This actually took place two months ago, but it was a fantastic learning opportunity that I want to share.

Matt and I performed in “An Evening with Bill Shakespeare” at the Vaughan City Playhouse. This show was a collection of Shakespearean monologues performed by us, the six-person company, plus three fight scenes provided by me and Matt. Because I had been in Sweden, we had a very limited amount of time to prepare these fights: three days. We enthusiastically embraced this opportunity to test some of the theories and concepts that I have been developing in conjunction with my Chalmers Arts Fellowship. Three days, three fights. Three days of physical and mental exercise as we built new fights, learned them, rehearsed them into well-acted and physically polished scenes.

I won’t bore you with all of the details, but here are the lessons we learned on this one:

1 – Stop when you’ve had enough
This one was reinforced, and it’s most obvious when we’re doing this kind mentally and physically intensive work. Grab some water and let your brain rest. Also, recognize when you’ve reached your saturation point and stop working for a while. Perhaps you’re done for the day, perhaps you’ll get back to it in a few hours. However, there isn’t much point in pushing beyond that limit. You use your time less efficiently, and by training choreography in a state of exhaustion, you may find that you learn it with all sorts of little errors. Take a break and you can come back to it. On this project, we found that our time was most efficiently used when we worked 4 to 6 hour blocks with a mid-way break.

2 – Remember ALL the elements of your choreography.
For a long time, it’s been sufficient to focus on blade work alone. However, in this case and in many others, specific footwork is necessary as affects other elements of the fight, like rhythm and character expression. Without marking all of these elements the fight just didn’t work properly. One of our rehearsals, we set the choreography for the backsword and buckler vs. rapier and dagger fight. We were nearing the end of our ropes, so we worked a section and recorded it on video, and then left it for the day. When we revisited the fight the next morning, we had all the blade work right away, but it didn’t flow as smoothly as it did the day before until we re-discovered the other elements like intent. Just like working with text, it’s easier to remember when you’ve worked on the whole story.