Yep, still here. Mostly.

Hanging in there, like most folks I know!

Just closed out my first directing gig in the age of Covid. Was assigned by my department with the intent of being a quick staged reading, going up the second week of classes… but I really didn’t want to offer just yet another Zoom meeting with people talking – and with strange speech patterns on top of that. So I opted to keep rehearsal to about a week and a half before classes started and into the first week, then record them, and do a little basic editing of the Zoom recording. The actors all had varied audio gear, internet quality, lighting, etc., and none of them had green screens, but the Zoom virtual background of a chromakey template did a good enough job for what it was. I added in some basic sound effects and background atmosphere, some subtle setting intro fades for scenes, and a scroll of the script. Seems like it got a pretty positive response, which is gratifying, and it fit the slot we try to offer every year or two of a classical or otherwise heightened speech piece:

Now I’m able to focus more on the wacky world of online teaching (this semester it’s an undergrad Acting class, and Stage Combat with the MFAs). Starting to get my space and tools figured out by now:

As with I think everyone, gigs are kinda slow right now… did a little work on a BIPOC-led cop drama thing last Fall and might do a bit more with that later if they get more funding. Might be working on a Karamu House show that’s recording and then going online later in the Spring. Just sent off an audition tape for something shooting later in the Spring. That’s about it… but it’s also been good to have time to focus more on keeping the household/family running and together, on my teaching, etc… plus the usual committees and service that faculty work entails; we’re in scholarship audition season, so I’ve been putting together videos for undergrad recruitment, doing Q&As and mini workshops, and will have a full day of auditions this coming weekend.

Looking forward to a time when enough of us can get vaccinated and we can all meet again.

Stay warm, safe, and healthy my friends!


Oof. It’s been a heck of a long year, these past nine months or so since my last entry.

Fall actually got me in trouble a bit, over-extending myself. Between the book deadline, directing a show, and multiple fight choreography gigs, I short-changed the time and brainpower and sleep required to do my best work as a teacher. Got called out on that, and have had a hard time making it up to my grad students. Tried hard going into Spring, and only had a few gigs (I’m de-facto resident fight person for Cleveland Playhouse, and had a blast working on CLUE with them), but then the whole pandemic hit.

First week or two of that, my laptop died (with no Apple store open to take it to) and I lost all my lesson plans. I was sure they were on my cloud drive, but maybe having it open when the laptop died screwed that up. Had to get a new motherboard and hard drive and screen. Then my wife got sick, and was in quarantine in our bedroom for a few weeks, while the three kids were also transitioning to online instruction, and while that was happening also our fridge died, several light fixtures died, some toilets needed fixing… it was just a string of crises, and I got a bit overwhelmed, and again, asked too much of the grad students in terms of solo projects between online checkins, and wasn’t the most transparent with the constantly changing game plan. Teaching movement online is a challenge. Internet connection at home was inconsistent, don’t have a big space to move in while on camera, some lesson plans had to be put off and new ones thrown in. Still waiting to hear what Fall will look like, but I’m sure it will also involve lots of constant adjustments. I’m committed to doing better, but if we can’t meet in person or come in contact, things like stage combat (which was supposed to be more than a semester before they leave at the end of next year) may not work. The SAFD won’t allow online-only certification, nor should they; partnering skills, distancing, etc. are a huge part of stage combat. It pains me, since that’s what I’m best at, and I sorely need to shine a bit with this cohort, but if it means paring it down to Spring in the hopes of getting to meet in person, and doing something else in the Fall, that may be what happens. I’m also down for an acting class and an undergraduate movement class this Fall. The writing seminar I did this last Spring worked just fine with the transition mid-semester to online-only, but performance classes are going to be much harder.

But, on the productive end of things:

The Screen Combat Handbook is now out!

It’s available on, Amazon, and elsewhere. Glad to have that off my plate finally, and I hope it can do some good out there.

The PewTube and Fight Designer YouTube channels both have new content from this past couple months.

I’ve started catching up on updates to the Fight Designer website, but still have a ways to go.

There have been a few online appearances (a panel at ZoeCon, and an upcoming stage combat online workshop class I’m prepping for), some online trainings (the Social Distancing Showdown happened the weekend I would otherwise have been teaching at the Allegheny Alley Fight, so I jumped on as a student, and I’m hoping to participate in a Synetic-sponsored online movement workshop series this week).

But mostly I’m still busy with keeping my household from falling apart. I got a list from the city last October or something of things we had to fix, and weather has kept me from doing most of them until recently – it’s been a late, wet Spring here, and things like driveway work and masonry don’t go well with that. Not the most creative or satisfying work I’ve ever done, certainly, but older houses take work and money, and it’s just one of many things I’ve neglected (and to be fair, it has like an 85 year head start on me, and we just moved in last year).

