It's been pointed out to me that169 days have past since my last blog entry. Woof, I've had a busy summer! But boy, have I collected up a lot to say. :)
I am continuing my Final Cut Pro 7 instruction in Los Angeles at least through Jan 1, when i expect to be starting on a project currently in the writing stage. I have a number of blog entries below on my tutoring, which gives the student an ability to cut using the program, in two 4-hour sessions for a fee of $500 if anyone wants to check them out. Whether I'll be continuing to teach after that, will depend upon my other projects.
A few weeks ago, one of you tried to contact me inquiring about a seminar and i apologize for not getting back to you. I'm struggling to find that email even as I write this. Actually i do not give seminars because Final Cut really needs hands-on training to make any sense. The seminars I've attended basically leave the attendees bewildered.
Now the sword thing...
I have performed just about every job there is in show business at one time or another, and a friend of mine in England was intrigued by my ancient photo as me as a Musketeer at Stratford, Ontario.
Larry awaiting his entrance in "The Three Musketeers"
He wanted to know if I'd had any unusual experiences during those days. Well, the answer to that is, uh, yeah.
So I wrote up this experience of a performance of Othello for him. Since it contains not only the story but some useful safety tips, as far as stage combat is concerned, i thought I'd share it with ANDers many of whom are filming martial arts and may, at least, get a laugh out of it.
Swordplay - or - Playing with SwordsDue to my extensive stage-fencing background, (having studied under
several masters, including a number of years with Paddy Crean, (Erroll
Flynn's personal fencing coach, fight arranger and fight double), I am often appointed to two extra positions when hired to perform a role
requiring swordplay. Fencing Master and Safety Officer.
There are a few immutable rules to staging swordplay. Break them at your peril, as was discovered during this ill-fated performance of Othello. :)
Cardinal rule: just as in dance, never change a move immediately before a performance
stage the fight, and lighting, so that the immediate area is well lit,
even if the surrounding area is lit to present the illusion of darkness,
or fog, or other hindrance to spotting a flashing blade. Make sure
there are no slats or other set pieces to confuse the eye between bright
light and total
darkness. It can be done in such a way that the audience experiences the visual confusion, not the actors...
Always rehearse with the sword you will actually be using in performance, and, as soon as possible, wear the costume to be worn in performance.
far as the actors performing the duel, or other battle sequence are
concerned, they must remember that this is a dance, intended to
it is a duel. The more muscle you put behind your thrusts
and parries, the slower and, consequently, more fake, your "sword-fight"
will appear to the audience.
make-believe but the performers and audience members are real-life,
flesh-and-blood, kill-able people. Actors on stage, or in film, can
experience a sense of immortality. Beware of traffic, sharp knives,
loaded weapons and wild animals. They are real, on or off, the set.
If you want the stage lit with open-flame torches, it is the lighting and set designer's job to find a way to fake it.
If flames must be lit, something other than "strike
anywhere matches" should be used.
do not save on the budget by hiring out-of-work taxi drivers as extras
and spear carriers, whose job it may also be, to light the torches.
By some miracle, we got through the entire run of this particular Othello
without setting the ancient old historical building, where our theatre
was housed, on fire.
watched in dismay and harangued them about it to within an inch of my job. Matches
should not be grabbed in bunches, some stuck through plastic "chain
maille" and the rest strewn over the floor, where the females of the
company would soon be running, in long dresses, to make their entrances
But the biggest shock of all
came on the day of public dress rehearsal, when the swords we would be
using in performance, finally showed up. I will never forget the pride
on the faces of those "scroungers" who had procured our swords, on loan,
from the local armory, as they pulled
out the honed-to-razor-sharp cavalry sabres for us all to see. My
complaints were regarded as an ungrateful nuisance. Nobody, but me, saw
anything wrong with it. I was being, as I recall, an "asshole."
sword fight was a sabre fight between myself, playing Montano, and
another actor (a dude bursting with machismo) cast as Cassio.
sabres, when not in use, are slung slightly across one's back out of
the way. Military scabbards hang down the side and can be caught between
an actor's legs, particularly during a duel. How are we going get
around with these long butcher knives in scabbards? The performance was now a
couple of hours away.
possible thing to do, for the time being, was to tape the scabbards to
our belts with gaffer's, (I mean plumber's) tape. Gaffers tape costs an
arm and a leg and can support the weight of a truck. Duct tape, (which
looks the same, almost) is capable of supporting nothing;
at least not for very long.
Our lead playing Iago, you know, Shakespeare's most verbose villain, is having trouble with all those lines but we get through it.
Next day, no changes are made to our yard-long butcher knife situation, but despite Cassio's all-out determination to actually
win the battle with Montano, we, again, get through it.
