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Sesquipedalian Periphrasis

David Gregory or Bareford or...
Date: 2009-06-22 09:53
Subject: An actor's training often ends in violence...
Security: Public
...and I think it should start there! Traditionally, stage combat is viewed as an "advanced" skill for actors and teaching it is reserved for the end of a performer's training arc. Yet doing so overlooks the valuable acting lessons intrinsic to stage combat: conflict at its most basic form, being in the moment, reacting to a partner, the illusion of the first time...and the list goes on. Ironically, acting coaches devise an elaborate panoply of games to teach the same concepts--that's how Zip Zap Zop, the Mirror exercise, and so many others were created. Those games are useful in class, but have little utility on the stage. Training in stage violence teaches the same concepts, and has actual future benefit for performance.

Conflict at its most basic. Aristotle said that conflict is the seed of theatre. So, let's start training actors right there. Physical confrontation is conflict in its most tangible, visual form. Learn how to be in conflict as a character with fists or a sword, yet still work together as actors to produce a scripted piece of choreography, and you understand the core acting challenge.

Be in the moment; react to your partner. Safety is paramount in stage combat, and the most important way to stay safe is not maintaining eye contact, or keeping proper distance, or even being careful not to hit your partner. You stay safe by fighting THIS fight, with THIS partner, RIGHT NOW. Actors hurt each other when they "fight the choreography," going through their moves by following the script in their head. Instead, one must pay attention to the exact position of a fight partner in THIS iteration of the fight, reacting to exactly what he or she is doing RIGHT NOW. All those other things: eye contact, distance, not hitting them---those are results of fighting in the moment. As a bonus, the actor learns what it is like to simply be in a scene, rather than working so hard to act a scene.

Illusion of the first time. How many times does an acting scene get rehearsed before performance? Ten? Twenty if you're very lucky? Yet of course, it must seem to an audience that this is the first time these characters have ever been in this situation. A fight scene will usually be practiced over and over and over, sometimes 50 or more times before opening day. Yet it must still look dangerous, improvised, and seat-of-the-pants desperate. A great lesson for the actors.

To be fair, I'm not an acting coach and I don't mean to tell all the experts their job. But time and again as we design violence for shows, Richard and I find ourselves teaching basic conflict theory to actors, and training them about being in the moment and making the fight look new every time.

Maybe postpone the monologues at your conservatory, and try starting with:

They fight.
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David Gregory or Bareford or...
Date: 2008-12-18 10:34
Subject: My Life As A DM, in xkcd eloquence
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David Gregory or Bareford or...
Date: 2008-06-19 09:11
Subject: Roman Geeks
Security: Public
Turns out that either Gary Gygax DIDN'T invent D&D, or he had a time machine...

Exhibit A under the link.
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David Gregory or Bareford or...
Date: 2007-11-16 16:03
Subject: (no subject)
Security: Public
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David Gregory or Bareford or...
Date: 2007-11-08 10:01
Subject: Science Question for today
Security: Public
I found this to be an interesting concept, but my background is theatre and language rather than geology and evolutionary science. Is the following just a crackpot Internet theory (though supported by slick graphics), or might there be something to this? Science types: discuss!


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David Gregory or Bareford or...
Date: 2007-11-01 22:21
Subject: (no subject)
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Chicago Free Press

Chicago Reader

Loyola Phoenix

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David Gregory or Bareford or...
Date: 2007-10-31 08:55
Subject: Another Moreau review
Security: Public
Here's another great review for The Island of Dr. Moreau. R&D's name might not be mentioned, but our ears are burning...

Windy City Times
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David Gregory or Bareford or...
Date: 2007-10-24 10:42
Subject: What do you gotta do?
Security: Public
Mood:exasperated
Lifeline Theatre just opened The Island of Dr. Moreau this past Monday, and I think the work that Richard and I did on the violence design is perhaps our best work to date. It certainly must be at the top of the list for sheer hours invested: we starting training actors in July! The show involves everything from copious bullwhip work (the standard noise-making cracks, as well as neck and arm wraps and contact lashes), multiple gunshots, animalistic violence, sailor brawls (complete with belaying pins), blood, a surgical probe lanced through the actor's bare arm, a rock thrown to strike another actor in the head, etc, etc. We even did a fair amount of other "non-violent" things like staging a full boatswain's chair sequence of sailors battling a storm at sea (one actor gets hauled 15' aloft). I saw the opening night performance and was elated at how well everything worked together: the audience was gasping, flinching and--in the front row seats--literally cringing to get away from the in-your-face action.

Now the reviews are starting to come in. R&D has often been overlooked by critics in the past, and we've been told that it's because we use our company name--R&D Choreography--rather than our individual names. Critics say they don't like to mention a company in a review. So, we broke our 10-year tradition and only listed our personal names alongside the title of Violence Design. And here are three preliminary reviews:

Chicago Sun-times
Chicago Tribune
TimeOut Chicago

Not a single one mentions our work, even the one that details every other designer. My question: what do we have to do to get some love? The critics certainly noticed the violence--it underscores most of the reviews. So why not give us a nod? Is it because they see our work and think it came from the "director's staging?" Because they attribute it to the "tone" of the production.  I also wonder if they have no idea what to do with the term 'Violence Design.' Maybe the traditional-but-insufficient label "Fight Choreographer' would make them understand.

I don't mean to whine, or press sour grapes, but I am frankly tired of seeing fight guys who do "in-the-box" choreography (usually with neat little start-and-end cues) get ink from the press--not to mention Jeff awards--when our work than infuses a whole production doesn't even rate a mention fair or foul.

What do you gotta do?
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David Gregory or Bareford or...
Date: 2007-10-07 10:54
Subject: OK, more toys
Security: Public
Just found out about d30 and I've decided I need some. It could seriously expand the envelope of stage combat possibilities (dorky English guys notwithstanding):



Here's their site: www.d3o.com
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David Gregory or Bareford or...
Date: 2007-10-06 01:02
Subject: Made me laugh
Security: Public
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