Props Projects

Catching up on some more sharing here… first, just a couple examples of what sort of basic customization I sometimes do on existing props. Denix makes the double-barrel wood and cast-metal prop replica “coach gun” shotgun, and it’s a staple of sorts. Not perfect for every project, but nice to have on hand. Sometimes it’s close enough it can be modified to work, though. I had one rental late last year that wanted a “J. Purdy & Sons British side-by-side engraved full sidelock shotgun” for the show Book of Days. Those things can look pretty fancy, but the basic shape is the same, so I was able to spend some time with a Dremel and get one of my Denix props looking a bit more the part:

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That’s actually a work-in-progress shot – it ended up with a bit more than that, but you get the idea.

 

Another drawback with the Denix models is that while the interior diameter of the barrels is right for putting dummy or spent 12ga shells in it, there isn’t the wider area at the chamber to accommodate the extra brass of the base, or the lip. On my sawed-off one I ground that out for a recent gig, to the point where it could fit dummy rounds and still close. Granted, it’s not perfect – being not designed to chamber anything, there’s also no extractor, so getting the rounds back out means getting a stick and poking them through from the other side, generally, but it’s still an improvement. I also dirtied it up a bit, as I’ve never heard of a mint-condition sawed-off. The barrel now looks a bit more like it was hacksawed, and there’s a bit more weathering on it.

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One other area where I’ve been tinkering when I can is in prep for an upcoming Robin Hood gig at a high school. They’ll be using aluminum swords, and wanted a mace or axe for the villain, as well as some bows. While I have a bunch of swords that work well for this, build off old leftover blade blanks from the Prince of Persia movie and use previously for another Robin Hood and many youth classes, I didn’t have the other items yet. I’ve got nice wood longbows but I’m not going to rent those out for school kids to dry-fire repeatedly, so I made a few PVC bows that still go through the motions but are cheap, durable, safer (probably only a few pounds draw weight) and could even end up being used as a melee weapon against the aluminum swords perhaps.

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Obligatory crappy selfie showing bow drawn

 

I also didn’t have any aluminum axes or maces, so I made an aluminum head to put on a spare handle for one of the Cold Steel trench hawks. Might paint the handle if they want. Thinking we’ll pair this with a buckler perhaps, since blocking with a quillion-free weapon can get a bit dicey.

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…and when I have more time, I’ll post a how-to and review of the DIY cloaks I made for the Beach Bash rapier & cloak workshop, for any sewers out there. They were a lot of fun to play with, and I only had one rip – not too surprising, as it was one made from fabric that had been sitting in my parents’ attic for about 37 years, having been bought at a customs auction some time in the mid-70s.

 

Beware the Ideas of March

I’ve been negligent on the blog, if justifiably so. Workshops every weekend last month; SETC one weekend, the Cincie Cease & Desist stage combat workshop the next (website’s out of date), LightsUp! Youth open house at Center Stage in Richmond the next (teaching four youth stage combat classes), then assistant coordinating and teaching at the VA Beach Bash last weekend.

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Mixed in with that has been some final edits on the book, which is now coming out actually a couple weeks earlier than planned (yay for being on top of things!), fight choreo for a few shows (Getting Away With Murder has now closed, Clybourne Park opens next week at W&M, Detroit just had a few production meetings so far and Robin Hood starts soon), some rental gigs (including some customizations I hope to make a separate post about soon), and my five classes I’m teaching this semester (four for credit, one for an SAFD certificate). Add to that some planning for next Fall (picking textbooks, online audition screening for scholarships, and soon looking at houses & schools in Laramie), the usual family stuff, and the life things that happen (like a bunch of work on my bicycle) and it’s been a bit busy.

One of the bits of gossip I got at the Beach Bash, from an Irish stuntman (worked on Vikings amongst many other projects) who I met on To Have & To Hold, was that tH&tH might actually come out next Fall. Would love to see that finally. That was where I earned my SAG card, doing about a week’s worth of ND Stunts.

