The Highland Park High School theater department just got slapped in the face — literally. Whether it’s a dramatic tumble down the stairs in Julius Caesar or a punch to the gut in Grease, the HP Arts program has pulled out all the stops, replacing jazz squares with fiery stage combat.
HPHS fine arts director Linda Raya annually hires theater veteran Kent Williams to conduct a series of stage combat workshops for her theater students. Williams, show director for Dallas-based Le Theatre de Marionette, teaches students more than how to fall without bruising. He also helps students master hair pulls, head smashes, and kitten slaps.
“The techniques these students learn in three days are what I learned in two years of college,” said Williams. “I teach the students to work with brooms, trays, trash cans, and one group even used a rolling AV cart.”
Other than arousing “oohs” and “aahs” from the audience, Raya said the workshop is imperative “to teach kids safe fighting skills, such as learning how to fall.”
Students have been enthusiastic about the skills they have acquired from the clinic.
“It’s not as easy as hitting a C-sharp, or memorizing a dance,” said senior Margaret Hall. “Think of it as though it’s a passionate Spanish tango, but instead of a rose in mouth, it’s more of a sword in hand.”
The workshop, funded by the HP Arts Booster Club, has been “essential to creating a believable performance,” said senior Chase Jaminet. “We want to make this as real as possible.”
Although they might have you thinking otherwise, it’s safe to say that the HP drama students will not be breaking a leg on stage — at least not literally.