Joining Stage & Steel is joining a tight nit family. Actors work hard together and laugh even harder. The seriousness that is needed to learn safe stage combat practices is balanced with fun acting exercises intended to develop ones abilities in both character acting and improvisation.
Roles are designated as a combat part or a non-combat part. Not all actors want to fight and some opt to start in a non-combat role while learning stage combat to see if they like it. Combat Roles, in a show, have different levels of required skill.
There are many forms of combat that is performed on stages all across the world. Stage & Steel focuses primarily on the Broad Sword with some Staff, Hand to Hand, Dagger and Shield work. 50 percent of all rehearsal time is spent on learning the principles of Broad Sword work and working on mastering choreography. Safety is at the forefront of each and every lesson. Every actor is responsible for their own safety and for the safety of every person around them.
The principles of the Broad Sword are easy to pick up but mastering them takes time. As an actor's abilities with the weapons grow so do the challenge level of the choreographies that they are given. No actor is asked to do something that they do not feel comfortable doing. Each fight performed is tailored to the abilities of the participants.
New members start at the beginning and work their way up. It takes a bit of practice and time to develop a good fighting style. One show is definitely not enough time to master the art form and many actors return to continue their training.
Well, it is a workout. It does require a certain amount of dexterity. From the very first day you will be trying to get both your right and left hands to work together. Foot work is very important and actors learn quickly just how many "left feet" they have and then work on reducing that number. Then you need to train your eyes to see what your partner is doing. You need to learn to be self aware of your environment. There is the acting thing that has to occur and the memorizing of the choreography. And above all breathe!
New members start at the beginning and work their way through all of those areas one at a time. Games are played along the way to keep things light and fun. It is like any other sport or art form, it takes time to master.
Check out the training gallery. Here you will find pictures of Stage & Steel hard at work.
More so than people realize. What an actor does with the sword is nothing compared to what they do with their body. Part of the safety factor is learning how to hit the blades to cause the right amount of noise with the least amount of force. The strength of the crushing blow must come from the acting rather than the arm. An actor learns to show fierceness to the audience but not to their partner.
Sometimes lines are spoken while fighting is going on. This takes practice and physical conditioning too. However, with each and every blow the actor must vocalize the action with a series of grunts and groans. This is a learned reaction that helps the performers to better communicate the spirit of the conflict.
In a two hour play there may only be twenty minutes of actual fighting. Any more would be very difficult for the actors to memorize. Fighting augments the story being presented and is in no way the principle character of the story. That leaves over one and a half hours of real characterization to tell the true story. Acting is very much involved.
Improvisation is also very much involved. Stage & Steel productions use a good deal of audience participation. This sometimes involves an actor having to choose an audience member to help them in a scene. The actor must be able to work with and react to the naive audience member because you may never really know how that audience member will react.
Another time that improvisation and self control is needed is when an audience member calls something out. They are expected to cheer and boo the Knights and this can lead to yelling, taunts, and over enthusiastic banner waving, all of which can become distracting to the actors who just learn to roll with. They often comment during the show which can lead to some very funny and enduring moments. From the time the little girl pleaded with Scrooge to "wake up" from his bad dream, to the time the jury member asked if a character was free Friday night, to the time a little girl got into the face of the villain and cried out for the death penalty for his actions ( to the shock of the actor and the utter embarrassment of the girls mother). Actors begin to learn to react off of the audience, staying within character, and these shows becomes special for everyone. It's live theater, anything can happen.
What happens when you put an actor in a costume and then bring out a camera?
Check out the Actors Gallery to see proof that Stage & Steel members are zany and fun.
A lot of fun and perhaps that is why we get such crazy behind the scenes photos. A majority of the costumes that Stage & Steel use are hand made by members of the troupe. Each one becomes a work of art. Some parts of the costume are protective, one can never be too safe. Actors that fight wear a leather kidney belt for both safety and looks. Even female characters that wear dresses and fight have a kidney belt worked into their costume. The costume does change things. Actors learn to get the costume on as soon as possible during Tech Week to ensure that they get use to how the costume reacts to fast body movement. They are fun with layers of shirts, tabards, belts, bags, capes, sheaths, swords, daggers, and so on.
Check out the Character Gallery for just some of the characters that have come to life on Stage & Steel stages.
Wow! After all that what are you waiting for? Check to see when the next audition is!