What’s In My Stage Combat Bag?

What's In My Stage Combat Bag?

As I do more and more stage combat work, I’ve found that it’s super useful to have a bag or kit with my stage combat supplies in it, so I can grab it and get to rehearsals! As an independent artist with a lot of commitments on my plate (directing, teaching, writing and blogging, stage combat, just to name a few!), I don’t have time to be searching around for my supplies. This way I have everything I need, all in one handy place.

This is definitely not all my stage combat items (can’t fit swords in this bag, LOL!) but it has the basics that I use the most often. Let’s see what’s inside, shall we?

The bag itself is a Zip-Top Organizing Utility Tote from Thirty-One Gifts (I promise that this post is not sponsored – yes I have a lot of Thirty-One products but I purchased them all myself because they’re functional AND pretty!). There are lots of pockets on the outside that I can toss my keys, phone, snacks or water bottle into, and not have to dig through the bag to find them quickly. I got the crossed arrows embroidered on the bag so I know it’s my stage combat bag, but it doesn’t scream to the world “I AM CARRYING A WHOLE BUNCH OF WEAPONS IN HERE.” I can also repurpose the bag later, should I need it for something else. If you look closely, you’ll see I have a Mjölnir (aka Thor’s hammer) keychain on the zipper.

In the bag itself are the following items:

  • A first aid kit (more details below)
  • A camouflage print Zipper Pouch for training knives
  • A dotted print Zipper Pouch for prop guns (bullet holes, get it?)
  • Two bandanas (for tying up hair, as a makeshift holster, to wipe up sweat, cleaning rags, or to use as a sling)
  • Extra socks (for sweaty feet)
  • Two sets of thick shoelaces in black and brown (I have used these to tie weapons to belts, as an emergency corset tie, to hold a pad on a wound, and as a shoelace. Go figure.)
  • An iPod (for filming/photographing choreography and for music for warm-ups)
  • A box of business cards
  • Two sets of bracers (leather wristbands) in black and brown, made for me by my mom’s friend, as well as some stage combat patches that will get sewn on my bag soon
  • Two scripts – Juvie (the last show I choreographed) and A Permanent Image (a show I’m working on in the fall)
  • A large notebook (for writing notes/choreography)

Let’s get into more details about the pouches in the bag. Here’s a closer look at what’s in my first aid pouch (from Weezi in London):

First Aid Pouch

  • Safety pins (easily accessed on the zipper)
  • A safe CPR kit
  • Lots of bandages
  • A battery operated book light (for someone who has been through multiple power outages during shows, I always like to have an extra little light source available)
  • Feminine supplies and wipes
  • BioFreeze (for sore muscles)
  • Facial tissues
  • Tweezers
  • Pens (two blue, one red)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Halls throat lozenges
  • Moleskin pads

This is a simple, homemade first aid kit, so clearly it doesn’t have EVERYTHING, but in a pinch, it’s useful! (And so far [knock on wood] I haven’t had to use it.)

Let’s take a peek into my gun pouch.

I have an assortment of prop guns, varying from nice metal replicas to crappy plastic dollar store cheapos. They all fit in the dotted pouch nicely. Since I work with youth a lot, I keep the orange tips visible on the guns, unless the director requests something more realistic looking. In that case, I have a little kit at home with different paints and markers that I can use to touch up the guns. (That might be another post for the future!) You can get in a lot of trouble for possessing weapons in public (even if they are fake) so that’s another reason why I keep the orange tips visible for as long as possible.

Here’s the contents of my knife pouch:

Knife Pouch

I currently have six Cold Steel trainers, which every actor I’ve ever worked with absolutely loves. I got these ones from Reliks. Before I got the trainers, I used cheap rubber daggers from McCulloch’s, which are still decent for the price ($4 each – you get what you pay for, so I reinforce them with Gorilla Tape), and I use them a lot with my younger or more inexperienced actors. However, the Cold Steel ones are everyone’s favourite, and they frequently got fought over so I’ve been slowly building up my collection.

I also currently have an oversized prop razor from The Conchologist in there. I haven’t used it since but it’s good to have and I’m sure I’ll get some use out of it in the future – maybe I’ll get to work on a production of Sweeney Todd or something.

Even with all those items in the bag, I still have space for a pair of sneakers and a change of clothes, as well as a water bottle and deodorant. I can also easily remove a pouch if I don’t need those specific weapons at the moment.

I have a few more items to add to my bag. I want to get a tensor bandage for the first aid kit, some small scissors, some hair ties, and a folder with printouts from Shrew’d Business (they are SO useful). I’m also going to have some resumes on hand, just in case.

While this isn’t every piece of stage combat equipment I have (believe me, my collection is growing quickly!), these are my most-used items, and I’ve found it so handy to have this kit available to grab and go. It makes me feel much more professional too. 😉

Do you have a stage combat bag? What do you keep in yours?
Do you have suggestions for what I should add to mine?
Share your tips with me on FacebookTwitter, or in the comments below!

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Tiny Theatre Tips #9: Make The Time

Tiny Theatre Tips #9: Make The Time

Tiny Theatre Tips #9: Make The Time

This tip is not only for theatre people, but for everyone in general…

If you want to be successful, you will put in the time to get there.

