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  • Stage Combat Resource Materials: A Selected and Annotated Bibliography
  • Prairie Endres-Parnell
Stage Combat Resource Materials: A Selected and Annotated Bibliography. By Michael Kirkland. Bibliographies and Indexes in the Performing Arts, no. 29. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2006; pp. xv + 344. $94.95 cloth.

Fight Director Michael Kirkland has compiled a much-needed annotated bibliography, documenting the wide array of historical and contemporary critical texts, as well as praxis-oriented training manuals, articles, videos, and films, connected to the study and practice of stage combat. The study lists materials pertaining to the representation of stage combat from prehistory through the eighteenth century. This latter date marks the appearance of firearms in combat, which Kirkland believes requires an entirely separate study. The texts range in publication dates from the 1790s to current literature, allowing for comparisons of the archived material. Thus, while the study does not provide an all-encompassing overview of resources, it is nonetheless sure to find a welcoming audience of researchers and practitioners interested in the history and practice of stage combat.

Kirkland, who is a Society of American Fight Directors (SAFD) certified teacher, has found that stage-combat practitioners tend to rely heavily on works that are familiar, rather than exploring new resources. As such, one of his primary objectives is to provide a way for those who study and / or work in the area of stage combat to look beyond the handful of books utilized most often, such as Fight Directing for the Theatre by Allen Suddeth, Actors on Guard by Dale Girard, or Swashbuckling by Richard Lane. While these are certainly valuable texts, Kirkland contends that they represent only a small fraction of available resources—a contention borne out in the balance of the study.

The text consists of an introduction and five chapters. The introduction describes the study that follows as a "compilation and description of resources useful to the fight director in the creation of aesthetically pleasing and safe combat for the stage and screen" (xi). In addition to fight directors and choreographers, the text is intended to be used by weapons-makers, teachers, costumers, directors, actor-combatants, dramaturgs, and scholars. The introduction also includes a basic "how-to-use-this-book" section, with an explanation of the chapters and a sorting system for the historical periods detailed in the annotated bibliographies.

Chapter 1, "A Brief History of Arms, Armor, and Combat," details the periods of research covered. The historical narrative offers a sense of how weapon and armor development overlaps between eras, showing the need for a wider frame of reference in order to facilitate accurate representation in weaponry, costumes, armor, and physical combat. This compilation of resource materials is extremely beneficial because it provides any theatre practitioner with the ability to find and utilize the best texts and films for accurate representations.

Once Kirkland establishes a historical framework, the remainder of his study presents various resources organized by type of medium. To that end, chapters 2, 3, and 4 consist of annotated bibliographies for books, articles, and videos respectively. Chapter 2 contains 161 books, listed alphabetically by author, with a bibliographic entry, full table of contents, summary of the text, page length, and a suggestion from Kirkland about those who might find the book most helpful. In the conclusion to each entry, Kirkland offers a brief analysis of how the information might be best used. Chapters 3 and 4, documenting 51 articles and 16 instructional videos respectively, follow the same format.

In the conclusion (chapter 5), Kirkland advocates for a similar research text on firearms, citing as evidence the many unnecessary deaths due to firearm misuse in stage and screen combat. The final 70 pages of Kirkland's text [End Page 90] contain five extremely useful appendices. Appendix A is a glossary of combat, armor, and weaponry. Appendix B surveys selected feature films for researchers to "consult for information and inspiration" (283). Appendix C lists the addresses and telephone numbers of suppliers of weapons and accoutrements, as well as indicating the suppliers' various specialties. Appendix D details selected publishers, distributors, and periodicals as well as what to request from each publisher in order to receive the best information. The final...


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