 

So it’s been a great month of meeting stunt & stage combat friends both old & new, playing with both people & toys, and doing creative work. Short on sleep perhaps, but when you’re freelance that’s better than the alternative by far, and I’m extremely lucky to be getting to do what I love for a living. More actual content soon perhaps, but that at least gets us caught up and reminds folks I’m still alive and [usually fake] kicking!

 

Mixed genres in non-fiction

First things first: The book is now available for pre-order: http://www.focalpress.com/books/details/9780415733984/

It’s a bit cheaper on Amazon and Barnes & Noble than on the publisher website, and the marketing department apparently decided it would move at a higher price than we’d originally talked about (I’ve been trying to keep price down with things like B&W illustrations only, for example), but it’s still I think priced fair comparable to other stage combat texts.

Now to the other theatrical firearms and weapons use… in real life.

For those who haven’t been following the news, there’s a conflict going on in the Ukraine that feels like something out of the Taymor film Titus, or one of the many mixed-era Shakespeare stagings that many of us have worked on, and it may be increasingly the new face of civil conflict in our age of increased centralization of wealth.

Just look at some of these images:

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(AFP image)

Yes, that’s a trebuchet.

They are using other siege designs as well, including a slingshot shooting the modern version of Greek Fire:

…just like every medieval siege scene shot in the past two decades, it seems. Note the home-made plywood shield that walks by in that one too.

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There’s plenty of footage of riot police with shields doing a shield push, making a testudo, and other familiar formations, while protesters improvise shields out of tables and other scrap, and attack with a mix of clubs, rocks, improvised flame weapons, etc. If police ever get the order to open fire it’ll be a bloodbath quickly, and don’t think for a second they couldn’t (physically – not sure about emotionally, politically, and almost certainly not ethically although some of them do get put in clear danger). So far they’ve been sticking to less-lethal munitions and melee weapons:

A bit of a summary of the conflict here, with more compelling images.

In the meantime, the government (with necessary corporate assistance) is tracking, digitally flagging, and contacting everyone in the protest zone who has a cellphone. Technology works both ways – I’m sure some of these events were partially organized through social media, and they’re certainly being documented heavily through consumer electronics, but as long as the systems they run on are cooperating with or under the legal sway of the governments, some of that is subject to change at a moment’s notice.

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Many of us in stage combat or film stunts have been called upon to stage conflicts that made sense to both modern technology and period language and sensibilities, or for dystopian future visions of society that could blend the medieval and the modern, and in the past it’s been an exercise in creative problem-solving. I think that’s about to change, just as the truth we see now cannot help but be viewed through our theatrical lenses, be they tinted by

the barricades of Les Mis,

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“Let others riiiiiiiiiise to take our plaaaace…”

…or 300

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This is where we will make our stand…

…or the opening sequence of Gladiator,

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“People should know when they’re beaten, Maximus.” “Would you? Would I?”

…or WWZ,

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…or 1984.

Sometimes life imitates art, and that’s not always a good thing. Sometimes I hate it when I get things right.

News.com.au has a good gallery of images and is the source of most of those above: Here.

Edits to add:

Apparently there’s some straight-up SCA or re-enactor armor being fielded as well.

More on the weaponry being improvised, including these medieval images:

FreeCompany ArcherMore crazy images Here, and yes, the protesters do have some firearms as well. It’s just going to keep escalating, apparently.

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Go West Young(ish… sorta…) Man.

It’s been a busy few months in Fight Designer land; thus the radio silence. Since the last post… the Theatrical Firearms Handbook is in the hands of the copyeditors at Focal Press, having gotten several chapters re-organized and partially re-written thanks to the excellent feedback from Robb Hunter of fellow props company Preferred Arms. We have a cover image now, and a review has been submitted for the Spring issue of The Fight Master.

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I’ve also been deputized as Assistant Coordinator for this year’s Virginia Beach Bash stage combat workshop at Regent University. Should be good fun – it certainly has been in the past.

Three Musketeers had a good short run at Christendom College, with a very full cast all all making it through safely. My extra-curricular broadsword class at VCU is coming along well too.

