Discover The Art of Stage Combat

...I never realized that Stage Combat is a specialized field for choreographers...thanks for the information and best of luck with your Website!

Have you ever gone to the theater and witnessed a fight scene? Did you wonder how the actor's were able to make it seem so realistic? The likeness to actual fighting is a result of good combat technique and fight choreography.

In musical theater, there are many examples of stage combat technique. Several good examples of this include; "Footloose", "West Side Story" and "Crazy For You".

Staged fighting has been employed for a long time in theater. Just think about all of Shakespeare's plays. In an effort to entertain the masses, theatrical combat has been used since antiquity, and can be traced back to the beginnings of civilization.

It wasn't until the 1970's, however, that fight choreographers began to organize themselves into guilds. This first occurred in Great Britain and continued to take shape in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, right up until the 1990's. These events are what led to this skill becoming a recognized art and profession. The use of theatrical choreography in film during the past decade has additionally added to its new recognition as an art form.

When combat is used in performing arts it seeks to replicate violence and it's study employs methods that make the behavior relatively safe for an actor. Additionally, it tries to put the audience at ease by not distracting them from the play, itself. It's basically all about illusion.

Imaginative Stage Combat Technique

The main objective of learning and employing theatrical combat technique is to provide a realistic experience for the audience, while ensuring the safety of the actors.

These techniques are modeled after the actual type of combat emulated, both armed and unarmed. However, they are specifically changed so that the actors are not harmed.

A special set of skills has evolved as a result of this objective.

Today, on most world stages, you will witness fight choreography which involves make-believe punches, kicks and slaps, martial arts, wrestling, and various styles of fencing. Most styles of fighting can be performed as an illusion, provided they are carefully choreographed, and the actors have the skills to perform them.

Rehearsing for Stage Combat

Musical theater plays which involve fight choreography engage their actors in specific training, concerning fighting for the stage. This is usually during the time when the show is in its rehearsal phase, or sometimes if the fight scene is very involved, it may occur prior to the rehearsal phase. Many times a special choreographer will be brought in just for that purpose.

In the beginning of the training, the employed movements are learned very slowly and methodically. Over the course of the rehearsal period, the choreographer will bring the actors up to the actual speed at which the director wants the segment performed.

The actors must learn to collaborate, and communicate in order to be sure that no one gets hurt. The director of the show may find that he has to adapt a scene, in order to facilitate this outcome.

Usually, those engaged in theatrical combat must rehearse for as long as it takes to get it right, so that all the actors get safely through the scenes. Due to the nature of stage fighting, this is extremely important as it can be risky, even with training.

Take This Training Seriously!

This is the number one thing an actor can do, in order to help the director and theatrical choreographer make sure that all the actors come through the scenes unharmed.

Take notes, ask questions, be sure to show up on time. Attend any special rehearsals, and follow the instructions of the fight choreographer to the best of your ability. This will help make the experience positive for you, and all the other people involved in the production.

Stage Combat Terms To Know

  • fight rehearsal - the period of rehearsal during which the stage combat choreography is learned
  • fight captain - the person who assists the fight choreographer and who runs the "fight calls" to help make sure that all the actors are safe during the run of a show
  • fight call - a quick run-through of a fight scene prior to the performance of a show in which the actors "mark" the scene in order to refresh their memory and keep things as exact as possible

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Stage Direction Diagram
Rehearsal Notation & Abbreviations
About Stage Blocking
From Stage Combat to Costumes

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