EXCERPTS FROM THE PLAY GUIDE
An interview with Lewis Shaw, Everyman's Resident Fight Choreographer from the play guide for Noises Off.
Where are you from originally and when did you first develop an interest in theatre?
Originally I'm from central Pennsylvania. I first got interested in the theatre during middle school. Like so many theatre people, it seemed like a refuge for the strange.
When and why did you decide to pursue theatre professionally? How has your background shaped your career path?
I pursued theatre as an actor and technician through high school and then majored in Acting and Comparative Religion at the University of Maryland College Park. I acted in as much Shakespeare as I could and it was inevitable that I started doing fight scenes. That's when I decided to pursue acting and fights.
Define the Fight Choreographer's responsibilities or the scope of their work in relation to bringing a story to life onstage.
My responsibilities are to interpret the characters violent intentions within the given circumstances of the script and develop a style in conjunction with the director. I then have to bring that to life safely with the actors in a way that is understandable and viscerally interesting to the audience in a repeatable way.
How do you find work as a Fight Choreographer? What other types of work outside of theatre do you do?
I don't travel much, so I generally rely on word of mouth for work as a Fight Director. In addition, I am a certified teacher with The Society of American Fight Directors (SAFD.org) and teach regular classes in stage combat. I also make swords and special effect props for theatre, opera, TV and film. You could see these on such shows as Daredevil and Iron Fist on Netflix. I am the Resident Fight Choreographer at Everyman Theatre, so, if they need assistance in the fight department, I’m their man!
What skills are necessary to being a stage combat expert?
Dance, fencing, dramaturgy, martial arts, history, acting theory and directing, to name a few.
How do you connect to Noises Off? How does movement and combat influence this piece in particular?
Oddly enough, I was a Noises Off virgin before this production. I find the fast pace and precision of action to be particularly appealing. At least a third of Noises Off revolves around slapstick and lazzi so we constantly refer to the classic styles of physical comedy. We are lucky to have a gifted company of actors who will try anything.
What is the Fight Choreographer's relationship to the Director? What other relationships are critical to your work?
I always have to work closely with any director, but in this case I've been in every rehearsal to work on the physical storytelling techniques. I always enjoy any production I do with Vinny, but this one has been a particularly challenging delight. The entire design staff has to work in close collaboration to get a show like this on stage.
What piece of work are you most proud of? What is a play you would love to fight choreograph for?
You might as well ask which of my children are my favorite. Love them all for different reasons! The play I want to do most is always the next play I'm going to do.
What advice might you give someone interested in pursuing the professional of fight director career path?
Get a well-rounded education.