The biggest news, however, is that Fight Designer, LLC will be moving this Summer. I have accepted an offer for a full-time tenure-track Assistant Professor of Acting (and Movement, and Stage Combat) at the University of Wyoming starting Fall 2014. On the props front, I’m greatly looking forward to having a better storage space, maybe a shop, and a dry (rust-inhibiting) climate as home base for the business, but I expect it means I’ll be limited to almost all mail-order business. Things will likely have to shut down for a time this Summer during the move, but if you know ahead of time that you have something fight-heavy coming up, touch base early in the Spring so I can send things your way – it might just mean you get things a bit early, and return them to a different address when you’re done.

It’s been a productive and ultimately successful four years in Richmond; an MFA in Theatre Pedagogy, SAFD Teacher Certification, Theatrical Firearms Safety Instructor certification, an award for fight direction, my SAG-AFTRA card, several publications including my first full book, many conference and workshop presentations, several years of successful and educational teaching experiences at a variety of schools (William & Mary, VCU, CNU) and theatres, and soon, if all goes well, Teacher Certification with the National Michael Chekhov Association – I leave in a few weeks for what may be my final workshop and presentation with them.

Plus, as an added bonus, the family is all alive and still (usually) speaking to each other. That’s no small thing – Grad school, cross-country moves, and multiples (of kids) are all things that have wrecked more than their fair share of marriages.

Off to Broadsword class now, and then packing for another movement workshop (assisting David Leong) at Arena Stage (last one for Mother Courage).

So here’s to growth, and to accomplishment, and to safety, and to keeping what’s important while finding the new. Happy Holidays folks, and may you all have the best in 2014!

Quacks like a duck. Isn’t a duck.

First, as a possible sidebar to the previous post on shell-ejecting airsoft props, I bring you a new development in airsoft: sound effects:

What do you think? Stupid gimmick, or at all useful? Wonder if you could tie that into your lavalier microphone system and actually make it useful for film or stage.

Frankly I’d probably have more fun doing an unarmed fight while wearing one of these:

…which is really just the weaponized version of this:

…either one of which could make for the inspiration for a fun Halloween costume for someone with more money than myself. Sound and fury, signifying nothing.

In closer-to-home news, the manuscript for The Theatrical Firearms Handbook is now in the hands of Focal Press, and will be going from them to a copy editor and a technical editor (to make sure I’m not full of crap or omitting anything terribly important), and I’ll get to take another pass at it based on their feedback. It’s nice to have that off my plate for a bit though.

Also just wrapped fight chore on a Three Musketeers production at Christendom College, having spent two weekends this month working with them. Fun show. Ken Ludwig translation, a version originally choreographed by Richard Ryan at the Old Vic. I resisted the urge to email him and ask how they handled a couple technical challenges, especially since he’s busy working on Vikings Season II I believe.

Still, no rest for the wicked. Other than a little more time at home (thanks to mid-term breaks at William & Mary and CNU) to work on Halloween costumes for the kids (pleated skirts in slick fabric? Who’s bright idea was that?), and mid-term tests & grades, there’s an ATHE proposal for a panel I’m heading up (ATME-sponsored), chapter proposals are due tomorrow for another book I’m co-editing (Physical Dramaturgy), there’s a whole batch of job applications due in the coming weeks, and a lot that I need to do for my classes.

Oh, and some rental business, which is nice to have. Did a bit of a custom re-finish (just a sand and a Dremel really) on a Denix coach gun this morning, to help it pass for a J. Purdy & Sons side-by-side shotgun for a production of Book of Days. Shipped out that and a rubber Remington this afternoon. Before &… well, during – this was before it was done:

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Sad to be missing my daughter’s first stab at acting tomorrow afternoon, as she does a kid version of Taming of the Shrew as Kate, with a Shakespeare program at her school. I’ll be an hour and a half drive away, handing a mid-term exam to 25 students who don’t want it (okay, chances are good they won’t all actually be there, which will complicate mid-term grades). Perhaps it’s just as well – I’m happy to have it be her thing and not have Shakespeare be ‘daddy’s thing’. I think for the most part that’s worked out with her and martial arts. It helps that she’s doing a form I only briefly dabbled in (Wing Chun), and she’s now in her third year.
I’m happy to share the things I love with the people I love, but only if they come of their own accord, and I try not to pressure. I’d much rather they find their passion in something more stable and lucrative, anyway; someone’s got to be able to support us in our old age, right?

