Cute animal slapping photos are funny
“It’s okay, just slap me. I don’t mind.”
Those words strike fear into the heart of every fight director I know.
Right now there is a trend that I have been seeing, one which might be called an attempt at "realism" in theatre, or more likely a money-saving attempt by a theater company to cut the "staged" part out of staged combat moments. In other words, when it comes time to slap someone on stage, directors, actors, producers, choreographers, whoever are becoming more and more comfortable with really doing it.
I have met very few fight directors who approve of this measure, so my only way of justifying it is to say that theaters are less and less willing to hire a fight director for a show. A notion that I get suspicious about especially at Equity theaters where they are required to do so. Often I find the director is trained, or even "trained" and does it for his or herself. Now I'm not one to doubt the abilities of someone, but as a fight director, I will simply say this: I hope you're the Michael Bennett of staged combat if you're going to play that card.
So when I see a show, and I know it contains a fight of some kind, and there is no one listed as “fight director” or “choreographer” or whatever in the program? I know there is something rotten in Denmark. Why is it that when an actor says “It’s okay, just slap me” the director goes, “GREAT!” and the fight director’s job is no longer needed? Worse, however, is when the director says, “Oh just slap them, it’s one slap.” There is literally no other non-violent profession in this country where a boss can say that and have it be okay. I am trained extensively to tell you that it’s not okay, that there is a ton that can go wrong. I’m not saying that every real slap is going to injure an actor. I’d say that 95% of the time, it will all be fine, maybe even 99%. But do you really want to take that 1-5% chance every time you put your show on its feet in front of an audience?
Before you answer that, let me just give you a couple of examples, they are extreme, but they are relevant.
Photo by Danny Bristoll
(fac·to·tum | \ fak-ˈtō-təm) noun - a person having many diverse activities or responsibilities
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