Two weeks ago, my husband and I had a fun, relaxing weekend. Ok, wait…no…it wasn’t relaxing. Not even a little bit. But it was FUN. What did we do? Go hiking? Drive up and down the east coast? Dance ’til the break of dawn?
Nope. We fought.
WITH BROADSWORDS. 🙂
Let me rewind. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my husband and I are the founders of a small theatre group, Ghostlight Productions. We are most well-known in our area for providing a Shakespeare in the Park production every June at our local park. This year I am directing Romeo & Juliet. Since one of our goals is to increase the quality of every show that we do, we’ve added elements to this show that truly stretch the bounds of outdoor community theatre – live original music, Irish step dance, Italian folk dance, and, of course, stage combat.
Which brings us back to the broadswords. Well, actually, it brings us to the three-hour unarmed combat workshop, which THEN brings us to the three-hour broadsword combat workshop, as well as about six hours of fight choreography, all of which we managed to cram into a weekend. PHEW! (See why it wasn’t relaxing?)
The fantastic Scott Ticen drove up from his home base in the Lancaster area to teach both workshops and choreograph our Romeo & Juliet fight scenes (there are several, as you may know). Those two days were intense, especially for my actors who took the workshops AND participated in the choreography. My husband, who plays Mercutio, can attest to just how exhausting and exhilarating the entire experience was.
But I know what you’re thinking…”this is nice and all…but what does it have to do with playwriting?”
Something Scott said both in choreography and in our workshops got me to thinking; he told us that creating a fight sequence isn’t just about making it look like a good, realistic fight. It’s about telling a story. He asked us a number of times, “What story are you telling?” whether we were plotting out how Tybalt kills Mercutio or just figuring out what our face might communicate when taking a punch.
As a writer, storytelling resonates with me deeply. I know some people write because they love language; for me, it always has been and always will be about the story and the people in the story. I am just in love with stories. Now, to this point I haven’t written many plays, but when I think back to the two most recent in my repertoire, both have scenes of violence in them. Why? Just to draw a crowd? Just to be shocking? No…because those violent moments are essential to telling THE STORY.
I’ve posted before how annoyed I’ve become with the ineffectual use of language and nudity in modern playwriting…it’s funny how those things tend to bother me more than excessive, gratuitous violence. But this workshop reminded me of an essential truth that’s at the heart of this matter – that’s at the heart of all ineffectual storytelling, actually – that everything we do in a play, everything we write, everything we perform, every movement, every entrance and exit, every character, voice, choice, word, action, reaction, and silence…EVERYTHING should tell a story.
And if it doesn’t…then why is it there?
I know this concept is pretty basic, but I think we lose it sometimes in the midst of our own literary cleverness. Sometimes we want to keep something because it’s witty or exciting or we just think people will like it. But what does it say to our audience about who these characters are or about what’s happening to them? What about the STORY?
Off soapbox. Back to broadswords. 😉
Our weekend of stage combat was a blast, which is a good thing since Jonathan and I will be hitting NYC this coming July to do a stage combat intensive with Art of Combat. We just got our scripts today and I am SOOOOO beyond excited. And a little scared. But hey, if I can handle a sword, I can handle anything. And just for kicks and giggles, here’s a link to the video of my husband and I in the tiny piece we choreographed and performed at the end of our workshop. And this link will take you to the unarmed fight I did with my friend Abby. Hope you enjoy. 🙂