Shell games

The idea of shell ejecting airsoft props is nothing new; models from companies such as Daisy, Tokyo Marui, Marushin, Maruzen, and others go back at least to the 80s. These have run the gamut from novelty spring power models where you still have to cycle every shot (which is fine for something like the M870 shell ejecting airsoft shotgun, but strange in a semiauto pistol like the H&K P7) to versions that could use real 9mm shell casings (TM’s MP5) but were extremely fragile and prone to malfunction, to models that even fire caps while cycling electrically and ejecting plastic casings (like the semi-auto M4s I have a few of – also cheaply made though). On the high end, you have things that cost over a thousand dollars even when they aren’t rare or collector’s items, like the Cheytac sniper rifle.

No, I don’t have one of those. It’s a huge step up from the shell ejecting plastic Super-9 rifles that have been easy to get for ages… especially in price.

Most of these have had their advantages (just the fact you can get that shot of it ejecting a casing, for example) and disadvantages – anything that feeds shells is to some degree prone to stovepipe and double-feed jams, amongst others, and there’s more that can mechanically go wrong with the prop. Casings have to be purchased, retrieved, and they often wear out or break over time. On my M870 the shells all come blue, a standard non-gun designation, and they’re slightly smaller than 12ga. Still, sometimes it’s worth it.

In the past year I’ve acquired two new shell ejecting airsoft models, and I have to say they’re both better than any of the vintage models I have… at least so far.

Up first, the Top M4A1. This is far from cheap, although I got a great deal on a lightly used model; add shipping from Japan and accessories costs to the generally around $700 pricetag and it adds up fast. I used this on our audience-award-winning 48hr film fest project Ouroboros here in Richmond last month, as part of a suite of M4s all sometimes being exchanged for each other; real SIG M4s that were modified to cycle blanks (rented from The Specialists), solid rubber training M4s, and the Top – I swapped around sights, grips, rail covers and other accessories to try to make them able to stand in for each other. The Top M4 was used for one specific shot where we were too close to safely fire the .223 blanks – it had been originally billed as point blank, so I was planning on using it for that. It uses an electric blowback system to cycle the casings. Casings themselves are plastic, and do get scraped up and notched a bit with re-use, but you should be able to get at least several uses out of them. I believe there are upgrades available including a steel extractor, aluminum shells, and a steel receiver… but I haven’t sunk any more money into mine yet. Here’s a little behind-the-scenes iPhone video of one take:

We did have a few double feeds and stovepipes that day, but far less than you would with a modelgun version, and fixing it is as simple as pulling out the shell.

The more recent purchase (ordered a while ago but it’s been back-ordered most places) is the Marushin shell ejecting CZ75 gas blowback airsoft pistol. I generally prefer gas blowback to electric blowback systems, just in terms of crispness and sound, and this one’s no exception. The pistol itself is really light weight, with most of the weight being in the magazine. You won’t really get any recoil off this at all, but it does work well with the shell casings:

Granted, none of the shell ejecting props will give you muzzle flash or much in the way of recoil, but besides being one less thing to add in post, it does also help an actor feel like they’re really firing something, without the safety and logistic challenges of dealing with blanks. I think they can be great choices for digital video productions, especially when you’re shooting in an urban area, maybe a hotel or someone’s apartment, and don’t want to deal with noise complaints, police calls, etc. of realistic-sounding gunshots.

While you could conceivably use these for live theatre (stick a suppressor on the end to justify the lack of a boom?) the sound really isn’t right – the RAP4 models are probably better suited to live theatre, as they make better sound, are more durable, and it doesn’t matter so much that the casings don’t quite look right up close (and that there’s no actual blowback mechanism).

