Borden to teach stage combat for production in Spain
calendar icon28 Mar 2019
Lincoln, Neb.--Associate Professor of Theatre Arts Ian Borden will be traveling to Spain in May for a week to teach stage combat and choreograph the fights and battles for a production of “Numancia” by Francisco de Rojas Zorrilla.
He will be at Escuela Pública de Formación Cultural de Andalucía, an elite training program, located in Malaga, Spain.
“They are performing the play, ‘Numancia,’ which has a very famous Cervantes version, but the Francisco de Rojas Zorrilla version has been basically lost for several hundred years,” Borden said. “They have found an old manuscript, and they are performing that. Originally, I was going to go and only do a class in stage combat, but now they are going to have me focus on doing the choreography for this production, which is very exciting.”
The play features a lot of fight choreography and Borden is eager for the challenge.
“It’s a very large cast with a battle sequence and all sorts of things going on,” he said. “It’s epic in scale, and that’s the fun of it.”
He made this connection through his work with the Association for Hispanic Classical Theater (AHCT) and a conference presentation he did at the International Congress of Cervantes, Shakespeare and the Golden Age of Theatre in Madrid, Spain, two years ago.
“It’s kind of fun because a lot of the work I do is about translation, and that practical application of knowledge to the stage,” Borden said. “And here I get to do another version of that where I’m taking very practical skills and bringing an old play to life that way. It’s very exciting to be going to Spain and doing that.”
He’s also looking forward to spending time in Malaga.
“Spain is a very interesting cultural place,” he said. “It’s living history that we’re working on, and it’s a chance to really immerse myself in that culture.”
Borden is one of about 160 Certified Teachers with the Society of American Fight Directors (SAFD). This experience, along with his other work, including with the Nebraska Repertory Theatre, will allow him to petition to move up to the rank of Fight Director, of which there are only 72 nationwide.
Spain does not have a sanctioned body like SAFD for stage combat.
“The Spanish love their stage combat as much as the Elizabethans love their stage combat,” Borden said. “So yes, this is a lot of fighting, and Spain doesn’t have what we have with the Society of American Fight Directors. They don’t have a body of people whose specialty is putting fights and violence on stage.”
He has read the play multiple times and has started a plan for the choreography, but he’s also prepared to make a lot of changes once he sees what works for the actors and what their levels are, as well as what the space is for the production.
“The other thing that’s always important with stage combat is you do violence on stage because the words aren’t effective anymore,” Borden said. “It’s almost always a climactic moment of some kind, so you have to work really effectively with the director to keep the idea of the story going through the violence.”
Borden’s own interest in studying and training in stage combat came from his own observations as a young actor.
“When I was a young actor, at one point, I counted, and I had done 40 roles. And in 39 of them, I had some version of violence on stage,” he said. “So I said, ‘I better get good at this.’”
He also had an experience playing Orlando in “As You Like It,” that made him realize the importance of stage combat training and safety on stage.
“The guy who was playing the wrestler, Charles, and I were told, ‘You guys go work out the fight,’” he said. “So we came up with a wonderful fight, and there was a move in there that I would never choreograph anymore with a contact ax kick. It’s a very dangerous move, and I hit him in the sternum with it, and I cracked his sternum—on stage. I felt terrible about that for a long time until I learned more and realized that we should have never been put in that situation. Then I really began the quest to move myself to the level of Certified Teacher and become good at it and not let other actors get put in that situation.”
Borden said some of the challenge in Spain will just be not knowing exactly what the situation will be when he gets there.
“But one of the things about doing this for so long is I can walk into a room, make those adjustments on the fly and make it work,” he said.
In April, Borden will be attending the AHCT Conference in El Paso, Texas, which is held in conjunction with the Chamizal International Siglo de oro Festival, which brings companies in from Spanish-speaking countries around the world, including Spain and Mexico.
Borden will be presenting on a newly translated play, a short play titled “La destreza.”
“It’s part of a continuing research work that I do with a team of translators,” he said. “We’ve been working on entremés, which are short plays that they used to stick between the longer acts. The one this year is titled ‘La destreza,’ and in that play are five women and one man. The women gather together and use fencing as a metaphor for the skills it takes to get ahead in the world, and they fight on stage as part of what the play is.”
The play will be directed by directing and management sophomore Hilda Rey and performed by Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film students Hannah Ramsgard, Tatianna Hizar, Parker Reil, Taylor Winks, Nikki Wang-Ferrara and Maria Smal.
When he returns from Spain in May, Borden will then be directing “Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood” for the Black Hills Playhouse in South Dakota, which opens June 14.
“It’s a very busy spring,” Borden said.