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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Crider-Plonka

Three Days In...

What a wild ride these first three days of the National Stage Combat Workshop have been. Three days and three SPRs (Skills Proficiency Renewals) in unarmed, broadsword, and rapier and dagger. Thankfully, I passed all three (and passed unarmed with recommendation), but the main takeaway is just how much of a joy it is to wake up, warm up, and spend a day learning and fighting with like minded peers.

This post, however, isn't going to talk much about all that. You kind of had to be there. I would much rather continue on talking about some things I mentioned in the last post and how those thoughts have developed over the past two days.

The primary focus of my thoughts has been, as is almost always the case, on the breath. Breath is the engine of life and the root of all we do as humans. For a performer, it's how we communicate with the audience.

I talked about the aural landscape of a fight in my last post, but I want to dig deeper into what the quality of sounds does for the fight. It's not enough to make sound, it has to be informed by something. This is where the emotion of the fight comes into play.

It's often said that in a musical, characters sing because they need to express something that words alone cannot express. The same goes for the fight. Fights are when two characters meet in a scene and they can only communicate through the martial arts. That doesn't always mean an intent to kill, but words simply can't do justice to what the characters want to communicate to each other, whether it's a friendly duel, a life or death battle, or a large scale military maneuver. Fights are climaxes of interpersonal relations filled with their own acting beats.

That's where the breath comes into play. We received a really great note from Richard Raether, an excellent fight master, about breaking down a fight into "Oh, shit!" and "A-ha!" moments. It's such a simple concept, but it makes a world of difference. It's not interesting if you win all the time. From a dramatic standpoint, you need suspense so the audience doesn't get bored, but it also activates the actor and engages the fight. There's now something at stake for the character. The possibility of losing makes winning all the more important, and that's what makes theatre and film so engaging: seeing a character want something so badly, they'd do anything to get it. Even kill.

I'll be posting more in the coming days, so keep an eye out. This has been such a rewarding experience, even only three days in. I can't wait to learn more.

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