As I sat in rehearsal the other night watching my Fight Director choreograph a stomach punch, I realized that I was watching something deeper. This stomach punch is a contact attack where the actor actually strikes the other actor making a very affecting thwack. Naturally the actor receiving the blow was a little nervous - nobody wants to be hit. But what I was interested in watching was the actor who was to be delivering the blow.
This is a safe maneuver. Like all contact attacks in stage combat there is always the risk of a little stinging and a little bruising, but the Fight Director was doing an excellent job of taking it slow, instructing the fundamentals, and make it as safe as possible. And the actor doing the attack was no novice at stage combat: I have choreographed him in fights on at least two previous occasions. But this time, as I watched him, I saw that he simply did not want to hit the other person he was working with.
It was something that was deeply ingrained. I could almost hear his mothers words ringing in his ears: "don't hit anyone." The desire not to harm a fellow human being was admirable. I was then forced to think about all the violence that is done in this world and why nothing stops them from hurting others.
Granted there are so many other factors that I am glossing over, and I will fully admit to that. But to sit in a confined room and stage movement in a way where we seemed to be saying "go ahead, it's okay to strike your friend" just seemed to strike me in that moment as a bizarre practice to be engaged in.
Happy Birthday: Edmond Rostand (1868-1918)