With “Zorro” and “Henry V,” Kaleba has been working simultaneously with stylistically and thematically opposed productions. One is fun and action-packed; the other is a darker look at the human cost of war. The conflicting moods are reflected in subtle body language.
“On ‘Zorro,’ it’s a lot of chest, a lot of proud chest. It’s magnificent, you know, how do you stand in the most elegant way, the most classically gentleman way?” Kaleba explained. “And on ‘Henry V,’ it’s hips. It’s low and it’s heavy, and it’s armor and impact.”
And where there’s violence, there will probably be scripted injuries — and worse. Both directors remarked on Kaleba’s understanding of anatomy and physiology, and “what would or wouldn’t happen with a weapon, whether it’s a broadsword or a machine gun,” Richmond said. The fight director also choreographs believable deaths.
“Every single Desdemona I have ever worked with has wanted to know what happens when they get smothered,” Kaleba said of “Othello.” “Almost every single Mercutio I’ve ever worked with — and I’ve done 20-odd productions of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ — wants to know what wound is ‘not so deep as a well nor so wide as a church-door, but ‘tis enough, ‘twill serve.’ So it really helps their process to have an answer for them.”
Kaleba may be a virtuoso of violence, but Holdridge credits his smiling demeanor for putting actors and directors at ease. There’s a sunny disposition behind all that bloodshed.
“Violence is scary; we are taught not to be violent. It’s almost like, for an actor to slap someone else, to actually do any hand-to-hand physical combat, they have to feel really comfortable with their ability not to cause violence,” she said. “One of the great things Casey has — he’s so fun. He makes it okay for the actor to do things they wouldn’t normally do.”
As the actors become more relaxed with the moves, they can commit more fully, which in turn captivates the audience. Kaleba’s holistic approach to each punch and stab works toward snapping spectators out of their lull.
“One of my first rules as a fight director and as an artist, especially working with violence, is that I don’t want an audience to be bored,” Kaleba said. “Morally and philosophically, I just have a problem with an audience being bored by violence. It can make us excited, it can make us gasp, it can make us upset, it can make us hurt, it can make us cry, it can make us laugh, it can do lots of things. But it should never bore us.”
runs from Tuesday to March 3 at the Folger Theatre, 201 East Capitol St. SE. For more information, call 202-544–7077 or visit their Web site. Ticket prices range from $30 to $68.
runs through Feb. 17 at the Source Theatre, 1835 14th St. NW. For information, call 202-204-7741 or visit their Web site. Ticket prices range from $35 to $45.