Culture

Theater: ‘She Kills Monsters’ fights for attention


Fatima Mejia as Tilly, left, and Gwyneth Forrester as Agnes dive into an imaginary role-playing world filled with homicidal fairies, nasty ogres, evil cheerleaders, and warrior maidens in Foothill Theatre Arts’ “She Kills Monsters,” performing through Nov. 18, 2018, at Lohman Theatre. (Photo by David Allen / Foothill Theatre)

Carla Pantoja, who was born and raised in Santa Clara and still lives there, took a summer session in stage combat at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, “and I LOVED it,” she said during a recent phone interview.

She continued training for it when she returned to the states.

“It’s definitely a field dominated by men,” she said. “I remember some fight teachers asking us at the time, ‘What are you doing at this fight class? What do you want from it?’ I said, ‘I know I will probably never use this, but I love it.’ “I kind of fell into it. Because I know how to fight, opportunities kind of opened up. I played a role in ‘Corilanus’ at Woman’s Will, fought, continued on, and an opportunity to be a fight director came up.”

Since then, Pantoja has been an actor and a fight director all over the greater Bay Area, and also teaches stage combat at many schools and colleges. She was certified as a stage combat instructor by Dueling Arts International.

These days, she’s been having fun teaching the actors for “She Kills Monsters” for Foothill Theatre.

“‘She Kills Monsters’ is almost all women,’ she said. “It’s pretty amazing. The exciting thing about ‘She Kills Monsters’ is that most of these fights are with female fighters, and they are fighting with weapons.

“The majority of contemporary plays that have violence tend to be focused on violence against women. This show is probably every fight director’s dream. I have a feeling this will go into something I will touch again as it comes along. Many times.”

Also exciting about “She Kills Monsters” are the weapons the cast — dedicated players of “Dungeons & Dragons” — get to wield.

“All these weapons from ‘Dungeons & Dragons!’” Pantoja said. “The theatricality of working with a battle axe that is a kind of halberd. They are metal weapons, stage-worthy weapons, designed to take a beating. There are quarter-staff fights, a big battle axe, broadswords, a short sword, a buckler — a kind of small shield.”

Pantoja said she was not into martial arts before learning about stage combat.

“It’s a different mentality,” she said. “In sparring (like in martial arts), the intention is to get the other person. In stage, you work with your stage partner to tell the story. You are letting your partner attack pre-determined parts of your body, and vice versa.”

Pantoja is firm about the need for theater companies to hire fight directors.

“I tell them, you don’t have the money to hire a stage director, but do you have the money to pay the liability? There was a theater company in San Francisco, they were doing an arm lock on an actor — an art director …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment

      

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