My favorite shell ejecting airsoft may still be the bolt action WWII KAR rifle, since I like the casings it uses and it allows me to demonstrate what a clip is (and how it’s different from a magazine):

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…but there’s much more use for modern models. Marushin made a 1911 and a Glock that it released at the same time as the CZ75, and they all operated the same – I’d actually have preferred to get one of the Glocks, but they went out of stock very quickly and haven’t come back. I know Glock is a bit fanatical about shutting down anything not explicitly licensed, so there may have been legal issues involved. Still -  more specialty tools in the toolbag!

Pro[se] & Con[ference]

Sheldon Comics ; Theatre-Con

That’s actually not all that far from describing academic theatre conferences, although the cosplay is far less creative and the panel presentations frequently more obtuse. I greatly enjoyed ATHE 2013 though (no link right now, as their page was recently hacked), milking it for all I could; I presented in five sessions, plus a couple other roundtable sharing things, met with the Routledge rep again about the Physical Dramturgy we have in the works, caught up with my fellow members of ATME (which has a brand spanking new website that was launced at ATHE), met my Focal Press acquisitions editor and marketing rep, and I’m getting to the point now where there are enough familiar faces at these things it becomes a great social event as well. My panel presentations included Best Practices in teaching Beginning Acting (Theatre as a Liberal Art pre-conference), Jeu-fu: Putting a sense of Play in Stage Combat, The Double-edged Sword of Sports Metaphor in Portrayal of Battle, an open working group meeting around the Physical Dramaturgy book project (of which I am a co-editor), and an ATME panel on Using Games in Actor Training; the overall conference theme was Pay to Play this year, thus the predominance of game, sport, and play topics. The paid workshops will Bill Irwin and Tectonic Theatre were sold out by the time I registered, and the lines (informal) to talk to Bill Irwin and David Henry Hwang (for example) were generally more than three people deep, I’ll have you know. So maybe Comic-Con it isn’t… but I’m hoping to be signing books at ATHE next year nonetheless. Granted, I’m also hoping I’ll have an employer who will help send me there, so we’ll see. Financially the conference scene can be quite a racket, making it difficult for adjuncts, grad students, and others there on their own dime. There’s another ATME pre-conference next year though (they’re bi-annual) and that group has really proven to be my academic home, as much as I also enjoyed the Theatre as a Liberal Art and the joint Acting & Directing focus group pre-conferences this year (it was just a happy scheduling accident that I was able to attend half of the Acting & Directing one despite being registered for and presenting at the TLA). I really hope I can find a way to make it work.

 

A few faces at ATHE I’d seen just recently in DC. Arena Stage had a nice blog post about the movement workshop I helped with there, which was recently but feels like a year ago by now. I’ll definitely be holding Arena up as a model now for theatres to aspire to, with their level of collaboration, facilitation, and artistic ensemble spirit. Thanks to David Leong for calling together a dream-team of movement grads to work with Arena’s own talent.

The working group, with Kathleen Turner in center (she joined us for a day and a half).

The working group, with Kathleen Turner in center (she joined us for a day and a half).

I’m now gearing up for Fall Semester as best I can. I’ll be teaching three acting sections at William & Mary, one acting course at Christopher Newport, and stage combat classes at local theatres; an adult SAFD Certificate Unarmed course with VA Rep and Cadence Theatre beginning in November and both middle school and high school stage combat classes with Richmond Shakespeare/Henley Street beginning in October (not online yet). That should keep me solidly booked as an absentee parent Monday – Thursday most of the Fall, but I’m hoping I can make it up on the long weekends. It’s always a challenging juggling act for working parents who can’t just clock in and clock out during typical hours, even when you do have a supportive spouse.

I’m also now in the home stretch of getting my book ready, which right now primarily means working on masses of illustrations and diagrams. On the way to ATHE I was doodling some storyboards on my tablet, planning shots for a photography play-date I set up with the William & Mary stage combat club in their theatre, and I actually really liked the bare, universal nature of the storyboard style.

Staging Storyboard 2Staging Storyboard 1

I remembered a Kickstarter pitch a while back for a new better artist’s model. I emailed the company, Digital Double/A9 armatures, since their website currently lists a three month backorder, and the owner was kind enough to send me a few used prototypes to use in my book.

