Entries tagged with “Stage Combat”.


Rep. Company member Janna Rosenkranz (Ajax, Deiphobus, Cassandra) talks about the challenges of doing battle onstage.

From Couch to Greek Warrior in Six Weeks: Stage Combat for the Morbidly Sedentary

I couldn’t have been more surprised when I was cast as Ajax and Cassandra. The later character, Cassandra, is the type of character that comes easy to me in that I know what it feels like to be a woman whose voice is not always (for poor Cassandra never) heard or counted. Ajax, on the other hand, through me for a real loop. I had nothing, internally, to really explore for Ajax, so I took a very simple outside approach with him and played up his cartoon like Football Joe/Meathead characteristics. (No insult is intended towards football players named Joe or Meathead). It also must look ridiculous, as I’m the complete physical opposite of the men I’m fighting, however, as that lends itself to the fact that Ajax is a joke, and is made fun of by virtually everyone in the play.

With the help of our wonderful directing team, Angela and Francis Boyle, I was able to find some specifics to help with Ajax’s character, but besides the acting challenges, there was a huge physical challenge. I’m a 48 year old, overweight, Netflix addicted, un-athletic woman! I’ve taken some stage combat (around 15 years ago) and once even took a fencing class (in my last year of college for a required PE credit), and done some minor combat with PCSC in Henry IV, 2 and Macbeth, but I’ve never had to really have a serious stage fight before, and now I was faced with three serious fights. I was lucky to already have acted with the three men I’d be fighting with, Scott Wright, Killian Goodson, and Zachary Johnson. I knew them and trusted them. I was also extremely lucky to have Francis as our fight coordinator and Steven Schwall as our fight captain. I felt a kinship with Francis and Angie immediately and Francis was very clear with his instructions. Trusting your fellow artists is half the battle. I thank them all for their professionalism and camaraderie.

Facing my fears of anything movement related was a huge part of my challenge. Over the last ten years or so I’ve become a very careful mover, watching every step for fear of what my husband calls “tipping over.” Basically, I’m a huge klutz (I take after my Jewish mother) and I fall. A lot. Like a lot. During PCSC’s production of The Merchant of Venice I fell down a set of stairs and caught myself with my face. I had a huge lump on my forehead and two black eyes as a result. In Henry IV, 2 I had one tiny fight during an excursion and I think I managed to mess it up in every performance. I did better in Macbeth, but only had one or two parries and a duck. I still am not quite sure how The Powers That Be at PCSC would even trust me with a sword, let alone cast me as a character who is in three fights!

Learning and rehearsing fights is like learning a new dance, there are beats, positions, intentions; basically lots to think about when you are fighting. I’m lucky to have a muscle memory of dance and gymnastics from my childhood; I’ve even been told I still sometimes move like a dancer, despite my more recent commitment to the good fight against gravity and being a highly ranked officer in the eat masses of carbs army. Like dance, you start getting the fight into your body and get some muscle memory established. Of course this means loads of repetition. The fight choreographer and captain (Francis and Steven in our case) model the moves of the fight beat by beat, and then the actors repeat what they did beat by beat. Since we’re doing live theater, we, rehearse the fight before each show with our fight captain observing. Since anything can happen during the fight, the more practice we get, the more we have the moves in our muscles, the more predicable the fight will be and the more we can deal with adjustments on stage.

We are currently in our final stages of rehearsal before we open and although I’m still nervous about my combat, I’m very excited. There is so much I don’t know and so much I learn every time we do fight calls and runs. The most important thing is that NOBODY gets hurt in any way, shape, or form, but for me, this experience has been so much more than just some fights in some play, it’s become a new source of mental, physical, and emotional confidence and  self-assurance.

The confidence that PCSC showed in me helped me gain more confidence, both in myself as an actor and in my own body. My appreciation for my body has also risen exponentially, and of course getting in a little better shape doesn’t hurt anyone. Both roles were great acting challenges and I am honored and appreciative that everybody at PCSC trusts me with helping them tell the stories of these wonderful plays.

Hello!  My name is Kyle Walker and I am playing Laertes and the Third Player in Hamlet.  This is my first production with the Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company and it has been a fun, interesting and new experience.  It has challenged me in new ways and stretched my talents to their full potential.

Playing Laertes has been an extremely fun role for me.  It is a role full of joy, sadness, anger, regret, and passion.  Exploring these kinds of emotions is always fun on stage.  However, one of the greatest parts of Laertes, for me, is the stage sword fighting I get to do.  I recently graduated from Grand Valley State University in December of 2009 and in my time there, I performed in many shows that ranged from Shakespeare to musicals.  But in all of my time there I never once had the chance to experience stage combat.  It was an aspect of my college education that I regretted.  But as Laertes, sword fighting is an integral part of his character.  Laertes is a short-tempered, head-strong, and impressionable person.  What better person to wield a sword?  I was excited to finally try my hand at stage combat.

My work with the fight choreographer, Steven Schwall, has been a quite the learning experience.  Going into the fight rehearsals I already had an objective in mind:  I wanted to gain a basic knowledge of stage sword combat.  One of the first basics that we learned in our rehearsals was how to stand.  In sword play it is important to have a strong, steady stance: knees bent, legs apart and at a 45 degree angle.  This gives the player a strong hold on the ground so that he/she is in complete control of their body.  This concept is what has guided my stage combat experience.  Control is everything when you sword fight on stage.  It keeps the players in synch, keeps the actors safe, and makes the swordfight convincing.  This established a very useful fundamental for stage combat and even for acting.  Control of the body leads to control of the scene that you are playing.

The next aspect of the Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company that I want to discuss in my blog is the music.  I have been playing the trombone since 5th grade and have always loved playing it.  But in recent years, since I began to focus more on acting, I began to lose touch with my trombone.  I was extremely excited to learn that I would be playing my trombone in Hamlet.  I have always kind of hoped that one day I would be able to bring my skills with the trombone to the theatre.  Sadly, I had never heard of a play where the actor is supposed to play a trombone.  So when they asked me to play my trombone in Hamlet I was very excited to finally have the chance to connect my two favorite arts: theatre and music.

At first I felt a little rusty and had to get used to blowing on the old horn again.  But just like riding a bicycle, it all seemed to come back to me as if it had never left.  Being able to play my trombone in this show has been fun but it has also made me realize something about the Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company.  As an original practice Shakespeare Company, they play a lot.  They play with words, sounds, movement, emotions, meanings, costumes, props, and audiences.  But they also play to each other’s strengths.  When you are cast in a role, you don’t only learn your lines and play a character, you reach inside yourself for something more.  Something you can give to the cast, to the audience, or even to yourself.  And for me, the only thing I ask in return is a stage to make a character come to life.

Well, that about does it for me.  I hope you’ve learned something about the Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company and maybe even something about me.  If you want to know anything else about me… (WARNING: shameless self-promotion coming up)… you will just have to come see me in Hamlet performing at Dog Story Theater: April 15-25, Beardsley Theater: April 28, and Christ Community Church: May 13-16.   Thank you for reading!

-Kyle Walker