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Stage Combat 101: What is a Fight Captain and What Do They Do?

A fight captain is a vital part of the artistic team. They are a member of the cast who assists the fight director and helps to maintain the stage combat choreography during the run of the show. They are responsible for conducting fight calls (more on that below) and maintaining safety throughout the process. Normally a fight director selects a fight captain, but as your students’ teacher, you know your students best and are the best resource for identifying an appropriate student for this role and communicating this information to the fight director.

The role of fight captain is best suited to a senior or more experienced drama student who is trustworthy, mature, looking for a challenge, and interested in movement and choreography. They need to have a smaller feature or ensemble role in the show — it is too much additional responsibility for a leading actor. The fight captain could also be a member of the stage management team.

The fight captain’s responsibilities include:

1. Attending every rehearsal where fights are taught and rehearsed. They must be familiar with all the stage combat choreography in the show. This includes filming and writing down all the choreography so they have an accurate record of the work. They may not alter or teach choreography, but they can and should review the moves under supervision.

2. Running a fight call before every performance. A fight call is a mini rehearsal where each fight in the show is rehearsed twice prior to showtime — once at half speed and once at performance speed, with all necessary costumes, lighting effects, and weaponry. With stage management and the director, the fight captain will need to ensure that there is enough time prior to each performance for a fight call, warm-ups, getting into costume, and any other tasks that need to occur before curtain.

3. Ensuring any stage combat weapons are maintained, clean, and ready to use prior to each performance. After each performance, the fight captain checks that each weapon is returned, free of damage, and put away properly. All stage combat equipment should be kept locked up when not being used in performance.

4. Ensuring that the stage is cleared of debris and swept/mopped as required. A member of the stage management team often completes this task, but it is up to the fight captain to ensure that it is completed.

5. Acting as a liaison if there are any issues that need to be addressed, such as a weapons malfunction or an injury that requires a choreography adjustment. If there is an issue that the fight captain or director can’t resolve, the fight director needs to be contacted.

The fight captain may have additional duties as assigned, such as leading physical warm-ups, performing third-person knaps and other fight effects, and completing safety checks (such as ensuring safety mats and other equipment are in place).

If you have a student who is particularly enthusiastic about stage combat, taking on the important role of fight captain would be a great opportunity for them. They will get to learn a lot, gain an additional credit for their resume, and grow their leadership skills while having a lot of fun. 

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