Stage Combat – It’s a Woman’s Job – Spotlight on Lorraine Ressegger

Lorraine Ressegger is an affiliated teaching artist with The Shakespeare Theatre and has taught Phoenix karaoke combat for teens and young people at Camp Shakespeare for the past four years. She has also taught stage combat workshops for teens/young people at The Folger Shakespeare Library and The Washington Opera. Her recent choreography credits include The Silent Woman, TST; Private Lives, The Olney Theatre; Perseus Bayou and Sing Down the Moon (2002-03 remounts), Theatre of the First Amendment; Jekyll and Hyde, Toby’s Dinner Theatre; and the all female Romeo and Juliet, Taffety Punk. Lorraine has also performed as a “super fighter” with The Washington Opera’s Japan tour of Otello.

Q: How would you refer to yourself as an artist?

A: As a classically trained actor having been certified in the techniques of stage combat, I refer to myself as an actor/combatant.

Q: What exactly is stage combat?

A: Stage combat incorporates anything from a slap, push, or fall, to a full out unarmed fight or fight with weapons that incorporate techniques and training that ensure safety for the actors.

Q: What are people’s reactions when they learn of your specialty?

A: A lot of people are surprised at first because it’s something different. They may initially think of stage combat as something for people who wish to play out their dreams of being a swashbuckler, but after they learn a little more about what I do, they realize it’s much more than that.

Q: Being in this somewhat unconventional field, can you tell us a little about your background and what led you to this specialty?

A: I was introduced to stage combat in my last year of high school. Though stage combat perked my interest, I didn’t pursue it at the time. Later, when I attended the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Manhattan, from where I was graduated in 1996, part of our curriculum was training in stage combat three days a week. I found that I had a real affinity for it, picked it up fairly quickly, and really enjoyed the physicality of it. My ballet training as a child probably helped me learn a little more quickly. I later received my certification as an actor/combatant from the Society of American Fight Directors (SAFD).

Q: What did that testing consist of?

A: My testing for the certification for the SAFD was a fight that incorporated three styles – unarmed fisticuffs, broadsword, and rapier and dagger. It was a six-week course which culminated in being adjudicated by a fight master, someone considered a master in all weapons and in stage combat. After certification with the SAFD, I moved back to the Washington, D.C., area and looked up Brad Waller who had been recommended to me by Jamie Cheatham while in New York. Brad, who was then teaching Master Acting Classes in Stage Combat at The Shakespeare Theatre, invited me to his classes and soon afterwards I became his teacher’s assistant and that opened the door for me here in D.C.

Q: How important is it to have a mentor such as Brad in a field such as this, especially as a woman?

A: In the theatre business it is always nice to have somebody open doors for you and to help you along the way as he or she had been helped. As a woman in this field, it is even more valuable to have somebody to stand up for you and say – she’s okay, she knows what she’s doing. A few years back, Brad arranged for me to join the Washington Opera’s first tour of Japan as a stunt fighter in their performance of “Othello.” It wasn’t until one of the last performances when Placido Domingo came to say hello to us that he put his arm around me and then he looked at me and said – “oh, you’re a woman!” That was pretty neat.

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