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I really wish I’d had these back in 1997/1998; My undergraduate thesis for my psychology BA involved emotive body language, and I had people posing an artist’s mannequin in what they thought represented the primary emotions. One of many issues that came up in the process was that the old-school articulated wooden artist models are really only semi-articulated; they don’t bend as much or in the right ways as people, and don’t hold the positions always when released. These A9 Armatures are much better in that sense, allowing for almost every movement I wanted to do with them – not quite, but almost. Ankles were a bit limited, for example, and the hips don’t turn out as much as we like them to do in some martial arts… but it works. I even like the rough texture of the raw 3D printing – it ends up looking a bit like a topo map made real. My only real issue is that a few joints on one, being already older and heavily used (at least one small stress fracture in an arm joint) don’t hold position well anymore. As reference, I could just loop some electrical tape around it and it would probably still work fine, or you may be able to order replacement parts eventually, but as an unadulterated photography model that seemed less than ideal. I did end up hitting them up with a bit of grey primer to even out the colors (the joints were red on the prototypes) and making little fake guns for them out of FIMO clay.

Final images will be/are in black & white, cleaned up a bit in photoshop, and with multiple angles to show how we cheat the lines when staging a shot. Just to whet your appetite a bit though, here’s a raw preview:

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I do think these could well be of interest not just for artists sketching, but a variety of other applications; armatures for stop-motion animation, quick storyboarding aids for the artistically (pen or pencil anyway) challenged, even teaching aids for people involved in posture, movement, and anatomy. They make versions that are children, cats, dogs, horses – plenty of options, and the growing ubiquity of tablets means you can easily snap a photo of one in a pose, sketch the outlines right over the photo, then remove the photo layer and have a great reference sketch to begin drawing from.

I also spent some of my advance on my book on a new camera lens, a used Tokina 11-16mm aspherical wide angle. It’s already proven handy for shooting rifles and shotguns that are crammed in my photo tent (another ebay purchase for the book stuff), as it can shoot to opposite corners even while in the tent itself. I expect this will also prove a useful lens for shooting video, especially indoors action stuff… some day when I have more free time! The rest of the advance will likely go towards acquiring rights to images and quotes, with anything left over going towards living expenses – adjunct is not a lucrative gig. The search for full time employment continues, but I think everything I’ve been keeping busy with this Summer (workshops, classes, publishing, conferences, gigs, lining up more teaching) is helping bring that goal closer!

Cross-posting

It’s been quite the week… no time for a proper post myself, but my last several days’ experience are already written up on the VCU blog: http://theatrevcubackstagepass.blogspot.com/2013/07/david-leong-take-theatre-vcu-grad.html

 

Loving everyone at Arena Stage!

 

Updates from a Published Author

…and no, I don’t just mean this blog. Or my articles in The Fight Master. Or my theses.

I am happy to announce that Focal Press will be publishing The Theatrical Firearms Handbook in 2014, filling a much-needed  void in the available training resources for fight choreographers, stage managers, amateur gun wranglers, and others who are tasked with choosing, using, or managing prop firearms for theatre or independent film. It’s been a crazy headfirst dive into authorship; the original idea came after the first of my on-campus interviews mid-March, as discussed in last month’s overdue update. The chair asked me what plans I had for professional development, publication, etc. and at the time I just had a set list of articles I’ve been meaning (and still mean) to write, and the book chapter that’s perhaps/slowly in the works on Physical Dramaturgy, in collaboration with some of my peers at the Association for Theatre Movement Educators (we meet next in less than a month, at ATHE). It got me thinking though; what does the field need that I could contribute? The answer I quickly arrived at, which I’m still shocked hasn’t already been done, is something on theatrical firearms. The market has a number of titles on theatrical swordplay, yet only the occasional chapter or paragraph on theatrical firearms, despite that being the most rapidly growing area in our field. So four months later, I have a draft of a book, and a contract for its release next year. Not bad!

