Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Stories from the Summer Theatre Intensive: The Art of Stage Combat

Stage Combat at the 2018 Summer Theatre Intensive
Mahlet is on the far right.
by Mahlet Tesfu

This summer I had the privilege of attending Theatre Ontario’s Stage Combat course, taught by Daniel Levinson. I had originally wanted to take another course geared solely towards studying acting, however the opportunity to take this stage combat course came around and it seemed so interesting, and boy, was I right. This was my first time attending any Theatre Ontario course and I was so impressed by the array of diverse courses offered and really wanted to take them all!

In the stage combat course we covered a multitude of fighting techniques. From sword, where we learned the classical techniques, such as how to parry in positions one through eight, to unarmed where we learned how to kick, slap, punch, choke and defend, just to name a few. What fascinated me the most is how incredibly realistic the fights looked, yet they were completely 200% safe. The number one motto of our instructor Daniel, was “safety first above all else.” He beat it into our heads that no amount of pressure, expectation or level of perfection was worth hurting ourselves over.

Daniel delved into the history behind sword and unarmed fighting which really helped us understand the logic behind the movements and how and why certain techniques are the way they are. What I loved the most was seeing everything come together. It was really lovely to attach singular technical moves to stories. Using short scenes Daniel provided, we were able to create choreographed fighting scenes for both sword and unarmed. This was my favorite part, because all the moves and technique came to life so beautifully with added context and purpose.

It was such a treat to attend the “Playwright-in-Person” play reading by Marie Beath Badian at the Stratford Perth Museum. She graciously read excerpts from two of her plays The Making of St. Jerome and Prairie Nurse, which were both brilliantly written. It was wonderful to hear from an accomplished working playwright about her process, and her experience navigating through the industry. It was yet another treat to get the chance to talk to her personally after the event for any tips, advice, or questions, which she was so happy to do.

We got the opportunity to attend To Kill a Mockingbird at the Festival theatre. I was very excited to attend a Stratford play, as this was only my second one and it did not disappoint. Harper Lee’s novel was skillfully adapted into a play and worked very well for the stage. The cast and crew did an incredible job bringing this timely yet classic story to life.

My week with Theatre Ontario in Stratford far surpassed all of my expectations. I’m grateful for the people I got to meet and work with and for getting the best introduction into the exciting world of stage combat!

I’d like to thank Rachel and Emily for going above and beyond, Daniel for being the most patient and passionate teacher and extending his wealth of knowledge and my classmates for being the best sparring partners!

Mahlet was the recipient of Theatre Ontario’s 2018 New Talent Scholarship for our Summer Theatre Intensive, co-sponsored by ART Agency Inc., AMI Artist Management Inc., and Seventh House Talent.

Playwright-in-Person is made possible by a grant from the Playwrights Guild of Canada's "PlayConnect" program, funded by the Canada Council.

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