"You ever see all the stunts that get done on-stage or in a film ? How [actors] take all those falls, kicks, punches, how they pull hair?" asks Stewart Solomon, president-owner of Creative WorkShops in Aventura. "That's what this is." This being an intensive two-day workshop in unarmed Combat for Film and Stage taught by University of Miami theater department assistant professor Bruce Lecure. "A good actor should know how to do these things right," Solomon points out, "because you can truly injure somebody." Doubtless, you cannot overestimate the importance of proper hair-pulling.
"This is to give people some of the fundamentals," explains Lecure, speaking over the phone from Key West, where he is directing a production of playwright John Patrick Shanley's Danny and the Deep Blue Sea. "That way when they're asked to slap somebody else or punch somebody else, they know how to take care of themselves -- what should be done, what shouldn't be done, what's going to work theatrically, what's not going to work theatrically, what's going to keep them safe, what's going to get them hurt."
Certified by the Society of American Fight Directors, Lecure, age 37, has been teaching punching, kicking, and hair-pulling -- no mention of biting, incidentally -- for the stage and screen since 1984. At UM his courses include a semester of unarmed combat and a semester of armed combat. The latter includes "rapier and dagger and broadsword," Lecure notes. You know, your basic Shakespearean weapons of choice. "That stuff really takes years to master."
Lecure describes the upcoming two-day workshop as much more of "a whirlwind tour." Generally, the classes attract a dozen or more attendees, "from professional actors to people who think it might just be fun," he says. "Although some people think, 'Oh, I want to be a stuntperson.' But I tell them up-front that I'm not a stuntperson. I don't jump off buildings and set myself on fire."
Instead he gives them what he terms "the prerequisite skills to protect themselves when they find themselves in a role that's got a lot of physical violence. I start them off with some of the basic things we do in terms of creating an illusion, because on-stage we create the illusion of violence." That usually means punching, which he breaks down into a four-part process. "Then we take the technique of the punch and work the acting into it. It's one thing to pull off the punch technically, but there are acting concerns as well." Of course.
"And after the punches, we talk about hair-pulls or some backhanded slaps or some chokes."