- Performing Arts
By Annabella Saltarelli ‘25/The Lawrence
On October 29, November 3, and November 8, the Periwig Club welcomed esteemed fight choreographer Jacqueline Holloway to teach a multi-session fight direction workshop. Holloway is a certified fight director who teaches at Columbia University and the Lee Strasberg Institute, and owns her own fighting company, Arte Violenta. Currently, she is working with Princeton University on one of the school’s productions.
During her fight direction workshop, students form the “Shakespeare’s Tragedies: Everyone Dies in Performance” course, alongside a couple of Fifth Form students who were involved with the Periwig Club, learned how to coordinate fights for the state in a way that is both safe and realistic. Those in the classes applied their learning to their final exam for the Fall term, a performance of a “staged, fight-choreographed scene from Julius Caesar,” said Performing Arts Department Chair Matthew Campbell, who arranged the workshops.
The workshop covered “slaps, punches, pushing from front to front, ear pulls, hair pulls, shirt pulls, nose pulls, and variations on slaps” before diving into falling technique and weaponry. Eric Frankel ’23, an attendee of the event, said that the key to ensuring that each of these things comes across as real is “in the act of reacting.” Both he and Emily Hammond ’23 referred back to when Campbell and Holloway acted out a stage slap while standing six feet apart.
“There was obviously no way that they could have touched each other,” Frankel said, but her reaction made “it [look] like she was really slapped and hurt.”
He noted that what added to this illusion of a slap was the ‘knap,” the noise on of the actors, typically the receiver of the action, creates to mimic the sound the hit would make.
Surprised by the degree that fight direction with “optical illusions,” Hammond was also fascinated by how depth made choreographed fights look real.
Holloway emphasized consent and intimacy in regards to these scenes, making them a focus of her workshop. Carefully coordinated sequences of actions, cures, and signals through eye contact, and distance ensured what Campbell called a “safety net” that allowed the actors to effectively portray a fight onstage while staying out of harm’s way. Discussion and rehearsal are crucial to a safe right onstage. Campbell said that such a scene looks good because the actors know that “they have each other’s backs.”
Each attendee found this workshop an amazing opportunity to learn something new and adventurous, with a professional who helped them practice fight choreography safely. Hammond especially appreciated Holloway’s ability to “[make] it look easy” and her passion for her profession.
Campbell hopes to hold this workshop for “multiple years in a row” and welcome more students who are interested, so look out for the chance to learn these unique skills!
Photo credits: Tiffany Wen '23/The Lawrence
For additional information, contact Lisa M. Gillard H'17, director of public relations, at firstname.lastname@example.org.