A full-fledged barroom brawl went down in the Experimental Theater Thursday March 14. It was women versus men knock-down drag-out fighting, and the ladies really took it away. Surprisingly no one was hurt; it just so happens that it was all staged. UWS was lucky enough to have famous fight choreographer and Yale professor, Rick Sordelet, lead a workshop for the university theater department. Rick Sordelet is a UWS alumnus, who graduated in 1982 with a degree in Communicating Arts and Theater. Sordelet has been choreographing fights and action scenes since 1993. 54 Broadway productions have been choreographed by Sordelet including Annie, The Little Mermaid, The Beauty and the Beast, and A Streetcar Named Desire. The Game Plan staring Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, and Dan in Real Life with Steve Carrel are two of his most popular works.
Sordelet taught a workshop for UWS students to attend. The basics to stage fighting were the prime focus of this two hour extravaganza. Sordelet opened with the question “what is acting?” After some prodding the responses began flowing, reacting being the primary answer. We then began discussing how acting is “behaving truthfully under imaginary conditions.” This idea covers all aspects of acting, including fighting.
The initial task Rick gave was walking. It sounds simple enough; however, we were asked to be aware of our entire surroundings; filling the space properly and not crashing into other people while walking at random. He would occasionally ask us to freeze so he could show us that a large empty space had formed somewhere within our walking parameters. Awareness is the key factor to safety, which is a very important aspect of stage fighting. Opening the workshop with fighting would have left us with injured people due to lack of awareness. Things only got more interesting as the time passed. The walking at random grew more intense as 180 degree turns were added. We advanced from walking at random to initiating conflict with each other while continually moving. It advanced from shoving to pushing, then to grabbing hair and throwing each other onto the ground. Choking people out was next, followed by punching people in the stomach, pounding them on their backs while they were doubled over, and kicking them after they hit the ground. Additionally, we learned how to punch and simultaneously make the corresponding noise, as well as how to react realistically to the specific type of punch. We went over how to do straight punches, uppercuts, backhand, and hooks.
“Being from this region, I want to sort of deliver a message to the students that I’ve been teaching that people from this area can compete and do compete,” said Sordelet. “It’s easy to get a little bit of an inferiority complex. You’re from where you’re from. And it’s what you do with the information you receive, and what you do with yourself that makes you into who you are. There is no since in defeating yourself before you start the race, so I’m here to say run the race and run it well. It doesn’t matter where your from, it’s what you do with it.”
Personally, I loved the workshop. It was highly instructive and will definitely play a role in my future acting endeavors. The particularly enjoyable part of this workshop was fighting friends. It did not matter who you picked to fight because you always had control of the situation and you were not going to get hurt. I could fight other ladies or the guys. Of course, there was always the option to let them beat me up too. Taking a punch in the gut, getting smacked on the back, and kicked in the butt was way more fun than you would expect. We referred to the kicking as a booty kick. Sordelet explained later that the “booty kick” we kept using could be altered in such way that it can appear quite frightening. When directed at the chest or face, as he demonstrated, it is quite realistic. Needless to say, any future fights in the UWS Theater Department’s productions will be fantastic.