I think there are many things that I hope never return to quite what they were before, as I hope this has made obvious some of the failings in our healthcare and political systems in the US… but I can’t wait for the day we all feel safe returning to the classrooms, theatre, and film sets. And I hope enough of those institutions survive the interim, because I know they won’t all.

Hope everyone’s staying healthy and sane.

Fall Cornucopia

My horn of plenty overfloweth!

A professional life, especially one associated with the gig economy, is always a balancing act. Even before you add in family and other considerations, there’s the uncertain dates on gigs, the auditioning for multiple overlapping projects in the assumption you won’t get most of them (and the pleasant yet panic-inducing feeling when you do), the travel plans… it’s a good struggle to have, because it means you must be doing something right… until you start screwing things up because you bit off more than you can chew.

I don’t think I’m quite there yet.

Currently writing from my airBnB in Brooklyn, teaching for the Summer Sling stage combat workshop. First time back here (both workshop and NYC I think) since 2011, when I interned at the Sling and got some renewals as a part of my build-up to the Teacher Certification Workshop (which I did in 2012). Great to be back. Got in midnight last night, thanks to some travel delays, but basically came here straight from Orlando (flew back to Cleveland, swapped suitcases from the car in the satellite parking, went back to airport).

Earlier this summer I did fights for more shows with Karamu House (The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God) and Dobama (When Farah Cries), both for the BorderLight Theatre Festival, and Tom at the Farm for Convergence/Continuum.

Had a good and productive time at the ATHE theatre conference this past week. presenting on Consent in Movement and Combat Instruction and Evolution of the Michael Chekhov Technique, both panels filled with old friends at this point. Tacked on a couple days for Disney with the family, who joined me in Orlando. Means I showed up here in NYC already having blisters and sore feet from all the walking, but it worked! Lots of great momentum at ATHE around Intimacy work (both IDI and TIE were well represented) and diversity (plenary sessions and keynote talks and panels), both of which are at the forefront of our evolving industry. I managed to land an Assistant Faculty position with Theatrical Intimacy Education (TIE), but they have their certification process on hold while they figure out inclusivity and intersectionality questions, so I’m not sure where exactly that’s all going to go in the coming year, but I look forward to finding out. In the meantime, it was great catching up with a lot of VCU alums, ATME members, stage combat buddies, and other connections I hadn’t seen in ages. That wasn’t something I could do while based in Wyoming, between the geographic isolation and the complete lack of professional development support.

Here at the Summer Sling, I’m teaching morning sessions on Sentiment du Fer (had that this morning), Rhythm as a choreographic and expressive tool in unarmed (tomorrow morning), The moulinet in combat, and assisting with the choreography track the rest of the day(s).

Also trying to edit my second book (need to cut about 20K words still, plus do more illustrations and video), and get ready for the show I’m directing in the first slot (Bethany, which auditions the first week of classes, the week after I get back). The day after I get back I’ll be in the first rehearsal for Into the Breeches, my first real solid fight gig at Cleveland Playhouse, plus probably one of those nights back at Dobama theatre to help with some gun stuff for Stupid Fucking Bird. Sent in one video audition while in Orlando, for the first thing sent on to me by Docherty Talent, and just got another one from them today. Also had one through the local stunt coordinator. Several faculty and advising meetings the week I get back as well, so it’s all packed in nicely. Should be able to pull this all of, so long as I don’t get sick (several family members are, and I was just sharing a hotel room with them in Orlando). Falling behind on things like PewTube videos, especially since my laptop has been filling up with book image files.

Wishing I had more time to enjoy NYC while I’m here, but one can only ask so much of life!


Spring Projects

The end of my first year teaching at Case Western! Grades are in (nobody failed), teacher evals are in (I didn’t fail either, apparently), shows happened and nobody died doing my fights. I get points for that, right?

It’s opening weekend for the musical (not the opera) Aida at Karamu House, which marks the first time I’ve gotten to play with sword choreography in Cleveland, and my first time working on that particular show. Great working with Tony again (who also directed Fences, my first Cleveland fight gig), and getting to meet and work with Treva, the choreographer. It’s also the chance some of my aluminum swords have been waiting for; there’s a forward-swept style I have a bunch of, built on blanks made for the Prince of Persia movie, which are an exotic enough profile I haven’t found a good use for then until now. Finally hilted up the last four for this gig. Had to make matching ring holders for them at the costume designer’s request, and while they flop around a lot, everyone’s digging the ‘schhhinnnng!’ sound they make when drawn, something movies have I guess conditioned people to expect.

