I hope everyone is enjoying February break. Of course, I know that you are all going over your songs and choreography…
This week at NDW there was a lot of music and blocking going on. I don’t know if all the music has been taught, but if not there must only be one song left to teach. Also, almost all of the first scene (which is looong) has been blocked. With many actors on vacation, we are trying to use the vacation weeks for some workshopping and this past week we started with some cast members learning more about fight choreography.
In Robin Hood there are two kinds of fights: sword fighting and quarterstaff fighting. What is a quarterstaff you ask? A quarterstaff is a large wooden staff that is used for fighting. It is most associated with Robin Hood. In fact, while re-watching my favorite tv show of all time, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I chuckled as Buffy actually reacts to having to train with a quarterstaff by saying that she’s not “planning on fighting Friar Tuck anytime soon.” (I just started re-watching within the past two weeks, so this quote is extremely fresh in my brain.) This week, because I was working with non-Sherwood people, we mostly used just swords. We talked about different basic sword fighting moves and how to create a fight while still being safe. Someone always gets injured when we do Robin Hood. The first time we did this show while I worked at NDW, we were practicing and Friar Tuck accidentally hit Robin Hood with a quarterstaff in his privates. The last time we did this, the Sheriff accidentally got hit very close to the eye with a sword. This is why we have to be super careful and why every fight has to be choreographed. This past Saturday I got hit in the head with a sword and sustained a very small bump. Hopefully that counts as an injury and no one else will get hit this time around!
My history with fight choreography goes back to my freshman year of college. I never took a class, but was able to observe some graduate students in their class while working backstage on a show. The main stage at Brandeis University links to the other theaters in the building. When you are backstage in one theater, you are on the stage of another. And so, while hanging out backstage, working crew for Hapgood by Tom Stoppard, I got to watch rehearsals for fight choreography class happening on another stage. It was really cool. There were sword fights, quarterstaff fights, and fist fights. The quarterstaff fight was actually set to a scene from The Matrix and one of the two actors now does fight choreography professionally (and is now married to my theatre arts advisor). That fight was the best and it was great to watch, but during the final performance of it, one of the guys dropped their quarterstaff. We had all watched this perfect fight for a whole week and then disaster. So, it is quite easy to know exactly what you’re doing and still mess up – we just hope that it doesn’t lead to injury. And it also means that extra concentration must be paid to the craft, even when you think you have it down pat.
Hopefully I’ll get to work with some others on fight choreography this coming Saturday. And if not, anyone involved in a fight in this show will still get the opportunity to learn about fight choreography just by doing it.
So enjoy your vacation and these randomly summer-like days and I will see you all soon.