Hi All, in the last couple months we have produced another great comedy / swordfight show with the scholars of Albion! “All’s Well That Ends Badly” is currently running on the Victoria & Albert Stage at the great Dickens Christmas Fair in the Cow Palace in San Francisco. There is still time to catch the show as we run Saturdays and Sundays til just before Christmas. Our show times are 11:15 & 4:00.
The show is probably the best witty writing I have done in the 8 Albion shows we have all produced in the last 20 years! Think of it as “Noises Off!” for Shakespearean actors… The concept is a rehearsal of a Christmas charity performance involving all the leading Shakespearean actors of Victorian London. As it’s a rehearsal, the audience gets to see all the egos in full force, and what they really think of one another. 🙂
Here are some shots of the production. It is really a lot of fun, especially if you know anything about Shakespeare… Then you’ll get all the inside jokes…
Manly Men in TIghts is back at the Nor Cal Ren Fest! Maurice Browder and Marc Hines Larrenaga, two of the best swordsmen ever to come through Albion, are performing with me in this monument to silly entertainment! We appear on the Main Stage at 12:00. 2:00. and 3:45. Come check out the new show! Now, 25% more Manly!
Meastro Cawelti here… It’s been a long time, with little posting, but life has been busy! To catch you up on Albion activities; the sword troupe has performed at the Northern California Pirate Festival (2013) in a new show called “The Hunt for Blackbeard’s Treasure”. This is a half hour show with a lot of sword fights and a lot of pirates. We are in pre-production right now for the 2014 version. If you are near Vallejo, CA on Father’s Day weekend, drop by and see us on the main stage! I am the Black Powder Safety Coordinator for the Festival, and the Festival presents a ship to shore cannon battle twice daily. Nothing’s been blown up that wasn’t meant to… Now that’s a good show! 😀
Last Summer I traveled to L.A. to portray Theodore Roosevelt for the Old Fort MacArthur Days, in San Pedro, CA; which is a huge Military Living History encampment. I’ve been asked back again this year to deliver the Keynote speech, and charge up San Juan Hill. As an actor, I have traveled the country portraying T.R. and I also starred in the History Channel’s “The Spanish American War: First Intervention” as Col. Roosevelt. (It’s available to see on Netflix) 🙂
Last Fall was another season at the Northern California Renaissance Festival where we performed: “Manly Men in TIghts!” the rollicking farce of swashbuckling and sex appeal – now in it’s 15th season. Such a fun show. Each year we improve the script and add things to keep it fresh. We have estimated that over 400,00 people have laughed their butts off watching this show since it’s inception in 1991.
Last November saw the Albion performance troupe mount a new production for the Dicken’s Christmas Fair: “All’s Well that Ends Badly”. A “Noises Off” style comedy with Dramatic Shakespearean conflicts, and swordf ights (and that was just off-stage!). It was a big hit! And we shall be back again creating theatrical mayhem this November/December!
Recently, Provost of the Schoole, John Woodruff and I dressed up and performed choreographed fights for the Opening Night Gala for “Game of Thrones”. There were 2,000 people at the party, mostly dressed up, and it was a blast. It was also a bit odd… we would clear a space, and start to fight, and then 300 cell phones would come out and film us… funny that…. 🙂
We have had so many “hits” and subscriptions to our U-Tube videos of “Sword Points”, it is truly flattering. Thank you all for watching, and Gerard and I promise that a new set are in preparation and soon to be videoed.
That’s it for now. More news with sword in hand, as it happens! Cheers!
In Sword Points #4 – Distance Albion Schoole of Defense Fight Director Michael Cawelti talked about the three basic distances in sword fighting:
On Guard Distance
Trash Talk Distance
We can demonstrate those distances in fencing, or with stage combat choreography, but how do they play in modern, real-life situations? Turns out the principles Michael mentioned still apply.
The MythBusters TV show decided to investigate what happens if you bring a knife to a gun fight. Does a someone with a knife have a chance against someone armed with a gun? The intuitive answer for many people is “no way!”, but what do actual tests say? Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman created a test to find out the minimum distance at which a person with a knife is dangerous to a person with a gun. In their test, Jamie tries to attack Adam with a foam knife from various distances, and Adam tries to draw a realistic looking semi-automatic paint ball pistol from a holster, cock the slide and shoot Jamie before being stabbed. The test was electrically scored in a manner crudely similar to modern electrically-scored fencing.
In the tests they found that with Jamie starting from 16 feet away Adam could “draw and cock but not fire” before being stabbed. And even when Jamie started from longer distances and Adam could shoot him, Jamie’s momentum allowed him to stab Adam anyway.
Now, there are some elements to the experiment design which people may quibble with:
Jamie started with a drawn knife.
Adam started with a holstered, un-cocked semi-auto with the safety on.
Adam isn’t a fast draw expert.
Those are valid points to consider, but on the other hand
Jamie likely could have drawn a knife while running.
