn in college or university (after rhetoric) is collaboration. Sound a bit corporate-flavored, not academic? Well, yeah. And that’s a good thing. (I know, I know: who am I and what have I done with the real Jenn)…

I have taken to replacing written quizzes or papers with video projects in two major ways. The first is a fun project called the Video Grammar Lesson. I came up with this assignment for the following various reasons: 1) I hate teaching mechanics, I’m not particularly good at it, and it’s not my job. I’m a good teacher of writing, and reading (as well as interpretation of same), but the grammar stuff is irksome to me. 2) all of my comp students need grammar lessons. All of them. Every single one. Yes, Virginia, even the ones who are good writers already (and those are few enough). 3) teaching something to someone else is a great way to learn the thing better oneself. 4) there aren’t many group projects that truly teach collaboration, without the loopholes of the lazy (the one who does nothing and lets the group do all the work) or the control freak (the one who takes over everything because she can’t stand the quality of anyone’s stuff but hers).

So I thought, why teach them grammar when I can let them teach themselves grammar? The video lesson sprang out of all of this. They have 5 minutes or less to create a lesson on any bit of grammar or punctuation they want. They tend to choose their lessons based on what they find most interesting, easiest, or most inspired by, seeing the examples I show them and those on YouTube. What happens is usually a fun, creative sorbet before they plunge into the big research paper. Here are some notable examples:

ENG1020studentvidspr2013 from Jenn Zuko on Vimeo.

I am most interested in the first clip of this group’s work. These kids decided that each group member would do a solo video on a part of speech, and they’d stitch them together into one video. I am most interested in the first segment for two reasons: First, the Google search with narration is quietly funny and very engaging, as well as clear and informative. It’s a clever idea. Second, this student was a very quiet young man. I could tell he had a good brain in his head from reading his writing, but he was very very introverted. This is a lovely way of being able to enjoy his dry sense of humor without undue stress, like say what a classroom presentation would cause.


This fun-loving duo came up with a random yet highly entertaining premise for their video on interjections. It’s just delightful and fun, and it’s also cool that Grace’s brother composed the music.

I have a few other examples of grammar video lessons here on the blog. Do a search for Grammar Video and you’ll find them. Stay tuned for post 2/2 where I’ll talk about video reading responses.

Musings Upon a New (ish) Semester

Well fuck. 

I use invective, lovely lurkers, with conscience and reason. Why I just used one of the words that would make my movie Rated R in America is that I just saw that the last post on this blog was posted in, like, mid-August. Seriously, what the fuck? Why do you tolerate this kind of behavior from me, huh? Are you all so busy reading Parallel Bars that you can’t be bothered? Can’t say I blame you, truth be told…

So I’m jogging in the reins of Week 4 at both Metro and Front Range, Week 2 of Regis, and the verrrry beginning of Week 1 at DU. And lemme tell ya about the cool shit that’s happening at all those fine institutions (okay, I’m going with this invective thing):

At Metro: I’m teaching that online Staging Cultures course I’ve told you about before. It’s a really good reading list, lovely lurkers. Let me know if you want it. I’m also doing a MW (that’s Monday & Wednesday, kids) Intro to Theatre, which is a delightful gen ed course I haven’t done in a while. Man are those First Year Success students bright eyed and enthusiastically bushy tailed! They’re just about to embark on their historical presentation projects AND their Raisin in the Sun unit, so wow how much good material can we stomach at 11am? A lot, apparently. Youthful energy, I’m tellin ya…

Beginning Stage Combat over at Metro is Friday mornings as is usual, but as is not usual, it’s SO FULL YOU GUYS! There’s, like, 24 or something people in it, and they’re all lovely young talented energetic insane theatre majors and I am having so much fun and getting so old…. They’re just about to start choreographing their Unarmed fights, and I could not be more excited!

At Regis: I have two lovely and talented grad students doing a one on one Writing the Novel course w me; and one other lovely and talented grad student doing my own self-constructed YA Literature course (one on one, natch. It’s nearly always one on one at Regis). It’s going to be some stellar writing, which will only make me wish I had more time to work on my own work….

At Front Range: it’s two evening courses: a Comp I and a Comp II. The former is revising their Mini-Essays as we speak (Er, as I type), and you know what that means! That’s right: the Mini-Essay Contest winner post is imminent! Let’s hope it’s not the next one, as I need to be more frequent than that here….

Comp II as is usual these days for me, functions under a theme of Creativity and Innovation. They just finished their (quite high quality) Elevator Pitches, and now have just been introduced to the Analyzing An Image essay, which is where they pick an ad or psa and analyze it in essay format. Should be some good reading.

And finally,

At DU: Children’s Literature started today! As my ancient, steam-powered laptop decided to become a doorstop recently, it was quite the challenge to get that course shell updated and ready to go for a fresh crop of Professional Writing graduate students. But I am nothing if not diligent. And, yes, I have a lot of work to do still, but hey at least it’s up and functioning, and thanks to the SO, I have a brand spanking new refurbished box I can now use to get everything even more ship-shape. Thanks to that generous soul…

Oh but that’s not all! I also continue to have professional endeavors:

Bronze Fox Burlesque is doing their next show at License no.1 under the loose theme of Clue (the movie) and murder mysteries in general. I am mulling over choreography for a duet and a new solo right now…

Metro is doing The Country Wife in a couple weeks, a ribald comedy of no manners at all, and I am consulting the period movement as well as choreographing and directing a raucous chick fight with fans. And maybe fisticuffs.

I’m still writing for Parallel Bars and Your Boulder, editing the SO’s spectacular new book, and I’m just now starting to think I could remount my Retro Reviews of Sherlock, over on Sherlock’s Home, now the 4th season is far enough away…..

So.

Megan shows my Intro students the ropes. Literally.

Hm.

I guess there’s a reason it’s taken me so long to post here. Yeah, well. NO FUCKING EXCUSES, AMIRITE?

Ahem. Carry on….