Stage Fight Choreography in
William Shakespeare passed away nearly 400 years ago, but regard for his genius has never dissipated. Huntington School District sixth grade SEARCH students spent weeks studying the great playwright during a unit that culminated with an interesting stage fight choreography workshop.
The one-hour workshop sessions were eagerly anticipated by the SEARCH (Scholastic Enrichment and Resource for the Children in Huntington) program sixth graders and they came well-prepared with their knowledge of Shakespeare and many of his works.
Maryann Daly, SEARCH chairperson and teacher, feels the choreography lessons are well worth the time and effort. Visiting educators Heather Thorgersen and her assistant "Frank," who are both trained in the field of Shakespearean drama arts, taught students the art of the "hair pull" and the "snap." Sound effects were added along with facial and body expressions to create the "fight" scene found in Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and several other of Shakespeare's plays.
Workshop groups learned the skills Shakespearean stage actors are trained to perform. These actors repeatedly practice the techniques in order to make the fight scenes found in Shakespeare's plays appear believable and real to audiences.
The Huntington students went about drilling the skills and acting them out with gusto. The youngsters had read through the plays and understood the setting of each of the fight scenes, which enhanced and make the workshop sessions more meaningful.
Another important workshop segment involved teaching the basic moves involved in the art of fencing. "After they had practiced these skills as a group and then with a partner, the students had to create an original fight scene incorporating the pull, the snap and the basic fencing moves the just learned," Mrs. Daly said. Each pair of students then went about acting out their respective fight scene while the rest of the class watched with eagle eyes.
"Everyone left this workshop understanding the skills involved in creating believable fight scenes," Mrs. Daly said. "It takes a lot of practice, focus and attention to the smallest details to maintain the safety of the actors at all times. Someone commented that it was similar to learning dance moves, which is why it is referred to as choreography!"
The sixth graders said they had a "great time" learning the various dramatic skills and found it a fun way to bring the unit on Shakespeare to a close. With their appetites whetted, the youngsters said they can't wait to "meet up" with Shakespeare on the secondary level.