Eureka College hosts Stage Combat Workshop

Brandon Hovey
President Chuck Coyl and John Tovar, instructor, provide instruction.

Eureka College’s Pritchard Theatre became a battleground as actors swung staffs and swords at the 8th annual Central Illinois Stage Combat Workshop sponsored by the Society of American Fight Directors.

Holly Rocke began the workshop at Eureka College in 2004, to give her students “experience with stage combat,” she said.

The workshop allows actors to hone their skills with weapons for the stage.

From May 16-June 3, the participants tested to become actor-combatants proficient in the small sword, broadsword, quarterstaff, and knife at the conclusion of the workshop.

The president of the SAFD, Chuck Coyl, was present to assess the candidates’ performances with their weapons.

Coyl has been active with SAFD for 30 years. This is his third term as the organization’s president.

He is also an adjunct professor at Roosevelt University in Chicago. Coyl argues that his organization provides professional standards and a voice for fight directors and actor combatants.

If the participants pass their test before a panel of four judges, they are awarded a skill proficiency ranging from merely “pass,” to AA.

One participant: Jay Spring, 20 of Dallas, received his AA proficiency in small sword at the workshop.  

Spring has been involved with the SAFD since January of 2010.

He said he enjoys the organization immensely as “it is a tight-knit” big family, he said.

Spring said that training with SAFD provides considerable professional development. Eventually, he would like to become a theatre fight master. SAFD provides him the avenue to reach his professional goal.

Coyl said that he wants audiences to understand that what looks effortless on screen or on stage takes a hundred or more “hours of practice.”