STI students learn art of stage combat
Students enrolled in Stephens College’s Summer Theatre Institute are learning the fine art of fighting on stage from two of the top stage combat artists in the country. Fight choreographers and husband-and-wife team Martin English and Cynthia Hyer are spending two weeks at Stephens preparing the young actors to battle it out during “Slaphappy,” a celebration of stage combat set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 24, at the Warehouse Theatre. Like all STI performances, it’s free and open to the public.
The production will be a compilation of theatre’s greatest conflict scenes all set to original non-weapon fight scenes demonstrating what the students have learned. Part dance, part illusion, stage combat is a skill necessary in theatre, English said. From Shakespearean classics to modern musicals, most plays involve a scene that requires the appearance of physical conflict.
Students began the study by learning basic building blocks, the slaps, kicks, throws, punches and falls that they will then learn how to combine to create entire fight scenes.
Audiences Friday will see those play out, but don’t worry: the hits will have the sound and look—but not the feel—of real slaps and punches.
“The better the acting, the more believable,” Hyer said.
“Slaphappy” audience members can expect a wide variety of scenes, some serious, some funny.
“There will be something for everybody,” English said. “It’s rare to see an evening of fights, so this will be a very different evening of theatre.”
And, although it will likely look effortless, English stressed that students will have put in long hours to create that illusion.
“A rule of thumb we use in fight choreography is that for every one minute of fight time, it takes 10 hours of rehearsal,” he said. “It has to be second nature.”
“Slaphappy” is the second in a series of performances STI students will host this month and next.
The STI season also includes:
- May 31: “Blown Sideways Through Life” is a compilation of tales from one woman’s struggles waiting for her “big break” in show business.
- June 7: “Devising Mischief” will be an original comedy created by students with the help of Guest Artist Matt Weiss, a Ringling Bros. trained clowning specialist and cast member in the CBS hit “Elementary.”
- June 17: “A Little Show Music” promises an evening of Broadway song and dance for the whole family.