Last week, we chatted with actors Mariah Ghant and Eric Mills about the challenges of performing on stairs at Rodney Square. This week, our chat with fight choreographer Steve Wei picked up right where Mariah and Eric left off.
Q: As a fight choreographer whose job is to keep things safe, what do you have to be aware of staging action on stone stairs?
STEVE WEI: Like so much of what I do, it’s all about angles. Except now we have to deal with angles and the way gravity interacts with them. It’s nice because the stairs are so evenly made here. Which is a huge boon if we can get the right spacing of the moves, we can physically tie things together and time them. It’s realizing that there are certain angles you don’t want to go on or you going to take a tumble. It’s easy to predict these things if your job is to be aware of it. If you are an actor, your job is to connect to your partner and commit to running up and shaking them like a leaf. And my job is to put them on the right track to do that.
Q: What tactics do you use to help actors be aware of what they are physically doing on a staircase?
SW: It’s a matter of checking in – how do my knees feel about this body shape I am making in this unusual space? And constantly, as you build up the choreography, that’s really where we do most of this work – checking in with ourselves as we are building it. Because once you get into performances, it’s like okay, I go along this track. We’ve made this track safe. Does it feel like I’m still on the right track?
Q: When an actor is implementing the choreography, should they being feeling adrenaline? What should be going on in their minds?
SW: I hope they are feeling some adrenaline, because that means they are in it. They are staying committed. Big secret to fight choreo: it’s a lot of acting work. We teach some magic tricks, and the rest is really acting. When it comes to performing it, it’s really just asking: am I on the right track? Does this feel like it has every other night? That’s what we want, as fight choreographers, is to set up a base situation where we can do this over and over again. And I’m not taking a tumble down the stairs that prevents me from doing it the next day. If things feel normal, it’s great to have the energy. You don’t want to have too much. It’s just needs to feel normal.