2014-2015 Season,  The Count of Monte Cristo

Ready to Fight

By Holly Mancuso, Dramaturg

Ted Sharon, a professor at SUNY Fredonia, is the guest fight director for Monte Cristo
Ted Sharon, a professor at SUNY Fredonia, is the guest fight director for Monte Cristo

Meet Ted Sharon. Although he currently lives and teaches in upstate New York, Ted has been enlisted by director Tim Threlfall to act as the fight choreographer for this, the American premiere of The Count of Monte Cristo. He was here initially in October to design the fight sequences in the show, and last week Ted was able to make another visit to update and rework aspects of the show. I was able to sit down and talk with him during a quick rehearsal break.

Holly Mancuso: How did you get into fight choreography? 

Ted Sharon: “When I was here at BYU I was two inches from leaving theatre, and I prayed quite a bit about the direction I should go, and felt very strongly about voice movement and stage combat. I was able to get training at the University of Nevada Las Vegas with the Society of American Fight Directors during the summers, and then subsequently hire people to private train me…Over the years I started to pick up gigs on my own, and then eventually became a certified teacher with the Society of American Fight Directors.”

HM: How did you get involved with Monte Cristo

TS: “I had seen One Good Man, which stars Tim Threlfall, and I was on an airplane and recognized him from the movie, and was seated next to him… I leaned over and said, “Nice job on the film”. We got to talking and he mentioned that there might be a project about a year and half down the road that he was doing and if I was interested. I said, “Sure, whatever”, and forgot all about it. Then I got an e-mail from him this summer asking if I would be involved, which has led to some wonderful things here at BYU. It’s good to come home.”

HM: How do you work with actors?

TS: “When I choreograph I’ll come in and give they actors some initial training. When the choreography session starts, I like to ask what they want to do, what they feel the next moves are. I’ve found over the years that that makes the choreography go a lot quicker. They memorize it five times as fast and they perform it ten times as well as if I were insisting them doing something from my body.”

HM: How do you keep people safe during the fights?

“There are safety plugs, at least two if not three, put into every single sequence. Every single move is monitored and filtered for safety…This ensemble moved really fast learning the important techniques that would keep them safe and at the same time make each other look fantastic while they’re fighting.”

Devin is the Fight Captain for this show
Devin is the Fight Captain for this show

I was also able to speak with Devin Neilson, the student fight captain. He is also a male ensemble member and understudy for Albert.

Holly Mancuso: What does it mean to be a fight captain?

Devin Neilson: “I’ve never been fight captain before…I’ve done a little bit of fencing…I’ve had to try and remember everybody’s choreography for the fight so that I can help them if they ask me a question. A lot of it has just been safety-safety issues with the swords. Trying to make sure that nobody is getting hurt. We’ve had a couple of incidents, but we’ve been ok! The other one was cleaning and making sure the things that Ted had brought to the table remain the same as we kept going through the fights. Organizing fight calls has been a challenge with busy students, but so far it’s been going well.”

Additionally, Devin discussed some of the new vocabulary and sword work techniques the cast is learning. For example, did you know that a parry is when someone strikes you and you block it? Or that there are seven different ways to move a sword, which you change by how you hold the sword or move your wrist. Or that a ‘nap’ is the clapping sound made when someone gets hit to help it have more of an affect? “Timing it, that’s hard”, Devin admitted.

Thanks to Ted and Devin for all your help! Be sure to get your tickets today for The Count of Monte Cristo, running from January 22-January 31, 2015!

One Comment

  • Kelsey Canizales

    This is amazing! I am surprised that even a university level production would use real swords for the actors to fight with! The Count of Monte Cristo certainly needs its fight scenes, so this would have been incredible to see. Ted mentions that they had safety “plugs” for the actors, but what exactly were those? Were they padding under costumes or last minute flicks of the blade before a strike? I would love to know. I was also surprised to learn that fight choreography is a separate study from general choreography; I thought that general choreographers would be knowledgeable enough to put a fight scene together.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.