Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Realistic Fight

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Realistic Fight

Article excerpt

Student actors receive a lesson in safe violence

With his hands placed carefully around a young actor's neck, Dale Girard demonstrates how stage performers can look like they're doing major damage to another performer without causing injury.

The proper hand placement around the ears or on the scalp can suggest a real physical threat in the middle of a scene, but the actors involved will be able to live through it.

It's all part of stage combat training, which goes far beyond traditional sword fights.

"Every time someone slips, falls, has a little tussle or a little struggle," stage combat choreography and skills are involved, said Girard, an instructor in the art form at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

Each year, Girard spends a week working with the first and second- year students in the FSU/Asolo Conservatory, who fill several hours a day in exhausting mock fighting.

As you approach the Allen Studio on the second floor of the FSU Center for the Performing Arts, you'll hear grunting and groaning.

And when you enter the room, you'll see two dozen young actors who look like they're auditioning for the next "Die Hard" film.

They are grappling on the floor, tossing scene partners around the padded mats by their hair or ears, or pretending to pound them into the ground.

It's an essential part of an actor's skill set, and the annual sessions prepare the students for adjudication testing by the Society of American Fight Directors. "They must show a skill set of unarmed technique, body blows, gut punches, forward techniques and be able to demonstrate that they can safely and effectively do these techniques."

Certification could help them get a particular job, Girard said.

During one of his sessions, Girard demonstrates on first-year student Brett Mack how to properly grab someone seemingly by the hair, without yanking the hair or any wig they might be wearing in character. …

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