A week ago I was getting back from my first regional workshop in this region, the Allegheny Alley Fight. I hope to be able to join them again next year – it was a blast getting to see and play with folks like FD Emeritus Michael “MJ” Johnson, Fight Master “Sifu” Mike Chin, CT Darrell “Rushtar” Rushton, CT Mike Speck, CT Paul Ray (who I haven’t seen since we both lived in Seattle), and to meet a bunch of new folks (including one of what will be the new class of CTs after this Summer). Cleveland at least started to represent, with two local actors I’ve been working with on renewals coming up (they got recommended passes on both my broadsword fight and MJ’s unarmed fight) and one of my CWRU undergrad students from stage combat coming up for the second day (she’s my fight captain now on Aida as well). Hopefully we can keep building on that, and keep building the local scene.

Photos by Derek Lynch

While at that workshop I stocked up on some PewTube footage as well. I haven’t quite kept up with my goal of weekly episodes, but I’ve come close. Darrell and MJ both have tons of experience with firearms (Darrell more with theatrical, MJ more with the real deal) so it was great to get to do a three-instructor class with them. I got an interview in with Darrell, and still might do a Facetime one with MJ. PewTube has also featured some new props, and I’ve updated the plan on so I can keep updating it.

Props-wise, I’ve been renting a few things, and working on a few others. The Benaiah Anderson blank firing musket I purchased last Fall came back from a gig with a broken rear stock, so I’ve been making a hardwood replacement for the resin one I got it with. Certainly a lot more work fitting a wood stock around a blank firing revolver than fitting a grip around a sword tang, but I think it’s coming along nicely. Another client already wants to rent it soon, so I’m hoping to get it up and running soon.

Also been dabbling with axes, in part because I had been intending to do a tomahawk or axe class at the AAF workshop (which ended up getting swapped for another class of mine). Both have involved customization jobs: One a bit of carving and dremeling a rubber dummy to match the real steel, and one creating wood slab ‘hafts’ to make better looking props out of some aluminum trainers. I’ll probably do a Fightdesigner YouTube video about that stuff when I get the chance.

I also recently was awarded an internal grant to buy some broadswords for the school to use, so I’m in the process of comparing quotes and planning that all out. Also was told Docherty Talent would represent me, although we’ve yet to have the business meeting to make that final. I’m on the list now with Ohio Stunts as well, and hoping to get back on set one way or another in the coming year.

Of course the biggest project I really need to be getting more done on is my second book, which I’m behind schedule on. Hoping to get that finished this summer, including accompanying video content. Granted life gets in the way; this last couple weeks has been full of end-of-year concerts and activities for the kids. One of our kittens had double knee surgery, while my 18yo Tybalt is still hanging in there but also needing more than he used to. On the trip to the AAF workshop my car started breaking down again, and I told myself after replacing the transmission and having other work done on it this past year I was done sinking any more into this old thing, so I’m working on replacing it with something newer, more trustworthy, with better mileage but still able to hold kids and a cello (my eldest plays) and/or a load of swords, shields, prop guns, mats, and camera gear (like I took to the workshop).  I’ll be both directing (Bethany, for the BA program) and fight choreographing (Into the Breeches, for Cleveland Playhouse) in the first Fall slot, so I’ll have to spend some time getting ready for those, plus the ATHE conference and possibly some other events in late Summer. I still have every intention to deliver a book I can be okay with putting my name on though, and Focal Press has so far been willing to work with me despite the delay. I suppose a successful first book helps; I sold another half dozen copies at last weekend’s workshop, and heard from others about how it’s been useful to them. I just hope I can repeat that!






Checking in and Sharing Links



News of the Fightdesigner:

Props stuff has been busy, after a lull that was partly explained when I realized I didn’t check my spam folder for all of February. Mixed in amongst the website contact messages about sexy singles, bitcoin, and increasing my web traffic were a few legitimate rental inquiries, most of which I’d now missed. My sincere apologies to those in that boat, and I now have a calendar reminder to check my spam folder weekly…

On the other hand, I’ve now sent off rare blank firing props to an opera in Georgia (the pair of blank firing black powder style dueling pistols from the first PewTube episode, which I’ve now sold them and which at some point I’ll need to replace…) and to a premiere of a show down in Florida (two select fire machine pistols, an Umarex Chief’s Special in brushed steel, and a few other revolvers), and I have about 4K worth of cutlasses also down in Florida for a pirate-themed corporate thing a buddy is doing. Found at least one thing I never got up on the website, and un-found (can’t find) something that is, which is driving me bonkers wondering where I packed it during the move out here. But getting some business is good. Granted, I still haven’t caught up from how much I overspent last year on the business.