By next Summer, hopefully in time for the SAFD Nationals (which I’m missing now) and ATHE, we’ll have our first book on the subject. My current almost-complete draft stands at about 420 pages in Word, with a few additions remaining in the legal section, some of the appendices, and illustrations. The final printed book will be 320 pages or less, which gives me a good challenge as I go back and surgically cut it. I have general approval from the College of William & Mary (where I’ll now be teaching three sections of beginning acting in the Fall Semester) to use their space and students, and interest from their Stage Combat club students in helping to stage setups for me. I have full confidence that I’ll be able to deliver a quality product within schedule (Final draft to them by November).

On a somewhat related note, I also started a Wiki a while back on blank gun issues, which I’m hoping more folks will contribute to. It can be found at http://fightdesigner.wikidot.com and anyone who’s had failures or persistent issues with any blank firing prop is welcome to add to it. I’m also taking book contributions from anyone who has good pictures of theatrical firearms in action, at least if they happen to illustrate something I’m discussing. Send me an email or leave a comment if you have something you’d like to see in print, either from your theatre or indie film production or from workshops/classes.

In the meantime… I’ve been keeping busy with youth theatre camp guest spots in mask and stage combat with SPARC, neutral mask intensive training with Dody DiSanto, acting in SPARC’s New Voices series, several auditions (still waiting to hear back on some), a little fight coordination, action, and gun wrangling for VCU Cinema’s summer projects, and more. Richmond Shakespeare‘s Comedy of Errors, for which I did fight choreography/coaching, recently closed after unanimously rave reviews, all of which highlighted the slapstick physical comedy (although interestingly when it’s comedy nobody thinks to cite the fight choreographer). Outdoor theatre means lots of rust, so I’ve had some quality time with a few rapiers since I got them back from their Agecroft Hall location, swapped out with several more for their upcoming production of Othello.

Next week I’ll be back up in DC with an impressive roster of VCU graduate alumni, working with David Leong at Arena Stage in a pre-production workshop for Mother Courage. Looking forward to seeing former classmates (like Penny Ayn Maas, who I co-taught with for a year and has been teaching full-time in Texas since then) as well as others I know through stage combat or only through reputation and word-of-mouth.

Tomorrow I’ll be working a 48hr film fest project, which will give me a chance to test out some props I purchased earlier this year as well as make contacts with a local SWAT team.

Interesting times, indeed!

Howdy Strangers

Busy or negligent, take your pick. It’s been a while, regardless.

It’s been a crazy Spring. Besides wrapping up my courses at William & Mary, VCU, and CNU (all of which have invited me back) I’ve had on-campus interviews for great positions at great schools (UNC Charlotte and University of Michigan) – unsuccessful, mind you, but it’s good to be in the finalist position, and bodes well for potential future prospects. I’ve taught at multiple regional SAFD workshops (VA Beach Bash and the LA Tech “Crawfish Broil”) and gone to another specialty one to earn my teacher endorsement for the new SAFD Theatrical Firearms Safety curriculum, making me one of 15 such recognized teachers in the society. I’ve written the vast majority of a book, about 350 pages in current draft form, currently under review by a publisher. I’ve taught guest units at several local schools, choreographed/coached fights for a play, coordinated fights for a 35mm short, taken more classes and lessons, seen some good shows, and set up more plans for the future.

Yes, it’s been a very busy three months or so since I last wrote, and I hope there will be more news to share soon. That hope has been a constant this Spring, sometimes realized sometimes not, but always with more coming down the pipe – that fact has kept me from posting almost as much as the fact of my schedule has. Mostly it’s that any free time has gone in to writing for the book instead of the blog (or one of my papers for ATHE, which are still in the works).

Suffice to say that unless any last-minute interim position comes through I’ll likely be in Richmond for another year, so I’ve started hatching schemes with the newly joining Richmond Shakespeare and Henley Street Theatres, as well as lining up with with the local universities, and I am pursuing further training in the LeCoq mask work as well  – I’ll be up in DC next week for a Neutral Mask intensive with Dody DiSanto, and hope to do more of that in the coming year. I’ve learned much, I have much yet to learn, and the path to a sustainable living doing what I love still lies ahead of me… perhaps uphill and a bit craggy at times, but clearly visible and constantly tantalizing.

 

Here’s to another three months where I’m too busy to blog!

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