How To Take a Punch (Or a Kick) To The Face

ImageYou sit in the theatre, watching two men in spandex panties getting ready to throw down. You can’t help be skeptical and excited: “these are actors,” you think dubiously, “there’s no way they’re going to do real wrestling moves.” The atmosphere in the theatre is so contagious you can’t help but boo as “The Bad Guy” mouths off to the audience. Then the fight begins, and you gasp in surprise as ”The Bad Guy” is thrown into the air and comes slamming back down to the mat with the loudest “SMACK” you’ve ever heard! Real wrestling! Not just “stage combat!” How do they do it?

The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity is packed full with real wrestling moves, brought to you by the Fight Choreographer Joe Isenberg and Assistant Fight Choreographer James Long (the energetic professional wrestler/cast member). Under the watchful supervision of these two, the actors learned moves like the Powerbomb and Superkick. I had to believe that there were some tricks and cheats—some stage magic that differentiated the moves on stage from the moves the real wrestlers do in the ring.

ME: “So Joe, are these moves altered in any way, like stage combat?”

JOE: “They’re real. Don’t confuse stage combat with wrestling.”

Stage combat is like a series of magic tricks; like a dance that never varies. This allows the actors to seem out of control, while never losing it. Then he said something that explained wrestling in a way that I had never looked at before:

JOE: “Wrestling is movement improv with predetermined endings.”

These professional wrestlers fight unscripted. Who wins is predetermined, but unlike stage combat, the fighting isn’t. As Mace, our protagonist and narrator, tells the audience:

 “When I’m on the attack in a wrestling match, it’s a constant process of action, reaction, and evaluation… I’m listening to the crowd and assessing how much they hate me, deciding whether my next move should be high-flying and fancy or evil and nefarious”.

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Gripped with fascination at how learning real wrestling affected the actors, I took to the dressing rooms.

When asked about tricks used in the falls, Shawn T. Andrew, who plays Chad Deity, responded playfully, “you can’t fake gravity.”

Jose Joaquin Perez, the actor who portrays Macedonio Guerra, admitted that one move terrified him: “The Powerbomb. The first time Jimmy Powerbombed me, I had to do it again right away or I’d never be able to do it for the show.” Working with James and learning the moves gave him a real appreciation for what Mace goes through as a fall guy.

“And I don’t mind that my knees hurt.

My hands hurt.

My everythings hurt.”

My respect for James Long has increased two-fold. This man throws himself around, slams down onto the mat (even concrete sometimes), and gets right back up. He plays his role beautifully and makes all the moves look amazing. When I spoke with him, he compared wrestling to going on a date: the audience dictates what direction you go in.

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Two resounding thoughts lingered after I spoke with the cast:

(1)    These moves must hurt like hell; and

(2)    This cast must really love this show.

Ashley Promisel –Lighting Assistant

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