By Rebecca Waskevich
The Blackbox Theatre lends itself to the imagination of those acting and those watching. For Megan Burnett’s Theatre 120 class, the imagination leads to a place of bandits and sword fighters.
Burnett wanted to train her students in stage combat because fights and physical struggles are common elements in theatre productions.
“I am training people to be comfortable in their space and with their own strength,” Burnett said, “they get the foundations to move in such a way. It makes me feel empowered that I can look tough.”
The blades of the swords are blunted and the tips are soldered off for safety reasons.
“We don’t do anything unless we’ve walked through safety steps and basic protocol,” Barnett said, “and no stage weapon should be used as a real weapon.”
Barnett said the scariest part of teaching stage combat is when students improvise. If they don’t adhere to the choreography “it can make for some scary moments.”
Barnett received her certification in three stage weapons over twenty-five years ago. During her time teaching, she has brought in other certified professionals, like Sarah Flanagan, to teach stage combat.
Flanagan taught Burnett’s students how to properly wield a sword and throw a stage punch.
“It’s stupid fun. I don’t mean it’s stupid and fun, I mean it’s a stupid amount of fun,” Flanagan said. “It’s cool to watch other people have the light bulb moment where something clicks, and with teaching, you get to see those all the time.”
Flanagan talked of the importance of teamwork. “You have to care about the other person or else the scene will talk, it’s team oriented and everyone moves forward as a unit.”
Freshman theater major Kyler Hendricks said, “They’re good skills to have, to learn about boundaries and space, and how to be safer.”
Senior Samantha Thomas said: “I thought [the class] would be more yoga based and then the first day she said we’d be using swords. I’m definitely out of my comfort zone.”
Thomas is a biology major and needed a fine art credit. “I didn’t want to act with speaking and this seemed really different,” Thomas said. “I feel like a lot of swords come at my face. It’s hard being short judging space and knowing what the proportions are.”
Senior Ellie Stoddart is also taking the course for her fine arts credit. “My favorite part is the defending part, getting to swipe away someone else’s sword.” she said. Stoddart is 6 feet 2 inches tall. “I’m afraid I’m going to hit people, so I take a step back,” said Stoddart.
Stoddart is a biology major. She said: “Every year I’d have hours and hours of labs, so I never thought I’d be flailing swords around. In the lab the danger is in spilling stuff, here it’s accidentally cutting people.”
The class ended with an exercise in overacting. Before students put the swords down, Flanagan instructed them to “be an elderly ninja doing tai chi in peanut butter, overact it, make choices.”
Theatre 120, “Movement for the Actor,” is available to all students as a fine arts credit.