Teaching Drama

Stage Combat 101: What Your Fight Director Needs to Know

Stage Combat 101: What your fight director needs to know
Written by Kerry Hishon

So, you’ve decided to produce a show at your school that requires some stage combat. Awesome! Now, it’s time to reach out to a qualified and experienced fight director (FD) to choreograph the fights so your students feel safe and confident performing them.

Once you’ve secured a fight director, you’ll need to meet with them (or at the least get an email thread going) to discuss your vision for the show and the stage combat. There are many details that your FD will need to know, so if you have this information prepared in advance, they will thank you.

1. Show Information
  • What is the show? Be sure to send the FD a script (or at the very least, the scenes with combat) so they can prepare in advance.
  • How many fights are in the show?
  • What is the setting of the show? For example, are you doing Romeo & Juliet traditionally with rapiers, or set in the Wild West with whips and pistols?
  • Do you have a photo of the set or a set design rendering? This way the FD can plan around any potential hazards.
  • Are there any special effects, lighting effects, or sound/music that will affect the choreography?
2. Casting Information
  • What are the ages of the performers who will be participating in the stage combat? This includes understudies!
  • Do the students have any experience with stage combat? They don’t need to, but it’s good to know. If you’re aware of any movement training that students have, such as dance, martial arts, or sports, this can be useful to know as well. 
  • Are there any potential concerns about the students that the FD should know about? This might include student availability (don’t schedule a fight rehearsal for a date when one of your fighters will be absent!), behaviour or grade concerns, or accessibility needs.
3. Time Information
  • What’s the rehearsal and performance schedule?
  • How much rehearsal time do you think your students need… 
  • …and how much time will the FD actually get to teach and rehearse the choreography?
4. Budget, Supplies, and Logistics Information
  • Do you have the budget to pay the FD’s rates? 
  • Does the FD need to supply a background check or any credentials to your administration before coming to rehearsal?
  • Provide the address and directions to your school and/or rehearsal site so your FD knows where to go.
  • Do you have the stage weapons already, or will you need to rent/acquire weapons? Will you do that, or will you need the FD to source the weapons?
  • What is your budget for renting and/or buying stage weapons?
  • Are you using fake blood? If so, what kind? Do you have backup costumes available in case items get stained?
  • Are there any other details your FD needs to know?

If you don’t know the answers to all of these questions right now, don’t despair! For example, you might not be sure how much time to allot to fight choreography rehearsals or where to source specific stage weapons. Your FD can help you figure these things out, but having as many details planned out in advance as you can will save you and your FD time and stress.

Click here for a free printable planning worksheet.

Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage combatant from London, Ontario, Canada. She blogs at www.kerryhishon.com.

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About the author

Kerry Hishon

Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage combatant from London, Ontario, Canada. View her blog at www.kerryhishon.com.