Choreography-wise, I had the pleasure of helping Dobama briefly with a slap in The Nether which opens this weekend, with Karamu‘s Two by Tennessee that’s currently running, and I’ve just started rehearsals for Gloria at Cleveland Public Theatre and production meetings for Aida at Karamu (the musical, not the opera). Probably starting on As You Like It soon too, for the undergrad show here at Case Western Reserve. I held a little demo thing on stage combat for Cleveland Playhouse during their run of Sherwood, and will likely get to work on one of their shows next year.

The Banff Centre has shared the video their crew made during the last half of the Paddy Crean Workshop this past year:

The videos Lawrence and I generated every day are also now up on youtube on the official IOSP channel:

…as are the videos I made from the previous workshop (well, the documentary and the montage mainly)

This weekend is the Mid-Atlantic Theatre Conference which is here in Cleveland this year, so I’ll be going to my first MATC and presenting a few things.

PewTube is up to 14 episodes now, and I’ve been almost able to keep up with the one-a-week plan.

There are playlists within it that also include some of the stuff I did in the FightDesigner channel before starting PewTube, as well as stuff from other content producers. Will any of this help bring in business or make money? Meh. Who knows? Some of it has already been useful in being able to send a video to a client with questions about a specific type of prop. I did have my first Skype consultation about prop guns a couple weeks ago, so maybe video is going to be an increasingly common tool, especially as the guest artist budget is slashed at many colleges.

SO, that’s my way of procrastinating for 20 minutes by just writing down things that are already mostly done. To sleep or to try to get more done now, that’s the question…

Falling on Ice and on Video

Tis the season for ice yet again! Record-setting cold here in the upper midwest, but right before that it warmed up enough for some of the snow to melt, and some rain to fall, so sidewalks and other non-salted areas became sheets of ice.

And with that, once again I’ve become a published expert on falling on ice. What began as answering a question on Quora turned into a late-night phone conversation with a reporter while shopping for clothes to replace lost luggage during a recruiting trip to Texas, which became a piece in the New York Times .  A year or so later, that led to an interview in the studios of Wyoming Public Radio with Robin Young (in Boston, over the phone) about falling. Two pieces came out of that, the radio spot that aired and a more print-friendly piece. And then this last week I had another interview on falling, this time from online fitness website Aaptiv.

Every time there’s been people asking for video, and thanks to a little happy accident, I can now provide that. It’s worth noting that none of the thought process I narrate was really happening as I fell, I’m just describing what I’ve trained to do. Muscle memory kicks in, even in a relatively slow fall like this one, so reading a few tips online is unlikely to prevent any broken wrists or concussions… but taking a class, training, and practicing can, and if you get it in your body, it’ll be there when you need it. It’s like falling off a bicycle…

Video Updates for the Holidays

As we head into the holiday season, I leave you with a few new video entries for my YouTube channels. First and most freshly updated, a bit on the Tinker Line swords from Cas/Hanwei, in their various iterations:


I’ve shared various in-progress thoughts about these swords here over the years, but now you can see them in motion at least.

And in a few days I’ll probably have a holiday-themed video up on PewTube, the Theatrical Firearms Channel I run – based around every gun guy’s favorite Christmas movie, Die Hard.


Need to find a way to fit better in that basement space, or else another space I can shoot where I can readily access my props and not have kids or cats wander into frame. That basement ceiling is just too low, so I’m compressing myself a bit to fit, which just accents the little paunch I’ve developed this past decade or so…

In other news, my first semester here at Case Western Reserve University and the CWRU/Cleveland Playhouse MFA Acting program is coming to a close. Still a fair bit of grading and such to do, and lots to catch up on that I’ve been putting off, but classes are done, and the final testing is now finished for everything. This week Fight Master Richard Ryan came in to adjudicate our MFA cohort’s Skills Proficiency Tests in Unarmed and Rapier & Dagger, something that’s a rare treat given his usual crazy schedule of film and tv work. He’d just wrapped the final season of Vikings, and the timing worked out well. It’s funny, I actually interviewed for a job at UNC Charlotte before I got the Wyoming gig, and was sad when I didn’t get it in part because I’d hoped it’d be an in to playing more with Richard and maybe getting on set with him. Turns out his wife has quit the department since, so that was a nice vindication in how life may be steering me in good directions after all.

