Theatre Camp – Stage Combat

In case you missed my last post, this summer I’m co-directing a production of Beauty and the Beast, Jr. starring some adorable kiddies. The past two weeks have been going fairly smoothly. My co-director and I are just about finished blocking all the scenes. For those of you who aren’t familiar with theatre lingo, blocking is any movement that a director assigns to an actor while on stage. This is different from choreography which are the dance movements given to an actor during a musical number. One challenge that I have come across during this process is getting the kids to be quiet while I am trying to teach the blocking or rehearse lines with the actors. When the kids aren’t working on something specific they tend to get antsy. I guess this shouldn’t be a surprise — they are kids after all!

Working with kids is very different from working with college students. Children tend to upstage each other (stand so far upstage that they force the other actor to turn their back to the audience) and direct others. A big “no-no” in theatre is when one actor tries to direct another actor. The only person who should be directing is the director.

One of the highlights of camp was last week when a fight choreographer visited to teach the kiddies (and counselors!) stage combat. As a female, I haven’t had much experience in stage combat (why are all the good fight scenes between guys?), so I was very excited to learn. Unlike normal fighting, stage combat is all about safety. We learned the “DEPP” method which stands for: Distance, Eye Contact, Preparation and POW! When doing stage combat, it’s very important to have space between you and your partner. For many of the moves you don’t make physical contact with your partner at all, but from the audience it looks like they are getting hit. Eye contact is also important because it ensures that your partner is paying attention so neither of you get hurt. The preparation allows your partner to have time to react and makes the movement visible to the audience. The final step, POW, is the actual motion, whether it be a punch, kick, throw or hair grab, as well as your partner’s reaction to the motion. We learned that in many cases the reaction is even more important that the punch, kick, etc. because it helps “sell” the motion to the audience. For example, if you threw a great big punch, but your partner just stood there like they were completely unfazed by it, you would look incredibly weak and pathetic. On the other hand, if you threw the same punch and your partner fell down and cried out in pain, you would look strong and powerful. Ah, the wonders of acting!

During the stage combat workshop I got to *kick, punch, strangle, throw and pull the hair of children. It was amazing!

Tomorrow the fight choreographer is coming back to help us stage the fight scene between Gaston and Beast at the end of the play. I’m really excited to learn some more stage combat and to see how the scene turns out!

*No children were harmed in this workshop. :)

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