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Fencing And Swordfighting For The Stage

Updated on February 2, 2015

Fencing And Swordfighting For The Stage

Some of the most thrilling aspects of stage performances involve combat. For example, what would Hamlet be without its numerous battles? What would Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance be without its piratical swashbuckling? Whether the performance is a comedy or tragedy, a "straight" play or a musical, there may be scenes of combat.

Stage Combat photo by austinbarrow

Of course, real sword fighting on stage is not advisable

Of course, real fighting on stage is not advisable, simply because it would be highly dangerous for the performers involved. Theater creates convincing illusions; combat is no exception to this. Therefore, an entire array of practices has been developed by directors and choreographers. Usually, they incorporate actual moves from martial arts or other disciplines, but change them to be less dangerous for the actors involved. These techniques are collectively known as "stage combat."

One of the more common types of stage combat is stage fencing. Stage fencing uses many of the moves and techniques common in traditional fencing, but modifies them. For example, a move may be altered so that the sword used does not travel near the actor's face.

Stage fencing may incorporate several different weapons. Among these are the stage foil, which resembles a regular foil, the dagger, and the broadsword. Rapiers may also be used. Stage combat moves vary depending on what sword is used; for example, a rapier fight will be more "nimble" than one using larger weapons. The swords may either be real, or props constructed to look like weapons. The latter, of course, is less dangerous for the actors, but requires more work to seem real.

In most productions, the stage fencing routines are developed by the choreographer of the play or musical. For larger scale productions, or for routines involving many intricate techniques, a separate fight choreographer may be used. These choreographers are trained especially in stage combat, and are more skilled in developing flashier routines.

Stage combat, when executed in the theatre, is highly routine. Although the moves may seem thrilling and immediate, they have been rehearsed time after time at varying speeds. Improvisation cannot be a part of swordfights on stage, simply because it would be dangerous to introduce an unexpected change when swords are involved. Despite this routine, however, when done well, stage combat can be spectacularly done and extremely convincing.

Stage Fighting - Learn more about stage combat

Do you perform stage fights or stage fencing? What are the top tips you can provide or the problems you've run into.

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    • BillyPilgrim LM profile image

      BillyPilgrim LM 

      6 years ago

      Great lens, love it x

    • savateuse profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice lens. :)

    • jadehorseshoe profile image


      6 years ago

      Very Cool Lens!

    • cdevries profile image


      7 years ago

      Nice idea for a Lens! I work in theater and watching Fight Call practice is fascinating... and sometimes a little funny (my son is a fencer). You're right that stage fights have to be utterly rehearsed.

    • FencingNet profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      @sandralynnsparks: Thanks. Fixing that now!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I've always found fencing to be interesting. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I have spent a lot of time around stage fighting; I've seen some brilliant fights along the way! The best stage sword work I ever saw was done by an actor who had studied ballet and capoeira (Brazilian martial arts dancing) and brought that training into his timing - quick, safe, brilliant work...

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      You may want to switch your Guestbook settings to approve comments - my word, all the spam!


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