The first two weeks of June are a much anticipate time at DePaul, as we come to the end of the year it is indeed time for FINALS. There is so much energy both mental and physical that goes into the preparation the of final papers, projects, exams, and more. Here at The Theatre School, we absolutely have tests and papers to complete, but here finals can come in many forms. For the performance classes, given the content of the curriculum, a written paper cannot be enough to show how to the work is applied. This is where final scenes and monologues come into play.
One class that all performance majors (and a few other theatre majors) take is Stage Combat. This is a class to learn the skills of fighting on stage. This includes hand-to-hand skills, like slaps, punches, kicks, and more. We learn Rapier and Dagger as well - yes, sword fighting is required here!
In your second year of the Acting program, you learn all of these techniques in a special class designed to help you learn how to apply all of these to scene work. The point is not to learn how to fake punch someone, or sword fight for fun. The point is to learn how to do these things when they are in service of telling the story in a play. We then know how to safely execute these things, so they look convincing to the audience, to tell the story, but keep all involved safe from actual harm. As an upperclassman, acting students may take Advanced Stage Combat class as an elective. This is to sharpen the skills already learned sophomore year, and to learn new techniques with different kinds of stage weapons.
At the end of the quarter of stage combat class, there is a final scene showing, where the students pick scenes from plays to including hand-to-hand or sword fighting. The goal is really the acting work, the necessary staged fights are not simply a duel for all to watch! The students are tested on the execution of their skills in class, and then have an evening showing that the school is invited to come and watch.
Last night I attended the final combat scene showing and had such a great time! The scenes ranged from silly to scary, featuring very convincing sword thrusts, face slaps, and gut kicks. It is always so fun to come together and celebrate the hard (and sweaty) work of the students as they show their skills in action. It has been over a year since I took that class, and watching the scenes I was wondering if I was getting a little rusty! Overall it is an interesting hour packed with creative, hard work from the students.
While this isn't a 10-page paper or written exam, it takes just as much hard work to learn, practice, and present. These may seem like unusual, cool, or easy finals compared to many other classes or programs, but they are skills that are just as valuable to our careers and our safety in our craft.