Swords at play: Camelot features extended stage maneuversMar 2, 2012 By Emily Etheredge, Staff Writer
Some people fight with words, others fight with a fist. "Camelot" director Mike Myers fights with a sword.
Trained as an actor combatant, Myers spent the summer of 1980 attending a four-week workshop in stage combat at Western Illinois University. It was the first national training session held by the Society of American Fight Directors, the national organization of stage combatants and choreographers.
"About 25 students came from all over the U.S," Myers said. "We lived in dorms and had the opportunity to study with three very prominent fight directors -- David Boushey, Eric Fredricksen and Joseph Martinez. I learned stage combat techniques in hand-to-hand fighting with weapons such as fencing foil, broad sword, rapier and dagger, and quarter staff."
The students studied for 40 hours a week and in total received 160 hours of training. The final exam consisted of acting in a scene that incorporated performance and combat with hand-to-hand and two weapons.
"I received my certificate as an actor combatant, but with far more training one can earn a certificate as a fight choreographer," Myers said. "Almost everyone likes sword fighting, especially actors. I was no exception. Also, with all the swinging of a heavy broad sword, the muscles in my right arm became twice as large as those in my left."
With his training, Myers was able to choreograph several sword fighting scenes in CWC's production of "Camelot." Although there were no fight scenes in the original script, Myers added three sequences using broad swords.
Myers practiced with the actors and taught them a sequence of numbered attacks and parries. Choreographing a fight becomes a matter of arranging various attacks and parries.
"Actors learn a fight like dancers learn choreography," Myers said. "They learn by attack two, parry four, and so on. We break it down into phrases and start slow. We then assemble the phrases and gradually increase the speed."
Weapons must be used somewhat differently on stage than they would in life. Stage fights need to be slowed down for safety and aesthetic reasons. A fight that goes too fast is dangerous and cannot be appreciated by the audience.
Myers has enjoyed directing "Camelot" and watching the actors' performances grow.
"Ultimately the job of the director is just to help other people do their jobs well," Myers said. "There are so many people involved in a large musical, about 55 for 'Camelot'. Everyone contributes and everyone is essential. By the time a show opens, the director is the most useless person on the planet."
With the last performances this weekend, Myers encourages anyone that has not seen the production to come and enjoy the show.
"'Camelot' is entertaining with lots of comedy, great music and an important message," Myers said. "I have little interest in doing shows that don't have something to say, but I definitely support the ideas in 'Camelot' -- be idealistic, be civilized, reach for the stars, violence is not strength and compassion is not weakness. These are necessary ideas for our troubled times."
For anyone interested in seeing the production, performances will be at 7:30 p.m. March 2 and March 3 and at 2:30 p.m. March 4. Tickets are available, $12 for adults and $10 for seniors and youth. They can be purchased between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday at the CWC box office or online at tickets.cwc.edu.