The Fight Captain. Megan M. Storti (MFA '15)
You would never guess I am a fighter. I prefer to wear dresses and skirts. My voice sits in the high, nasal register common to Midwestern women. The circumference of my hips and thighs do not suggest those of an avid athlete. And yet...
We recently closed Othello at The Old Globe in which I performed in the ensemble and served as fight captain. For those not familiar with the title, a fight captain is responsible for reviewing all moments of stage violence with cast and crew before the show. This includes, but is not limited to: stabbing, slicing, choking, falls, impaling with an umbrella, bed strangulation, throws, slaps, slamming of heads into cannons, etc. Ideally the fight captain is not involved in violence and can run the scene from an outsider's perspective. Considering my unlikely casting as a soldier and my proclivity for knaps, slaps and traps, I have occupied this position more than once.
Our Fight Director, Jacob Grigolia-Rosenbaum, choreographed for some wonderful productions; most notably Peter and the Starcatcher (Off-Broadway, 2013) and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (Broadway, 2010). Every available moment I had, I shadowed Jacob as he worked on stage violence. It was a fantastic opportunity to watch him work and occasionally lend him a hand (or face, or stomach, as the case may be) in working out some complicated moments.
Earlier this spring, the first year MFAs submitted for tests by the Society of American Fight Directors under the exceptionally capable instruction of Fight Master Brian Byrnes. I performed two Skills Proficiency Renewals; one in Unarmed Stage Combat and the other in Single Sword. (My first Skills Proficiency Tests were taken at Illinois State University with the wonderful Paul Dennhardt.) It was, without a doubt, one of my favorite classes of the semester. Brian led us through eight weeks of fun, complicated, sweaty work. All seven classmates tested and passed. We gained new skills but also built an invaluable system of trust... after all, you should trust the person coming at you with a sharp, pointy stick.
With renewed vigor and sharper (aha) skills, I approached our stage manager Leila and expressed interest in shadowing Jacob. She passed the information along and I stuck with him for five weeks of rehearsal. I had an incredible time working with and getting to know the entire acting company from a new perspective. As a student and a woman, I was afraid there would be some skepticism. I was entirely wrong.
At fight call on closing day, I was in for a surprise. I had always wanted to see the brawl (Act 2, Sc. 3) at full speed with sound and lights but could not because I was backstage. When I called the usual, "Full intention, 75% please!" Mike Sears turned to me and said, "Megan, this is our gift to you. Thank for being our fight captain." Our live musicians appeared at their instruments and the men performed the brawl at show speed. The intensity with which they performed made me cry. (The picture above was taken by Lindsay Brill as the men performed this last fight call. Fortunately, my blotchy, snotty face is hidden from view.) It is an experience I will never forget, and one I am infinitely grateful for.