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Shirtless men swordfighting in neighborhood not criminals: part of Fringe show

Two Fringe festival actors discuss the art of stage combat.

Courtesy of Stubble

Jon Bigelow (pictured, right) and Skot Rieffer (pictured, left) are performing in the Six Elements Fringe show Lancelot and Guenever at the Music Box Theatre.

Stubble: What gang are you guys with?
Jon: We’re actually rehearsing for a fringe show called Launcelot and Guenever.  It’s a commissioned piece written by Phillip Bennet Low. How many swords fights are there?
Skot: Six… or seven?
Jon: There are six or seven sword fights in the show, so it’s pretty stage combat heavy, but it also has a great story.
Skot: It’s the story of Lancelot and Guenever and their falling in love, and honestly it doesn’t have a much of a happy ending.

Stubble: Must not be that happy of a story with half a dozen sword fights.
Jon: I suppose that’s probably true.

Stubble: What characters do you two play?
Jon: I play Mordrid the evil, conniving, illegitimate son of King Arthur
Skot: I play Patrice and his brother Mordred who are Scottish knights, but who don’t have Scottish accents. I’m as good as it gets without causing too many problems. Without giving it away, brother dies and I come back to avenge myself as my brother and cause problems. You’ll have to see the show, it’ll be fun.

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Stubble: How often do you guys do this, practice shirtless in a nice, respectable neighborhood?
Skot: I practice shirtless quite frequently because I sweat like a pig.
Jon: Really the only reason why we’re out here is that the ceiling in this church’s basement is really low, so we don’t have much space to swing.
Skot: We used to practice in the gymnasium before this.
Jon: The heat too is pretty bad in the basement, which is a big factor. We haven’t had the cops called on us yet, so that’s good.

Stubble: Where did you pick up sword fighting?
Jon: I took a class at the University of Minnesota with Peter Moore and then Mike Lubke started a show called Human Combat Chess for his senior project so for the past three years we’ve done it in the Baptist church in Dinkytown, and that’s been really fun. Through that, people learn stage combat.
Skot: Combat’s always a great thing to add to your repertoire of theater goodness.

Stubble: What about sword fighting is interesting to you guys?
Jon: I’ve always been fascinated by swords myself, like during the middle ages when people would walk around with their town swords and spar.
Skot: I’m very much the same. I’ve done some blacksmithing, so the craft of the sword construction is also really fascinating for me. Once you get into it with someone like Lubke, it’s so much more fascinating to learn how to emote with a sword as an actor. I’ve studied Shakespeare where you learn to emote with your voice and your actions, walking around the stage in a particular way it denotes this thing, but when you add the sword as an instrument it really changes everything.
Jon: Another awesome part about working with Mike Lubke is that you don’t learn your basic back-and-forth, just crossing swords — you’re actually trying to kill the other character in a more realistic way.
Skot: Kill them safely! These swords are blunted, but they are actually a lot heavier than they would be because they’re built to hit a sword many hundreds of times without breaking.
Jon: RIght. In an authentic sword combat, you usually size up the opponent, make a couple of hits and that’s just about it. The really lengthy fights you see in movies usually aren’t 100 percent accurate.

Stubble: If you two were to sword fight, who would win?
Skot: If it were my strength versus his strength, no offense, I would win.
Jon: No offense taken. You definitely would.
Skot: But in this situation, I’m using this damn broadsword and he’s using a heavy rapier and dagger, so there are many points where he could pretty easily kill me.
Jon: Just a quick little flick of the wrist, and he’d be done. The weapon combination has a lot to do with it. Long sword versus long sword, I’d probably be doomed.

This post was written by Tom Johnson and originally published on Stubble. Follow Stubble on Twitter: @stubblemag.

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