“We deal with some public,” he says. “But we don’t deal with the public unless they already know where we are.”
Stagmer’s been in the weaponry trade for over 30 years. He and his older brother, Emory, who is no longer with the business, founded Baltimore Knife and Sword (then named S.N.S. Arms and Armor) in 1983. They were vendors at the Maryland Renaissance Festival until 2001. Since then, alongside his younger brother Matthew, Stagmer have been selling wholesale through a dozen vendors to 75 renaissance festivals across the country and creating custom weaponry for theaters, Disney, video game manufacturer Ubisoft and other clients.
Baltimore Knife and Sword cranks out more than 1,000 weapons a year. Stagmer estimates they’re one of only four distributors in the country operating on that scale. He was the only swordmaker Casey Kaleba called when Kaleba found out he’d be fight-directing Folger Theatre’s “Romeo and Juliet.”
Kaleba has done “Romeo and Juliet” more than 30 times. This isn’t director Aaron Posner’s first time at the Romeo rodeo, either, and Posner suspects he’s been to 10 productions of the most tragic edition of “Family Feud” ever made.
Both Kaleba and Posner wanted to do something with the fight scenes that no one had seen before, and Posner had an additional request: “I knew I wanted it to feel dangerous. . . . There’s a reason that young people like carrying weapons, and it’s image and energy and power.”
“I feel like a lot of fights look fake,” he said. “Because people are so worried about safety, they look safe.”
Kaleba woke up in the middle of the night with a solution: Why have one sword when you could have two?
“I called Kerry up the next day and said, ‘Is this a thing that can even be done?’ ” says Kaleba, standing next to Stagmer outside Knife and Sword. “And then magic happened.” The two-sword method, which Kaleba says the actors have likened to “dueling Cuisinarts,” allows the cast “to explore, on a much smaller stage, shape and rhythm and syncopation in a way that we wouldn’t be able to do with a larger blade.”
Stagmer had “less than a week” to meet Kaleba’s request. “And that’s probably generous.”
“Six blades, three pairs, were custom built for this show,” Kaleba says.
“To give you a perspective, our custom work can typically [take] one to two years,” Stagmer says. You’d think the guy who makes weapons for a living would be the one in control of the transaction, but Stagmer’s is a service industry. “You become at the beck and call of the customer,” he said. “And the higher the profile of the customer, the more demanding they are.” He holds up some of the custom daggers that Knife and Sword is making for Disney’s Broadway production of “Aladdin.” The daggers have to be ready for the pre-Broadway engagement in Toronto next month, Stagmer says. “I’ve been getting five calls a day from Disney.”