GVSU students fight during staged combat workshop

Logan McNeil

Strength and trust: two qualities superheroes teach and humans must learn. During a special week, these traits were illustrated by nine Grand Valley State University students and a professor.

From May 2 to May 7, a staged combat workshop occurred on GVSU’s Allendale Campus.

Michael Mueller, assistant professor of theater and Society of American Fight Directors certified teacher of stage combat, facilitated this staged nonviolence workshop with a group of students to help others develop and improve a variety of skills.

These skills included cooperative demonstrations of staged combat with multiple partners, being able to create the “illusion of physical violence” and the ability to perform clearly executed techniques.

Participants learned these skills throughout the week by using spatial awareness, breath and vocal production, concentration, focus, timing and counter-action.

For Mueller, staged combat is not only a career or hobby but a passion. As a high school athlete, he wanted to stay active and had already chose acting as a career path.

Mueller said staged nonviolence combat was the clear choice. Today, Mueller has been involved in staged combat for almost two decades. Mueller said staged combat helped him excel in his acting career, and many other ways.

“Stage Combat should be viewed as a vital component to the actor training process,” he said. “Not only for safety, but as a kinesthetic learning device used to explore the power of conflict and emotion.”

Nonviolence staged combat can be beneficial for theater and non-theater students, as well. Similar to Mueller, students interested in an active lifestyle can benefit from staged combat, as those who want to excel in the acting industry will find it to be a helpful tool.

“My goal is to inspire students to delve deeper into the possibilities,” Mueller said, “and variables of performance through practical application, peer analysis and evaluation, which is achieved through performance feedback and daily self-reflections.”

He said staged combat is not only used to enhance image on stage. When performers are presented with danger, this workshop is designed to help process carefully and to safely proceed through with action.

In addition, Mueller said staged combat has many difficult moves, but in the small amount of time the students excelled quickly. His favorite staged move comes from hearing the shock of the audience after a staged slap.

Mueller said all students passed the Society of American Fight Directors skills proficiency test. Three of the nine students were even recommended for their performance work, in regard to the various drills and choreographed practices.

Those interested in GVSU’s theater program can visit www.gvsu.edu/theatre for more information.