Training swords clash in swordsmanship staged combat workshop in preparation for ‘Rashomon’

Julie Conlon

Equinox Staff


Swords crossed in the Mabel Brown Room of the L.P. Young Student Center at Keene State College February 10, 2012, as a group of 16 KSC students and community members participated in a “Samurai Swordsmanship Staged Combat Workshop.”

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Sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Multiculturalism, students attended a workshop conducted by Dean College Assistant Professor of Theater Jim Beauregard, a principal performer at The Medieval Manor Theater. Beauregard, who also goes by the titles of technical director and violence coordinator, recently took on the role as fight coordinator to KSC’s Theatre and Dance Department’s production of “Rashomon.”

Students gathered for a two-hour class during which they worked with PVC pipes and learned basic choreography from instructor Beauregard. Three of the 16 participants attended the event with the purpose of training for their roles in “Rashomon.”

PeggyRae Johnson, the director of “Rashomon,” spoke highly of long-time friend Beauregard.

“I think there’s a lot of interest in combat,” Johnson said.

“You’re really learning to communicate physically with another person. There’s a personal quality you gain from this kind of training.”

Beauregard, a founding member of New England Fight Directors, had the group warm up prior to the workshop as he stressed the element of dance as basis of the workshop.

“I love the dance quality to this, I love the speed of it,” Beauregard said, “And I love the danger of it. The movement is really wonderful—it’s beautiful.”

Following the warm up, Beauregard taught the group various moves to block their opposing fighter. The term “parry,” Beauregrad instructed, means “to block.” Beauregard then proceeded to demonstrate how to “parry” and cut to the basic target zones.

The first target zone, according to Beauregard, is the left leg, and the second, the right leg. The third target zone is the chest, the fourth being the “right” chest, and the fifth, the head. After a five minute break, the members practiced their learned moves with a partner.

Members tried their hands at making “cuts” to the head, and “parrys” at the chest. Laughter filled the Mabel Brown Room as these attempts were made.

KSC senior Jessie Montville said she made Friday evening’s event a priority to assist her skills as a theater major.

“I was just recently at the American College Theatre Festival,” Montville explained, “where I did a stage combat workshop with Jim Beauregard– so when I heard he was coming here I was on board!”

Montville said she appreciated Beauregard’s emphasis on dance throughout the event.

“It’s all about you and your partner’s movement,” Montville continued.

“I am an acting major, and I feel the more you can do with your body the better. The more skills I gather, the more likely I’ll be to get a job!”

KSC senior Gary Beisaw arrived with an agenda as he had been dubbed “Fight Captain” for the upcoming “Rashomon.” Beisaw explained “Rashomon” as a murder-mystery which delves into four perspectives about the death of a samurai warrior and the rape of his wife. Directed by KSC faculty member PeggyRae Johnson, the play is scheduled for Feb. 28 through March 2, 2012. Beisaw admitted he knew very little about fight choreography as he expressed his reasons for attending the event.

“I need to know more about stage combat,” Beisaw said, “and tonight I really gained fighting skill.”

Director Johnson commented, “Stage combat is very different from what you see in the movies. It isn’t just about offensive battle, but as much as your own personal confidence, style, balance and movement.”

Junior Mike Murphy, a film studies major, said the workshop provided a new angle for him as a student of film.

“Being a film person, what I got from this class was how the stage combat works and how I can incorporate that into my film work,” he explained. “I need to know how something works to be able to film it properly. Now I feel I have an understanding of how I can include this in my career path.”

Sophomore and acting major Dan Bullard is a fighting member of the “Rashomon” cast. Bullard attended the event to assist in teaching other members choreography as he had previously achieved the basic skills through lessons with Beauregard.

Bullard said that although he did not necessarily learn new skills at Friday’s workshop, he did make a surprising finding.

Bullard commented, “I discovered I really actually like showing other people the fighting moves.” Bullard continued, “That was something I really enjoyed, helping other people do it—that was a lot of fun.”

Bullard said although he felt comfortable with the moves, he was nervous to work with steel swords.

Bullard explained students learn first with PVC pipes, as the group Friday night did, and with progression, students move toward wooden swords before performing with steel. Reflecting on the evening, Beauregard said the students impressed him.

“They were stellar–they did a great job,” Beauregard said. “There was quite a mix of personalities and disciplines in attendance. They looked good and I was impressed at the speed of which they picked this up.”

As the Mabel Brown Room emptied for the night, Bullard concluded, “This fight stuff has really opened up a whole aspect of acting that I hadn’t done. Being a fight master would be insanely awesome!”


Julie Conlon can be contacted at

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