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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: September ::
Women Fencing
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1848  Wednesday, 24 September 2003

[1]     From:   James McNelis <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Sep 2003 08:38:21 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1836  Women Fencing

[2]     From:   D Bloom <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Sep 2003 08:11:38 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1836 Women Fencing


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           James McNelis <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Sep 2003 08:38:21 EDT
Subject: 14.1836  Women Fencing
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1836  Women Fencing

I would amend these comments to suggest that, while safety must always
come first in stage combat of any kind, nonetheless the point of
theatrical fencing (so to speak) is to advance/complement the rest of
the action of the play; and, while the *combatants* are certainly not to
be surprised, the *audience* should be enthralled by the action.
Palffy-Alpar's _Sword and Masque_ is the classic on how to stage
theatrical fencing in a dramatically suitable and satisfying way (while
maintaining total safety as well).  All best, James McNelis (1981
All-Cals 6th place men's epee and still bragging ;)

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Sep 2003 08:11:38 -0500
Subject: 14.1836 Women Fencing
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1836 Women Fencing

Dana Shilling notes:

>Theatrical fencing is also very different from fencing as a
>sport--theatrical fencing is a kind of choreography aimed at preventing
>surprises. In theatrical fencing, you put the point where it's supposed
>to be, to minimize possible injury to your "opponent." Sport fencing is
>about creating surprises (within the limits of the rules!).

Well, yes, but this seems to presuppose that the two are utterly
different in form because they are different in intent (the one to kill
(or pretend-kill), the other to not-kill), from which idea I dissent.
Theatrical fencing -- to my mind -- is supposed to look as much like
real fencing as the skill, training and rehearsal of the actors can make
it.

Having said that, I will also say that it wouldn't look a great deal
like modern Olympic-style fencing (even sabre fencing) because styles
have changed so radically over the past four centuries. As a result,
simply studying with a contemporary fencing coach would only give you
some basic knowledge of sword handling and footwork. For a Shakespearean
play (as for an Erroll Flynn movie) you would need to learn 16th Century
fencing.

That's provided you wanted to avoid, rather than embrace, coarse acting.

 Cheers,
 don

PS: Speaking of Flynn, I remember from many years ago an interview with
Basil Rathbone, who had many movie bouts with the former. Rathbone,
classically trained, had studied fencing -- whether contemporary or
historical or both I don't know -- and thus could have killed his
opponent at any time. But he was impressed by the athleticism of Flynn,
who became quite competent with just some studio coaching (while at the
same time studying lines, shooting scenes, and maintaining a very full
social schedule).

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