Local acting camp to offer free class on stage combat

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Usually after school programs are set up to keep kids out of trouble. Winters Shakespeare Workshop is hosting one designed to get them into fights. Staged fighting, that is.

Maggie McGee Moralez, a recent Winters transplant, will be teaching free classes in stage combat at the Winters Community Library to interested Winters teens in preparation for Winters Shakespeare Workshop’s (WSW) upcoming summer production of A Comedy of Errors.

McGee has worked in theater since graduating with a B.A. in theater directing from Columbia College Chicago. At the time she attended, the school had one of the few stage combat programs in the country, and McGee’s instructor was at that time one of the worlds only fight masters.

“It’s absolutely invigorating,” McGee says of stage combat. Through the upcoming WSW workshops, McGee hopes to share her excitement for stage combat with young actors in Winters. She says that the process requires concentration, respect and above all–teamwork.

As McGee points out, choreographed grappling is nothing like an actual fight. The carefully arranged motions are more about creating an illusion and a believable character.

McGee learned how to create this kind of illusion while she was earning her certification in all eight forms of stage weapons through the Society of American Fight Directing, or S.A.F.D. The S.A.F.D. is a stage combat organization that includes actors and stunt doubles working in anything from the community theater to the big-budget Hollywood movies.

The S.A.F.D. gives them all a shared vocabulary and set of rules and regulations. As McGee puts it, through the S.A.F.D. everyone is on the same page, meaning that they can trust their partner no matter what production they are working on.

And trust is possibly the most important part of the exercise. McGee explained that while the moves might look dangerous, stage combat is actually about clever angles, well-timed reactions and sound effects. She will be teaching the actors how to move together in a controlled fashion.

The process to create that illusion can often be very physically demanding, McGee says. She knows that the more a person works at it, the bigger these stunts can be. Whether they never act again after this summer or decide to pursue a career as a stunt double, McGee says that teenagers who attend the free classes can always benefit from the physical exercise.

McGee believes that learning about stage combat can be a good antidote to the increasing amount of time that teenagers spend online. She says that the images and videos teenagers see online can change their perspective of real life. McGee hopes that students in the program will learn about cooperation while participating in an activity that requires them to respect others and always look out for their partner’s safety.

On Wednesday, April 10 McGee will be leading a free class on comic combat for teenagers from 13-19 years old. Students will learn about the slapstick side of comedy through techniques like “knaps” (a sound effect that mimics a hit) and learning how to grapple and fall as a team.

Then on Wednesday, April 17, she will teach another free class on punches and falls. Her goal is for students to learn how to create a realistic looking fight for the stage. Both workshops will be held at the Winters Community Library and run from 2-3:30 p.m.

McGee is excited to introduce this element of theater techniques to the Winters Shakespeare Workshop.

“I really hope that I can bring something new to the table,” she says.

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