I’ve been there, watching a play when it happens. A sharp staccato rings out as the actor’s hand makes contact with their partner’s face onstage, and audience members grimace in sympathy, knowing that the fake slap made real contact. Usually the actor fights through the pain and tears to complete the scene before (in my imagination) going backstage to yell at their co-star. That’s not how it should play out and with some training, overall performances can improve as well, according to Open Pit Theatre artistic director Geneviève Doyon, who is hosting stage director and fight choreographer Kevin Robinson, from Toronto, for a workshop.
“We thought, What sort of workshop can we offer that’s different and inclusive?” Doyon said. “It’s really different. In my time here [in the Yukon], nothing like this has been offered.
“It’s learning how to fall, how to take a slap. Learning how to do it safely.”
The day will be broken into two separate workshops—an intro to unarmed physicality, in the morning, and a second workshop dedicated to cinematographers, in the afternoon. The direction and skill needed to produce realistic-looking fights depends on the skills of both actors and those working the camera, according to Doyon.
“The filmmakers’ workshop is an extra for industry people or maybe Yukoners interested in the 48 Hour Film Festival,” she said. “Actors have a big part to play, but cinematographers have a big influence on how it’s shot, with angles and framing.”
Doyon took performance fight training while in theatre school, and from her experience there are benefits to the overall acting performance when someone has taken that specialized training.
“When you do heightened physicality training, you have to be really present and aware of your partner, or something can go wrong. You can transfer that because if you are 100 per cent present, you can be better with regular scenes.
“It’s another tool in your toolbox. It’s tips and tricks that can make a you a better performer—not just in fighting, but [they] can help make other things look more real.”
The workshops will cater to all levels of experience, which is one of Robinson’s strengths. Doyon explains that he is able to cater to a number of different levels in the workshops, so that participants are all working on different activities that are tailored to their skills. As well, the camera workshop doesn’t require high-tech equipment, and those interested in using tablets or phones, to film, can also participate.
But at the end of the day, it’s an opportunity to learn some fun, active acting tools that haven’t been offered in the territory recently.
“We all liked play-fighting as kids,” she said. “It’s a good way to access fun, which can be lost. Right before you go on stage, directors will say, ‘Have fun.’”
The workshop will take place on September 15 at the Alpine Bakery. Participants are asked to register in advance and can do so by visiting their website at http://openp.it/. For more information, contact Jessica Hickman at email@example.com.