Students explore stage combat; Realistic stunt practice with HCC department head

Chloe Ward, Reporter

     On April 26, Mrs. Nancy Green’s Drama III had the opportunity to meet the Harford Community College theater professor and head of the Department of Performing arts. 

     Dr. Ben Fisler typically meets with Green’s drama classes, completing movement exercises and discussing Shakespeare. However, this year is the first of many where Fisler discussed stage combat, a hidden art in the performance world. 

     “He has several workshops that he does on a professional level at theater festivals and in classes,” Green says, “but this year I chose his stage combat workshop, because I knew drama three was ready for it.” In the past, Dr. Fisler has done movement workshops, being aware of all movement on stage including your own, and many Shakespeare workshops. Typically, he would visit all drama classes, “but it just so happened to be at the end of the year,” Green says. 

     Fisler discussed the safety precautions that come with stage combat, and mentioned that it is as safe as anything else that is done on stage, as long as all involved across have practiced their scene and memorized the sequence of events. 

    To avoid injury from actual fighting, actors use techniques to create realistic conflict from the audience’s point of view. This means that each and every move must be choreographed, and improvisation is not an option on stage. 

     The moves practiced in the workshop involved stage falls, slaps, kicks, and punches. All of which incorporate a theater technique called a “knap”. The knap is the impact sound made during a strike, to further convince the audience of its realism. The sound can be made by hitting one’s own chest with their palm during a punch, slapping the ground while falling, etc. This sound can be made by either the receiver or the attacker, depending on the situation. 

     Afterwards, students had the opportunity to meet with professor Fisler and talk about future opportunities, if they should continue to Harford Community College. 

      Senior Alyssa Sparraco was particularly interested in Dr. Fisler’s workshop since the beginning. They have been planning on attending Harford Community College to continue pursuing drama, so meeting the professor was something that intrigued them. “I never really thought about stunt acting before,” they say, “Like every time you see a bar fight or anything, it’s acting! That’s an entire art form.” Sparacco mentions as well that they rewatched some of their favorite movies and shows with the new acting knowledge in mind, viewing the scenes from an actor’s point of view. 

      Aside from the workshop itself, Green wanted to provide students with the opportunity to meet Dr. Fisler and understand what he’s like, so they’re more confident to pursue the art. Opportunities and connections can often make or break a career in performance arts, and Green wants to do all she can for her students, so they may continue along the theater path if they choose.