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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: February ::
Re: Stage Combat
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0340  Thursday, 17 February 2000.

[1]     From:   Roger Gross <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 16 Feb 2000 12:26:03 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0327 Re: Stage Combat

[2]     From:   Bob Haas <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 16 Feb 2000 15:17:16 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0327 Re: Stage Combat

[3]     From:   Edward Pixley <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 16 Feb 2000 17:23:58 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0322 Re: Stage Combat

[4]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 16 Feb 2000 21:07:58 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0327 Re: Stage Combat


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Roger Gross <
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Date:           Wednesday, 16 Feb 2000 12:26:03 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 11.0327 Re: Stage Combat
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0327 Re: Stage Combat

Tony Rust is right about undertrained combatants and inappropriate
equipment.

There should be next to zero chance of error in a stage fight.  Every
nuance of movement is precisely choreographed and endlessly rehearsed.
A rule of thumb I use in my work is that the fights require TEN times as
much rehearsal as any other part of the show.  And that doesn't include
basic training. Only then is it possible and safe to execute a
convincing fight.

Dana Shilling says:
>I've never understood how
>Hamlet and Laertes could pick up the wrong weapons after a double disarm
>(which is a very rare event anyway)--as you would imagine, if your sword
>gets knocked out of your hand, it still ends up pointing in its original
>direction (toward your opponent).

My answer in the four Hamlet fights I've choreographed:  After being
struck from behind by Laertes between rounds, Hamlet knows the sword is
unbated.  He calculatedly disarms Laertes.  Laertes starts to move
toward his fallen sword.  Hamlet places his foot on Laertes' blade,
stopping him in his tracks, and then tosses his own (bated) sword to
Laertes (a beautiful move, by the way) and then picks up Laertes' for
himself.  There is no error.  Hamlet is going to teach Laertes a
lesson.  This is one of most powerful moments of the fight,
dramatically. Laertes and the audience know more than Hamlet about the
implication of the switch (that the point is envenomed).

I LOVE this fight!!  Talk about high drama conducted almost without
words!

Roger Gross
U. of Arkansas

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bob Haas <
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Date:           Wednesday, 16 Feb 2000 15:17:16 -0500
Subject: 11.0327 Re: Stage Combat
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0327 Re: Stage Combat

Dana, all good points except this last one.  If one's sword is knocked
from the hand, there's no telling where it will end up.  Perhaps in
one's own ear.  BTW, in a year of fencing (college phys ed), I never
once lost my weapon.  But a sword, even an aluminum stage sword, is a
very different item from a foil or fencing sabre-I never fenced epee-the
modern variations of which are equipped with pistol-like grips.  Very
ergonomic and very difficult to drop.

Another point-a friend of mine still sports a scar over his eye from the
final stage battle between Hal and Hotspur in HENRY IV, I.  During the
last matinee of the run, the two combatants stumbled in their
choreography of a very realistic fight with longswords.  My friend, who
portrayed Hal, missed a block, and the a iron blade (the tech director
and fight choreographer was very proud of the authentic swords) bounced
off his head.  Luckily, the actor playing Hotspur was able to "pull up"
on the stroke-he could feel the error as it was taking place-but the
other actor still received a substantial wound.  They both had to vamp a
bit until they could recover and find a place to resume the fight.  I'm
certain that the playwright would not have appreciated the rewrite they
very nearly effected, but I'm equally certain that as an actor he would
have understood.

Bob Haas
Department of English
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
High Point University

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edward Pixley <
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Date:           Wednesday, 16 Feb 2000 17:23:58 -0500
Subject: 11.0322 Re: Stage Combat
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0322 Re: Stage Combat

> One of the most amusing things that happened to me while I was acting at
> school was to do with Shakespearean sword fighting.  We were doing a
> production of King Lear which was going absolutely wonderfully.  For the
> climax we obviously had Edgar and Edmund having a sword fight, and thus
> they had been duly trained by a professional and equipped with swords.
> These swords were broadswords, so they were big, thick pieces of metal
> that looked very sturdy, and made great sparks when clashed together.
>
> The whole fight was very spectacular.  But, on the third night Edgar's
> sword started to bend with every stroke he took, until by the end of the
> fight he could not run Edmund through because he sword looked more like
> a scythe and he thus had to chop at Edmund a la a peasant chopping
> grain.
>
> A similar thing happened on the next and final night to Edmund's sword
> which actually snapped in two halfway through the fight sequence,
> forcing it to come to an abrupt halt.
>
> The entire audience saw everything of course, especially the appalling
> attempts by the surrounding actors not to laugh.  Perhaps this is a
> justification for highly stylised combat, i.e., the swords should not
> touch if they are even allowed on stage at all!
>
> Perry Herzfeld

Or at least an argument for including money in your production budget
for adequately tempered steel swords.  When I produced Hamlet a number
of years ago, one-fourth of my [admittedly low] production budget went
for the rapiers and swords.  But I had just recently witnessed a Richard
II at the Folger, in which a broadsword broke from its hilt and flew out
into the audience, stopping the show while an ambulance could be called
to take an audience member to the hospital.  By evening's end, we were
informed that a call had come in from the ER letting us know that the
woman was being released, and that her pregnancy had not been affected.

Of course, you may well have taken such precautions, too, but it sounds
to me like you got ripped off on your weapons.

Ed Pixley

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Wednesday, 16 Feb 2000 21:07:58 -0500
Subject: 11.0327 Re: Stage Combat
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0327 Re: Stage Combat

I think the switcheroo arises in part from the tendency in the sources
to emphasize the Hamlet figure's killing of the king with the king's own
sword.

Clifford

>I've never understood how
>Hamlet and Laertes could pick up the wrong weapons after a double disarm
>(which is a very rare event anyway)--as you would imagine, if your sword
>gets knocked out of your hand, it still ends up pointing in its original
>direction (toward your opponent).
 

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