April 4, 2022

Stafford presents stage combat, accepts humanities award

"When fists and bodies start flying on stage at Brooks Theatre, there’s a certain choreography going on to make the viewing audience believe it’s all real."
By: Danny Barrett Jr.

Bam! Smack! Ka-pow!

When fists and bodies start flying on stage at Brooks Theatre, there’s a certain choreography going on to make the viewing audience believe it’s all real.

“Fighting is a part of everyday life and theater is an imitation of life,” Theatre and Drama Director Alison Stafford said. “So, quite frequently in plays and presentations, we have to simulate violence on stage.”

Stafford presented four of her drama students March 23 in Reeves 165 in a demonstration of stage combat methods as part of her being named the Hinds winner of the Mississippi Humanities Teacher of the Year Award for 2022.

Alison Stafford (bottom center) holds award for 2022 Humanities Teacher Award.

Convincing an audience that the fisticuffs they might see on stage between two characters is real involves multiple aspects – safety, speed, illusion and storytelling.

“The role of victim and attacker always flip-flop back and forth during a staged fight,” Stafford said. “The victim is always in control. The attacker is just along for the ride – making it look like they’re in control, but they’re not. And the characters in the fight go on a journey, just like during the regular course of a play.”

Keys to safety during staged fighting is to avoid using bony parts of the body, such as the knee, toe, elbow and the head. “We only give the illusion we’re using those things without actually using them.”

After the presentation, Stafford accepted an award from the Mississippi Humanities Council recognizing her humanities honor.

Stafford is Theatre and Drama Director and has worked at the college since 1999. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts from Louisiana State University and a Master of Fine Arts in Acting from the University of Mississippi. She teaches a number of theatre classes at Hinds and directs the Lendon Players, the college’s theatre group. She is also active in the theatre community, currently serving on the board of officers to revive the Clinton Brickstreet Players.