Adam is a trained, experienced gun handler, less so than a professional competitive shooter, but more so than the average person who owns a gun but doesn’t actually practice shooting from holstered position.
Adam knew in advance, with total certainty to expect a sudden attack by Jamie and had multiple chances to practice under the exact circumstances.
So, I think we can confidently take away from the tests that a sudden attack from an assailant with an edged weapon can easily kill even if they start from surprisingly far distance, just as we noted with sword fighting. (Running away seems like a really good idea.)
Now, back to sword fighting and stage combat choreography trash talking distance. Do people sometimes trash talk at a distance that is completely unsafe? I’m going to say, “absolutely yes”. People do unsafe things all the time, from tailgating to trash talking inside of punching or stabbing distance of another person, because people don’t necessarily intuitively feel the danger because it hasn’t affected them yet, or to show that they are so tough they just don’t care, to be intimidating, to dominate by getting inside people’s personal space. And could a person in “Fighting Distance” or “On Guard Distance” be killed almost instantly by an opponent not impressed by his trash talking or has no moral or social qualms about doing so? “Absolutely, yes.”
So whether the characters in your drama trash talk inside or outside of safe distance will depend on their character, and on the moral strictures of the time and place of the story. Are the characters careful and smart? Or are they impetuous hotheads? Can their opponent just attack and get away with it? Or do the strictures of the time require they duel in a specific ritual fashion with rules and timing that they must obey, in spite of their wish to do otherwise? Where they stand should be a conscious and deliberate choice on the part as a fight director with full knowledge of the danger of trash talking in-distance.
Here is a Sword Points video on the basic targets of stage combat. There are 5 basic cut targets, and two point targets. In basic choreography we keep the options simplified so that it is easier to learn and perform correctly.
This Sword Points video addresses the 3 distances of swordfighting:
On Guard Distance
Trash Talk Distance.
If swords are out and you are close enough to hit your assailant, you are in Fighting Distance, and if you are not engaged in swordplay, there had better be a really compelling theatrical reason why you are not swinging steel.
If each combatant takes a step back, this is On Guard Distance. It’s called On Guard Distance because if you are this close to an assailant and swords are out, then you better be “on your guard” – prepared to defend, because you are one quick lunge away from being hit.
If the swordsmen take one more step back, this is Trash Talk Distance. At this distance, the characters can have swords out and insult each other to their heart’s content. They are too far to need to be in a “ready” on guard position, and the physicality can be loose and flamboyant. A mistake made in many theater productions when adversaries, with swords out, are blocked to be in each other’s face during pre-fight dialog. Once swords are out, the 3 distances of swordfighting come into play. Keeping the action consistent with the logic of the 3 distances gives your sword choreography verisimilitude and allows it appear more realistic to your audiences.
Here is a Sword Point video on maintaining the power of the legs during footwork. The basic cross step in 16th/17thC. rapier play is called the “Pasada”. While moving in pasada during an engagement the swordsman must maintain a position of power in their stance allowing them to move quickly and decisively. As soon as the swordsman engages his adversary (or acting partner), the legs should be coiled, meaning the swordsman should be in a crouch. This is the same position that gives power and quickness to a linebacker in football, a shortstop in baseball, or a tennis player. If the combatant comes out of his crouch at any time while in fighting distance, they are vulnerable to a counterattack, for they are not ready to move quickly either in offense or defense. Keeping a crouch in the stance while moving in pasada requires the fighter to “float” their upper body along the line of movement. If the shoulders bob up and down then the swordsman is not maintaining the power in the legs. The image is of a cat moving forward, ready to spring on its prey.
This Sword Points video features one of the basic sword fighting cut drills used at the Albion Schoole of Defense stage combat instruction program. For rapier fights we use 5 basic cuts and 5 corresponding parries, which we’ve put together in this drill.
This video is a demonstration. There is a lot going on in the simple drill that isn’t obvious to people new to stage combat, including the critical safety techniques that are incorporated–more than we can explain in one quick video–which is why we are filming a series of videos. We’ll explain the details in upcoming installments, so please don’t copy what you see in the video without additional safety information or qualified guidance.
Some of the details include how to make cuts properly; what angles are needed; how hard to make the cuts, how to transition from one cut to another and proper distance. You’ll also need to know where to parry and why; what angles to use; how to transition from one parry to another; how to keep your blade safely out of your partners way; proper timing and more. So, stay tuned for more sword fighting tips and techniques.
You can Like us on Facebook, follow us @AlbionSchoole on Twitter or keep checking out the AlbionSchoole.com blog. And, of course, if you’d rather get it all shown to you in person, we offer classes in the San Francisco Bay Area 🙂
Here is the first in our series of “2 Minute” sword instruction videos which we call – “Sword Points.” This installment shows the proper hand positions when holding the classic cut & thrust sword: the rapier. It also covers one of the most over-looked and critical techniques for creating the look of realistic sword wielding: The “Power Angle”. Enjoy!