Stage combat

Students and faculty of SUNY Fredonia worked hard recently to put on “Night of the Fights,” a showcase on stage combat, in order to raise money for scholarships within the Department of Theatre and Dance and to bring awareness to the importance of the art form.

The 90-minute program featured student performances, including six different forms of combat: rapier and dagger, broadsword, quarter-staff, unarmed, knife and single-sword. Many scenes were well known, such as bits from “Star Wars,” “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “She’s The Man,” “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged” and the short story “The Most Dangerous Game.”

By performing recognizable scenes, performers hoped to showcase their talents as an art form, rather than violence. Students in the department, along with the department chair, Tom Loughlin, are currently working out a plan to create a new minor in the program dedicated to stage combat.

“We are moving forward with the minor and are currently discussing the shape and structure of the minor,” Loughlin explained. “The demand is very strong, and if the question of resources can be positively addressed, we hope to begin the minor no later than fall of 2015.”

Although current students would not benefit from the new minor due to time constraints, it is clear that it is important to them that incoming students have the opportunity.

“We care about the people who are coming in,” said Hannah Roccisano, a recent theatre graduate and Silver Creek native. “If you’re mad about something, then change for other people, so they don’t have to go through it.”

Roccisano came up with the idea to hold “Night of the Fights” and sparked the new minor into movement with the help of Tom Buckley, a current senior in the theatre and arts major.

As of this semester, a few combat classes are offered, but having a specified minor could benefit students as well as the college. In the past few years, admissions rates to the college have steadily declined, but SUNY Fredonia could become one of the few colleges to have a specialization in stage combat, which could attract more new students to apply.

Students would also benefit from this, as having certification in stage combat makes theatre majors more marketable to films and productions. Having this to show on a resume could be what distinguishes a Fredonia graduate from another in the competitive world of acting.

Students showed off both theatrical and combative talents, as the performance began with emcee Loughlin unexpectedly getting attacked, and stage lights turning off in a frenzy of cries from production staff that ran from all sides of the room.

After onlookers were assured that Loughlin was OK, the show began with a seemingly ad-lib dagger fight between Roccisano and Buckley. Acts comprised both theatrical dialogue and combat. The genres were many, from humorous, to serious; some ended in death, some vengeance, and some in laughter.

Between acts, students discussed scholarships that they had previously received within the department, and described how the scholarships had benefitted them. Steve Russell, a senior BFA musical theatre major, talked about the three scholarships he earned: the Walter Gloor Memorial, Bruce Walford and John S. Minton scholarships.

“Having this skill set has been beneficial to me,” said Russell, who explained how his experience in combat helped him to land a callback for a prestigious position in theatre.

Attendees were also encouraged to participate in raffles to raise additional money for more scholarships. Prizes included donated theatre history textbooks, handmade weapons, and a chance to “pie” Loughlin at the end of the production.

‘Night of the Fights’ was held in SUNY Fredonia’s Bartlett Theater and cost patrons a minimum of a $3 donation. All proceeds were donated to the SUNY Fredonia Department of Theatre and Dance, including the $160 that was collected from raffles alone.