CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., April 1, 2014 – Several students in the Department of Theatre and Dance at Southeast Missouri State University received their certification in stage combat following the production of “Peter Pan” at the River Campus last month.
They are: Audra Novak of Omaha, Neb.; Caleb Long of Marble Hill, Mo.; Megan Walton-Steck of Covington, Tenn.; Erin Meadows of Chesterfield, Mo., Bronze; Jennifer Britt of Ironton, Mo., Bronze; Autumn Vandeven of Chaffee, Mo., Bronze; Alyssa Cooper of Lee’s Summit, Mo., Bronze; William Humphrey of Owasso, Okla., Bronze; Matthew Pirtle of Cape Girardeau, Bronze; Mike Hegger of St. Louis, Bronze; Hyunju Yang of Seoul, South Korea, Bronze; Beth Guebert of Naperville, Ill., Bronze; Jacob Buckenmyer of Cape Girardeau, Mo., Silver; Ronnie Rossi of McKinney, Texas, Silver; John Pletka of Yorkville, Ill., Silver; Hannah Lundy of Columbia, Mo., Silver; Laura Liefer of Chester, Ill., Silver; Emily Stricklin of Troy, Ill., Silver; and Robert Rice of Sullivan, Mo., Gold.
In early January, students completed a week of stage combat master classes taught at Southeast by Ruth Cooper-Brown and Rachel Bown-Williams who operate the British combat group, R. C. Annie and serve on staff at the British Academy of Dramatic Combat (BADC).
“It’s uncommon for programs outside of Chicago, Los Angeles or New York City, or some of the big name schools to offer this opportunity to students,” said Bart Williams, Southeast instructor of acting and stage combat. “Hopefully, we can come to offer this opportunity on an affordable basis for future students, because it is a great recruitment tool.”
“We offered these classes because it is not only beneficial and directly tied to the work that was in Peter Pan, but also because it is vital for students to have stage combat skills. There once was a pervasive idea that actors would learn on the job, or that training would be provided for a role, but increasingly small budgets mean that actors can get turned down for work if they do not have the necessary skills,” said Williams.
When searching through the various certification options, the BADC stood out because of its emphasis on acting.
“They were graded by an external examiner on combat scenes that are matched to text,” Williams said. “The BADC certification is not only about skills proficiency, it’s about acting effectively with sharp props.”
In regard to the exam, students were to “fight” with three weapon systems: rapier/dagger, unarmed and single sword. Depending on their fight presentation, students can pass or fail, or receive bronze, silver, gold or gold with distinction designation. Although simply passing is what matters most because it means the actor combatant is certified in knowing how to safely perform a series of moves, Williams was very pleased to have a majority of students pass with bronze, silver, and in the case of Junior Robert Rice, a gold medal distinction.
“Gold is extremely hard to attain, especially on the Standard course,” said Williams. “Robert Rice really set himself apart because he had two partners, due to another participant’s illness. He stepped in and really made his classmates look good.”
The classes began Jan. 10 at Southeast and came to an end with exam fights on Sunday, Jan 19.