At this point it is important to give you some idea of our set: It is meant to be some kind of an abstract fortress; in Cyprus.
have a mezzanine running around the entire stage. Stage right, across
the upstage back, and stage-left. There are taxi drivers in tights and
funny helmets holding lit torches spaced a few feet apart.
is an open staircase with steps that have no backing, leading from the
mez down to stage level. All around the stage are lattice flats, the
kind you grow roses on, with torchlight flickering through, otherwise,
the stage is
The sword-fight goes like
this: We enter upstage left, behind the lattice and, staying above the
lattice, battle our way across the stage. Visually, very impressive.
Physically, very dangerous. Cassio is laying into me with all he's got.
He could lop my head off with ease, should my own military sabre fail to
deflect the blow.
We emerge downstage
left, and cross the stage in a very impressive life and death melee.
Once we reach the foot of the open staircase with firelight shining
through the cracks, a thrust from Cassio sends me falling backwards onto
the stairs, as I bind off his sword, regain my feet, and come at him
with a lunge, which he parries and steps to stage right. I spin around
and from there the fight continues with more of the same.
stage left is Iago, played by our director, stumbling through a
soliloquie intended to make Iago appear to be trying to stop the fight,
although he isn't.
time we're about four or five nights into the run. Cassio and I both
arrive at the theatre and he's very anxious to tell me something.
Cassio: "I've thought of a new move, it's going to be great! At the
foot of the stairs, instead of me parrying and moving right, which I've
never liked, I step straight downstage and deflect your sword, second
position to the outside."
there," I say. "I don't want to hear another word. We'll come in at 10
am tomorrow, you can show me your idea and if it works, we'll rehearse
Fine. Done. End of discussion.
scene. Cassio is waling away on me as usual. Across the stage, we go,
behind the lattice work. Blam! Blam! Clank! Clank! tempered steel
crashing against tempered steel. We come out on stage proper. Iago is
downstage left carrying on as if he actually knew the speech. The
audience is packed. You could hear a pin drop from them. I think they
were scared down
to the last subscriber.
We reach the
foot of the stairs. Wham! I go back on my back, onto the stairs.
Vulnerable. I try to leap to my feet, to defend myself, but I can't get
up. I'm frozen there. Am I paralyzed? Did I break my back? No pain.
That's a good sign. Cassio has this weird look on his face and is
jumping around like a chicken on a griddle. I'm afraid he's going to try
to stab me just cause he can't think of what else to do.
feel round with my left hand, while getting ready to counter whatever
Cassio might attempt. The scabbard had gone between the steps, the duct
tape had broken, and the scabbard bent into a hook pinning me to
the step. I work it loose.
Cassio is standing there, mouth agape, his brain panickized. You can see no thinking is taking place in his head at all.
now on my feet but Cassio has stepped downstage where his "new move"
would have taken him. I think, "Oh no. He must think I'm switching
to his new move." Now we're in front of 360 people who still think
they're looking at a fortress in Cypress.
lift my sword and begin the slowest thrust I can possibly make, as in
his "new move" mouthing, "Bind it off! Bind it off! Second position to
the outside!" What does he do? He lets his sword dangle limp, and thrusts
his forearm (!) at my blade. I feel my sword go through his costume, then the sickly slowing as it continues through his fleshy forearm. I withdraw as quickly, yet delicately, as I can.
I think, okay. This show is over.
has slumped into my arms blood gushing out everywhere and I yell out to
one of the taxi drivers in the wings, I need a "tourniquet!" One of
them, a heavy-set guy that I didn't have all that much respect for,
throws this absolutely filthy t-shirt out to me.
hasn't even noticed that the fight has stopped and the audience is
gasping in horror, as I hold the Raggedy Andy Cassio in my arms.
friends part, Put up thy swords" hollers Iago. The two people he's yelling about, have long since stopped playing with swords.
I'm yelling into the wings, "Somebody get an ambulance! Tell them someone's losing blood fast."
I say out to the audience, "Sorry folks, looks like we've had a little mishap. The show is over for tonight.
Iago is looking around like "Did I miss something?"
hear the ambulance. "Man that was quick!" The extras are out on stage
now. We carry Cassio into the wings, the paramedics take over.
hospital is just a couple of blocks away, as it turns out. A bunch of
us, in full costume, march down there, through the snow, and wait for
Cassio to get stitched up. After some serious nail-biting, we are told
he is going to be fine. or was it "live?" Well, something like that.
Fortunately there was a store that sold cognac on the way to the hospital. I picked up a bottle and bought some red ribbon and
tied a bow around it.
So, we are all
standing there as Cassio emerges from the emergency room all patched up, arm in a sling, still in
much of his costume. He is beaming like an idiot, flanked by a bunch of
adoring little nurses. I present the bottle of cognac. Everybody yells
Hip Hip Hooray,
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