Fighting Words

Posted by
on April 18, 2013
Playwright Mieko Ouchi (centre) with actors and stage combatants Richard Lee Hsi and Sheldon Elter. Photo: Brian Quirt

Today I had the wonderful privilege of having a morning in the theatre. As writers, sadly this is actually quite a rare opportunity outside of production.

In the Margaret Greenham Theatre I had the opportunity to work with two Banff Playwrights Colony Company actors Richard Lee Hsi and Sheldon Elter on a new play I am writing for teen audiences called I Am For You. The script is about violence, and involves what happens when a student teacher interrupts a fight between two girls in a high school drama room and introduces them to fighting through a different lens, through the art and craft of stage combat. The play also explores Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as this is the play the school drama club is prepping to perform.

As you can imagine, a play like this, full of physical contact and choreography is difficult to fully capture on paper. This seems especially hard to write when you are sitting alone in a room, without the benefit of bodies in front of you!

So, this morning in the theatre, with Richard and Sheldon, both actors with stage combat training and experience, I was able to play with and explore skills I only vaguely remember from theatre school and my work as a professional actor. Fencing stances and quadrants. Thrusts and Parries. Retreats and Advances. Unarmed combat. Slaps, hair-pulls, throws, punches, falls. With their help I was able to begin to see the action of the play in 3-D again. A crucial, critical step in the process leading towards production.

This upcoming fall my company Concrete Theatre will premiere the play in Edmonton schools and professional theatre spaces, directed by my brilliant Artistic Co-Director Caroline Howarth. Watching Richard and Sheldon this morning on stage, I realize, I can’t wait. I can’t wait for young people to see it. I want them to experience something visceral, authentic and relevant. I hope they will be as engaged as I was. And that the play may illuminate some new perspectives. Encourage some different thinking. Help them see things in a fresh way.

Back to the fighting words-


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