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 FightDesigner.com 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!






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