He’s still figuring out what comes next, but Vikings has been a great ride for him, and a fun one for the rest of us to follow:




My students didn’t do their best work the day of the test, yet all passed, and that in a strange way makes me prouder; they didn’t have to do their best work to pass, and in live theatre, that’s important. We had six recommended passes and ten basic passes, which I think is a solid start for stage combat here at Case. I hope to keep building on that in the years to come, and have put in my first grant application here for some broadswords to add to the armoury. I’ll have an undergraduate intro to stage combat class next semester, which won’t test, but which has already filled.

And soon I’m off to the Paddy. This will mark 20 years of me going to this workshop, and of the insight and community there helping to buoy and steer my career. I’m greatly looking forward to being back! This year’s theme is The Road Ahead (the last one being In The Footsteps of Giants), and we’re making some real changes – the first being that it’s no longer billed as the Paddy Crean International Stage Combat Workshop, but just the Paddy Crean International Workshop, as it’s come to mean a diverse mix of stage combat, stunts, theatrical movement, martial arts (European and otherwise), modern combatives, and now Theatrical Intimacy as well. My next post may well be a post-workshop report.

Happy Holidays to all!



Paddy Prequel

As we head into the last few days of registration for the 2018/19 Paddy Crean International Workshop, I can share one of my projects from the last one. I’ve shared the 2min montage reel before, but this one’s more of a documentary style piece. Both were requested by Artistic Director Scott Witt, and were part of my staff duties from last time (and similar projects will be part of my intern duties this next time around).

There’s a great Mark Twain quote I’ve heard,along the lines of “I’m sorry I didn’t have time to write you a shorter letter.”…

This is far from perfect – it’s way too long, and there were some color correction and sound issues I wish I could have done a better job with, but as someone who is distinctly NOT a filmmaker but just dabbles, and had never done a project of this type and scope before, it was the best I could do. I hope it conveys some of what makes these workshops so special to me and the rest of the Paddy extended family.

Register NOW at the Banff Center website!


1911s and more


PewTube Episode II is now live, after more than a day of arguing with YouTube to get it to upload.


Currently trying to chase down Fire Marshals – State was closed for Veteran’s Day, then today said to try City, who is out… but folks at Cleveland Playhouse were talking about possible issues with trying to do a theatrical firearms workshop here – something about like a $7K bond required by a fire marshal if using live firearms on stage. Semantics matter in legal issues, and since blank guns aren’t legally firearms, and a classroom isn’t a stage, or an empty theatre isn’t always covered by the same requirements as a theatre with an audience in attendance, I need to figure out what exactly we’re talking about. Gun laws are a mess in this country, and replica guns aren’t exempt from that. Witness things like the poor actor in NJ who has a felony gun charge against him after using a pellet gun in an indie movie shoot a couple years ago where the director and producers didn’t get permits, or the states where blanks are considered pyrotechnic devices and therefore require a pyrotechnic’s license (which is built around the assumption you’re setting off fireworks, flash pots, and other such effects) to set them off in front of an audience. California has entertainment-industry-specific permits that nobody else either requires or grants.

Granted, we have it better than Canada (all replicas are regulated) or the UK (post VCR-act, anyway) so I probably shouldn’t complain. It’s just hard to keep track when you move states, or work in various municipalities, and the theatres and films we work with can’t be counted on to know this stuff. Nor can the local police who are the first to show up when there’s a complaint.

Also… while it’s not directly related to actors, this week’s tragic shooting of a security guard by a police officer highlights the importance of first impressions and safety. Apparently the responding officer’s first impulse when hearing of an armed individual and showing up to see a black man with a gun was to shoot him. That could just as easily have been an actor on an un-permitted indie film, as we hear about periodically. I’m sure I’m not the only one with friends who include actors and stuntmen who build their livelihood around looking intimidating, and aren’t all white. I never want to see them pop up in a story like this, so make sure your productions are legit, safe, that they’ve notified people in the area before using any kind of firearm prop in an area where they can be seen or heard by the public, that there are signs posted, and obvious film crew when possible. Post PAs on the corners who can stop random people from wandering on set. Make friends with the neighboring businesses. And for the love of all our brothers and sisters in arms out there, don’t do anything that would risk getting someone shot for real. I’ve had SWAT teams called on me for practicing with swords in public, but I walked away from those. With guns they may well shoot on sight.





I’ve been meaning to get this going for years… my hope is to be able to post something weekly, but we’ll see how long I can keep that up. The teaser above dropped last week…. and here’s the first video:


Subscribe, comment, share, ask… I don’t get any money off these, but just want to build the knowledge base and maybe drum up a little more business.

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