Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Moving Safely on Stage by Marie Verschueren

Over the last 3 years I have taken numerous classes at Freehold and walked away from each one grateful for what I have learned.  The Rehearsal and Performance class of 2013 taught by Darragh Kennan was no exception.  The class is set up to take the student through the whole process of rehearsing and then performing a play.  It was such a great experience and I felt I was given all the tools I needed to be able to get up on stage and do my best.  One of the great things about the class was the director’s willingness to bring experts into class if we needed special training in our scene.  One of the people that Darragh asked for assistance was Gordon Carpenter, the fight coordinator at Freehold Theatre.  Gordon worked with myself and my scene partner to help us get over a bit of a hurdle we were experiencing.

I was lucky enough to be cast as Marvalyn in the stage play Almost Maine, written by John Cariani.  It had been some time since I had performed on stage and I was excited and wanted to do a good job for Darragh, our director.  Our scene was titled “This Hurts”, and included myself and my scene partner as well as an ironing board and we were to hit each other with it.  I was nervous, especially after the first time we rehearsed and I hurt my hand.  From that point on, once the ironing board started swinging I was distracted and thinking about the hit and how I could avoid being hurt.  I had the same issue when I had to swing at my scene partner because I didn’t want to hurt him.  It was difficult to get it right, it was either too hard or too soft and looked fake.  I was distracted by the ironing board and it interfered with my being able to relax into the character.

So… Darragh called Gordon Carpenter.  After working with him for 30 minutes, we were swinging away and no one was getting hurt.  Gordon was able to give us both some structure and safety tools that enabled us to not have to think about the physicality of what we were doing and be more at ease. One of the biggest challenges we had was to make it look real and Gordon offered a simple fix.  I was to have my back to the audience and my hand up so when my scene partner swung the board at me, I hit with my hand in front of my body, so the audience heard the "hit" but didn't see that it was just my hand we was hitting. I think it was a tremendous boost to both of our performances and I would love to work with Gordon again.

Freehold is an amazing training ground for actors and I will continue to be a student and supporter of their efforts.


Darragh Kennan will be teaching Rehearsal and Performance again this Summer Quarter 2014 at Freehold.  For more information on our class: Rehearsal and Performance.

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