If you want to improve, you will make the time to practice.

If you want to master a skill, you will put in the hours necessary to master it.

It doesn’t matter what discipline you’re in. Acting, stage combat, dance, singing, writing, sports, knitting, cooking, makeup artistry, sketching, programming, photography, sewing… anything. Insert your “thing” of choice!

If you want it badly enough, you will make the time to make it happen.

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Tiny Theatre Tips #8: Update Your Resume

Tiny Theatre Tips #8: Update Your Resume

Tiny Theatre Tips #8: Update Your Resume

This is a really simple tip, but it’s easy to forget — keep your resume updated. Every time you complete a new gig, take a new class, or master a new skill, be sure to include it on your resume. When you go to an audition or job interview, be sure to bring along a few fresh copies, just in case. You may have already submitted it online, but it’s nice to have a paper copy as well that the team can refer to in the moment.

If, like many theatre people, you do both backstage and onstage work, it’s a good idea to have different resumes for different situations. For example, I have a resume formatted to focus on acting, one for directing, one for stage combat, one for teaching, and one for writing! It might seem a bit excessive but it’s so much easier than having to re-format my resume every time I need to send it out.

Do you have an online presence as well? It’s imperative nowadays to, at the very least, have your own dot com! My friends Jared, Ben, Nathan and Amelia all have awesome websites. And of course, you’re here, so you know I’ve got mine! Think of it as your own online resume. Add a photo and/or video gallery and of course a contact page, and you’re on your way!

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Tiny Theatre Tips #7: Practice, Practice, Practice

Tiny Theatre Tips #7: Practice, Practice, Practice

There’s an old joke in the theatre world that goes, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.” You may not be trying to get to Carnegie Hall, but no matter what, if you’re an actor-type, you need to practice… and not just during rehearsals.

If you want to succeed at acting, you need to practice on your own time, every day. You can’t just show up to rehearsal and expect to perform at your best. You need to review your lines, your vocal parts, your choreography, your character work — and as often as possible — on your own.

There’s never enough time in rehearsals to get absolutely everything perfected as much as a director would want to, and if you aren’t practicing outside of rehearsal, then your precious rehearsal time is going to be spent re-learning and reviewing stuff you should already know. You can’t move forward and go deep into your character and just generally improve as an actor and performer if you aren’t working and reviewing your stuff frequently. Worse, you’ll be outshone by those people who ARE working hard outside of rehearsal, and you’ll be viewed as a lazy actor who just phones their performances in. You might be a good actor, but don’t just settle for good. Work towards being great.

Focus. Put the work in. Practice, practice, practice.

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5 Tips To Help Learn Names Quickly

5 Tips To Help Learn Names Quickly

As a director and teacher, one of my first priorities at the beginning of a new session or rehearsal process is to learn everyone’s names as quickly as possible. It makes young actors feel important and that they are a vital part of the team. Here are some tips that I use all the time to help me learn my actors’ names as fast as I can!

1. Take photos at auditions.

At auditions, either ask your actors to submit a photo of themselves, or even better, take photos of each actor holding up a card with their name written on it, police-lineup style. That way you can start putting names to faces.

2. Once your cast is set, study the cast list to familiarize yourself with the names themselves.

If you go into rehearsals knowing that you have, say, Jessica, Kyle, Mary and Stuart, it is less intimidating that trying to remember every name in existence. Granted, most casts have more actors than that, but even learning 30 names is less stressful than trying to recall hundreds of names.

3. At the first rehearsal, have actors introduce themselves, and then you repeat the names out loud.

Muscle memory! At your first rehearsal, have your actors sit in a circle and introduce themselves. Just a simple, “Hi, I’m Amanda,” is all that’s needed. Then you (the teacher/director) will repeat the name out loud to stick it into your brain. After a few people say their names, go back and repeat the names out loud, and then continue around the circle, going back every few actors and repeating the names. For a challenge, after everyone has introduced themselves, go back and try to say all the names in a row. For an even bigger challenge, close your eyes and have your actors change spots in the circle, and then go back and try to identify them again! Like learning lines, repetition is so helpful for memorization.

4. Repeat and use their names.

When answering questions or asking for thoughts, be sure to practice calling on people by name. If you forget their name, get them to say it out loud again before answering, and you repeat it. You could also have them say their name out loud before they answer during the first few classes/rehearsals.

5. Play name games.

Try the ABC Name Game or the Action Name Game, found on this page, or the Silent Line-Up Game, as follows: start by having actors line themselves up across the room WITHOUT SPEAKING from shortest to tallest. See if they can do it in 30 seconds or less. Then, have them repeat the exercise, only this time they must line themselves up in alphabetical order according to first name, again WITHOUT SPEAKING. Once everyone is in place, have each person say their name out loud to check and see if everyone is in the correct spot! Keep a tally between each class you’re teaching or show you’ve directed and see which group is the fastest!

If you forget someone’s name or feel embarrassed for mixing people up, ask the group to be gentle with you, and remind the group that there are ____ of them and only one of you and you’re trying your best! It happens to everyone. You will get there!

What are your best tips for learning names quickly?
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