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Stage Combat

Lesson 3: Acting the Fight


Students will demonstrate an understanding of how to use acting techniques by rehearsing a teacher-choreographed fight and adding their own fight choreography.


Materials Needed

Clip of fight scene (possible scenes: Luke and Darth Vader from Star Wars, Wesley and Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride, or Woody and Buss Lightyear from Toy Story), paper


Lesson Directions

Anticipatory Set/Hook

Show the class a fight scene from a movie between two characters (one that focuses on hand-to-hand combat, if possible) and have the students answer the following questions on a piece of paper about their character: How well do the characters know each other? What kind of environment do the characters fight in? How much fighting experience does each character have? What noises/sound effects do you hear during the fight? Discuss what they observed about the choreography and its overall impact on the audience.




  • Emphasize the importance of sounds in fights, and how these sounds are made on stage through knaps, grunts, groans, yells or sometimes sound effects added by the sound designer. Discuss the role of sound in a fight.
  • Discuss the importance of acting a fight, or adding character-specific choices to the fight depending on the fighting experience of the character and the environment. When you watch a fight, you pay attention to the faces and reactions not necessarily the details of each fight move. The reactions of the characters are what makes a fight seem real, goofy, or stupid. You may demonstrate an example of a half-hearted reactions to a punch and contrast it with a more realistic reaction that involves your entire body and react both physically and vocally.
  • Introduce the concept of a 'found weapon'. A found weapon is a weapon used in a fight that was found in the environment and would not normally be considered a weapon. For example: pulling out a rug from underneath your opponent, throwing a hot dog in your opponent's face, or threatening your opponent with some scissors you find laying on a nearby desk. These are all weapons that may not necessarily be used as a weapon. Instruct students that in their next choreographed fight, they will need to somehow use a found weapon in their fight that is not normally harmful and use the weapon in a threatening, but safe way (i.e. rubber chicken, smelly sock, pencil).
  • Also, discuss 'red-light fever' with the class. Red-light fever is when an actor forgets the rehearsed fight and loses control and makes a safe fight a dangerous fight. The name comes from movies or television shows because actors would rehearse the fight safely when behind the camera, but once the red light of the camera turned on when filming the fight, the actors would get too caught up in the moment and forget all safety precautions and lose control.


Present the students with the first half of a fight that you have choreographed beforehand. Have the students choose to either be person A or person B in the fight so they have one person to watch as you demonstrate the fight, and instruct the students to write down the fight on a piece of paper. This teacher-choreographed portion of the fight must be performed by all the students in pairs. Then instruct each pair of students to choreograph their own ending to the fight. The ending must be as long as the first pre-choreography fight and must include only moves taught in class and have found weapon that would not normally be considered threatening. The found weapon may not put the other person in danger and should only be used as a threat (no sword fighting!). The fight must be performed in 3/4 speed (NOT full speed for safety purposes). When each pair performs their fight, they must also turn in a piece of paper with the entire fight written out in proper fight notation and a character description of each person in the fight and the specific environment of the fight and the reason for the fight (in complete sentences).


Instruct each pair of students to choreograph the last part of the fight in pairs and walk around as they do so to ensure the safety of all students. Give them the rest of the period to rehearse their fights as well as the beginning of the next class period. Instruct students that they must bring their found weapon to class next class period and be prepared to rehearse and perform their fight next class period. Also, make sure the students write down their fight in proper fight notation so they do not forget their fight. Remind students to also review their stage combat terms and notes for the stage combat quiz next class period.