Stage combat must perform two opposing tasks simultaneously: feeling dangerous to the audience while being completely safe for the cast and crew.
To achieve these clashing goals, actors must rehearse throwing and receiving realistic punches and kicks without inflicting harm on themselves or their fight partners. One group at Southern Miss is trying to help do exactly that.
On Monday evenings, a student-led organization called Fight Club meets in Rehearsal Hall 118 of the Theatre and Dance Building to sharpen their stage combat skills.They practice imposing fight moves like uppercuts and heel strikes while intently monitoring how and where they impact. In most cases, they learn to intentionally miss their partners.
Caitlyn Herzlinger, an assistant professor at the University of Southern Mississippi and the Head of Movement for the Theatre Department, guides them as they learn. Herzlinger demonstrates techniques to mimic realistic staggers, facial expressions and pained cries, all while ensuring students use proper techniques to avoid dealing actual damage.
The students in the group, however, have an additional goal.
“They are raising money to actually bring in a certified teacher in theatrical firearms training,” Herzlinger said.
Herzlinger said the group is about halfway towards their fundraising goal, which will enable them to hire a certified theatrical firearms instructor. The certification they receive after taking the course will give them the knowledge and expertise required to safely handle theatrical firearms in future productions.
Fight Club’s president, Taylor Alleman, says students are already learning valuable skills required for using theatrical firearms during their rehearsal sessions without ever touching a replica weapon.
“Any stage combat whether it be hand to hand or with weapons involves trust and if you break that trust in any way, shape or form, it’s really hard to get it back,” Alleman said. “That’s with any weapon we ever use, so learning unarmed [combat] and learning how to build that trust and build that connection [and] build that relationship helps with any weapon we’re ever going to use.”
To help Fight Club raise money for theatrical firearms training, you can donate directly to Cody Alexander, the Fight Club Treasurer, on Venmo. Send your donation to @cody-alexander-11, and make sure to comment “Fight Club” with it.
This report initially aired on SMTV on Nov. 15, and was presented by Sarah Kofman. It has been transcribed by SM2 News Director Charlie Luttrell. To watch all episodes of SMTV, visit the Southern Miss Student Media’s YouTube page.