Southeast Students Certified in Stage Combat

Several students with Southeast Missouri State University’s Conservatory of Theatre and Dance recently received their certification in stage combat from the 22nd Annual Dueling Arts International (DAI) Winter Workshop in New Orleans, Louisiana. In early January, Addison Brown of St. Louis, Missouri; Ellen Carr of Collierville, Tennessee; Emily Hooks of Nashville, Illinois; Danny Kellett of O’Fallon, Missouri; Jared Klein of St. Louis, Missouri; Sean McCumber of Boonville, Missouri; Jenna Pastore of Lewis Center, Ohio; and Lawrence Perko of Chatham, Illinois, completed a week of classes taught by DAI. The students learned how to apply script analysis to identify obstacles, objectives and tactics with physical choreography. The certification helps students become more marketable as performers, said Bart Williams, assistant professor of acting and stage combat. “Acting is a really competitive field, and when you can have more tools to tell stories, the better your chances are to be hired,” he said. “While a certification doesn't guarantee any job, it does tell casting directors and directors about their capabilities, reliability and efficiency to work in rehearsal or on set. It also serves as a recommendation from a trainer.” Each student trained at least 20 hours in three weapon systems: single rapier, quarterstaff and small sword against a similarly armed opponent; these same weapons with more advanced combat moves; or unarmed, broadsword and rapier dagger. Additionally, students learned text to a scene with a scene partner chosen for them, and then presented their fights at the end of the 10-day period in front of the general public while DIA fight masters adjudicated their abilities. The students, regardless of the level of training, had to learn the safest way to physically communicate a scene of physical altercations with the weapons required, Williams said. The main point is to train performing artists to repeat safely the moves of each fight at least eight times a week, safely and without fear of injury. With film and TV seeing an increase in superhero and fantasy themes, more actors are being cast because they know their way around a stage with swords, guns, knives and whips, Williams said. “They may not get initially cast as leads, but they can act as stand ins or fight doubles and work their way up,” he said.