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Passionate About Performance
--Stage Combat

 

Although I have stage combat in my arsenal, the opportunity to stage violence, despite it's wide usage in theatre and film comes along rarely. This is why I felt honored being asked to take up this endeavor with The New Musical Company , in the spring of 2022. Using the skills gained through certifications in fight choreography (SAFD--unarmed, broadsword, rapier and dagger), I was eager to see how I could merge this and my experience as a historical fencer in the Historical European Martial Arts world, to create choreographed fight "conversations" on the set of Morgane Le Musical. I enjoyed engaging in conversations and having interactions with the artistic director, where our thoughts often merged and intersected. It feels magical when this happens, especially when you are both collaborating in ways that are newer to you...for us, this was staging fight choreography within a musical for the first time. 

 

Timing is especially important for musicals, as along with the usual elements of performance, there is music and sung dialogue to consider. This, in conjuction with safety, ensuring that the spoken and unspoken dialogue is grounded and a keen focus on suspending the audience's disbelief (especially as fight choreography is concerned), can be a challenge. Violence and fight choreography in film is sometimes equally compared to theatrically staged violence. I have encountered this and in my thoughts, there isn't a good equal-for-equal comparison between filmed fight choreography and violence and staged theatre fight choreography and violence.

Theatre is purely live and immediate without the options for recalls at the moment that it happens, and so there are limitations to what can be shown and how it should be shown to audiences. Filming of course takes place onsite or happens within a film recording environment or soundstage, where much can be modified, added, and taken away after the fact. Both require skilled performers to provide realistic scenes, as well as optimal directing. However, the differences between the two are obvious. These differences provide an interesting endeavor for the personnel included in staged violence scenes on theatrical sets. There are questions that you keep asking yourself as the choreography is being built and modified. Is it safe to perform on stage? Does the choreography tell the story, elevate it and/or remain consistent within the body of work being produced? Is there anything in the choreography that will distract from the storytelling and how do we make the storytelling realistic and engaging? We desire the audience to feel teleported during our storytelling. Anything that doesn't fit or isn't safe is a distraction from the body of work.

 

During this production, I facilitated the fighting and violence that were created based upon an adaptation of the Arthurian legend, whose perspective was that of "Morgane", the half sister of Arthur, and I am beyond pleased with what the cast members have accomplished. Here are just a few snapshots and videos from what developed over the course of the performances.

 

I give you, Morgane Le Musical, a production beautifully scored, written and directed by Alexander Diaconu of his musical theatre and production company, The New Musical Company.

Special acknowledgement given to my beautiful fight choreography partner, my HEMA Historical Consultant, and husband, Davy Van Elst, who was the sword stunts-man for Lancelot in last year's production and is now featured as "Lionel" a knight of The Round Table in this year's production.

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In May 2019, I began my foray into violence choreography, when I was asked to fight choreograph the sword fighting scenes for New Place Theatre's Macbeth, that was performed during the summer of 2019. While I did establish the beginning fight choreography, I was only able to layout the scenes, as I was attached to other works in the Chicagoland area and was currently preparing for a new phase in my life. The work was beautifully completed by others within the production, who were also certified in fight choreography.

Here, Davy and I provided some background and a HEMA demonstration to an onlooking crowd at the Two Brothers Roundhouse (Aurora, IL), to advertise the opening of the performance that was produced in their outdoor space, perfectly emulating the theatre-in-the-round experience, that summer.

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