‘Romeo & Juliet’ Fight Choreographer Discusses The Art Of The Fight

Alex Martinez Wallace

Alex Martinez Wallace

NOLA Project company member Alex Wallace wears a lot of hats. In addition to playing the lead male role in our upcoming production of “Romeo & Juliet,” he’s also the fight choreographer. As stage combat is a longtime passion of his, Wallace has always been the company’s go-to guy when it comes to staging a fight. I recently asked him to pen some of his thoughts about his love for a good ole’ fashion slugfest and what it’s like working on a play where the fights often steal the show. At the bottom of this post you can see sketches he made as blueprints for one of the fights from “Romeo & Juliet.” Here’s what he had to say…

If I take a moment to sit and think about the first choreographed fights I ever designed, I am brought back to the age of six. During sleepovers I would create epic battles between me and my cousins. Pillows were boulders and blankets were electric nets and these fights were ABYSMAL. Because at that age nobody wants to lose — especially my youngest cousin, Taylor, who would throw the most astonishing tantrums for the paltriest of reasons.  And so the fights would mostly end with Taylor being allowed to decimate us. Prior to this moment, however, our acting was in earnest and everything was thrilling. But we knew that sooner or later the youngest would have to win or we would never be able to move on to a snack of cheese and soda and other vile vittles wee ones cram down their horrible screaming gobs. What was at one point an epic performance of heroic escapes and valiant cliffhangers devolved into us accepting the inevitable as Taylor bashed us up and down with the largest pillow as we COMPLETELY UNENTHUSIASTICALLY and in monotone voices, cry out “Oh you’re winning you’re winning. Oh, this is us dead now. Oh you beat us; good job Tay-LOR.” We perhaps revealed our resentment of the situation with the final syllable in her name. “You won again Tay-LOR.”  Of course if I could go back in time and re-choreograph these fights, I would encourage us to lose the fight with courage and valor and, in doing so, we would make an EPIC story of heroism! And we would feel like the REAL winners in the end!  That’s what I would do if I had a time machine. I would go back in time and re -choreograph our blanket fights.

The best fights, in my opinion, tell great stories. I feel the same way about all types of art — music, theatre, painting, dancing, etc. If there is an arc and a struggle, I’m sold and you have my invested emotion. I have always been thrilled by the idea of physical combat — especially if there’s an underdog and a valiant attempt at victory. I watch a lot of boxing and mixed martial arts in anticipation of these epic moments. They sadly come rarely in reality. Instead of an arc, what mostly occurs is a downward slope.  It starts off with the potential to go in any direction, but usually one combatant winds up being more skilled or naturally talented, and you end up feeling awkward as the fight regresses into a cautionary tale as opposed to an epic struggle. But ONCE IN A WHILE – an epic battle DOES occur!

Take for instance the EPIC BATTLE of Fedor Emelianenko vs Hong Man Choi. At first glance you might believe that what you were about to witness was an execution.  Fedor was outweighed by 130lbs and out heighted by a foot and a half.

Fedor Emelianenko vs Hong Man Choi

Fedor Emelianenko vs Hong Man Choi

Was this madness? No my friends, it was Sparta. Fedor fought with the grace and delicacy of an artist. A battle like this is how legends come into existence. With a bravery that most will only dream of, Fedor dove headfirst into the oak of a man and chipped him away until he fell.

These are the kinds of fights I like to create on stage — giant characters with giant perspectives telling giant stories. In “Romeo and Juliet,” you might remember… there aren’t any giants, so you won’t be seeing the above scene in THIS particular production. Not to worry though, because there are men with giant opinions possessing giant amounts of skill with a sword.  I have tried to create fights that are more than just a few foil exchanges followed by the finishing thrust — I have tried to tell small stories. In planning these, I found it helpful to create storyboards so to better visualize what I wanted the final performance to look like. By the end of all things, I had over 20 pages of fights drawn out. The ones in this blog post are from the opening fight of the show, where we first witness the two families clashing on city streets.  I hope when you see the R&J yourself, you will be able to appreciate the small stories inside the giant story that I did my best to write with rapier!

Alex Martinez Wallace holds two Examiner’s Awards for Excellence from the Society of American Fight Directors (Rapier and Dagger and Unarmed Combat) and has worked professionally as a fight choreographer in NYC and New Orleans.

Fight Storyboard 1

Fight Storyboard 2

Fight Storyboard 3

Post by Richard Alexander Pomes
Marketing & Publicity

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James Bartelle Talks about ‘Romeo & Juliet’

We recently sat down and chatted with James Bartelle, the director of our next production, ‘Romeo & Juliet.’ Read on to see what he has to say about our spin on this epic classic!

Q: What is The NOLA Project doing next?

JB: Another exciting Co-Collaboration with the New Orleans Museum of Art!

Q: Why has the company had so much success with NOMA Co-Productions in the past?

JB: The NOLA Project is an innovative group of Theatre Artists and NOMA, in its celebrated 100th year, is an extremely forward-looking organization which serves as a playground for dozens of art forms (including theatre) to be in constant communication with each other.

Q: Do you think being in the Museum informs an actor’s decisions during the rehearsal and performance process?

JB: Absolutely. The visually breath-taking settings are only part of the magic of NOMA. We enjoy being inspired by- and artistically responding to- all the Museum has to offer.
The constant rotating elaborate exhibitions that are offered by NOMA are illuminating.
They provide so much wonderful stimuli to the actors, directors, stage managers, designers and the audiences of The NOLA Project shows.

Q: Do you think the audiences see the Museum through a different lens when they enter the building as a “Performance Venue” in the evening?

JB: Possibly. As theatre makers, we and our audiences hold the Dramatic Arts to the same standards as any of the other Arts which NOMA is more accustomed to housing:
Form; Technique; Discipline; Spontaneity; Humanity; Relevance; Reflection: Accessibility; Adaptability; Freedom, Balance; Creativity; etc.

Q: In which space(s) does this next production take place?

JB: On the Front Steps of the Museum (for the first ten minutes) and in the Great Hall (that very beautiful main entrance of the Museum.)

Q: What is the play?

JB: Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare.

Q: Why did you want to do that play?

JB: We basically asked ourselves 12 questions:
Is it a good story?
Is it fun?
Is it relevant?
Are there good characters?
Does it make people cry?
Does it make people laugh?
Will the play simultaneously stretch an actor artistically and play to her/his best ability?
Is it exciting?
Are there pretty costumes?
Is it understandable?
Are there sword fights?
Will the balcony scene be staged with the actual Great Hall balcony?

Q: So. When does it perform?

JB: December 8,10, 11
&
December 15, 17, 18

Q: Are tickets on sale?

JB: Yes, and you can reserve your now by going to http://www.noma.eventbrite.com.

Q: How can people join The NOLA Project mailing list to stay updated with the latest news?

JB: http://nolaproject.com/contact.php

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The Three Essentials

While attending a theatre studies class in college, I was imparted the lesson of the ‘Three A’s.”  This referred to the three essential elements needed to create any piece of theatre.  Those A’s were action, actor, and audience.  Tonight, we open our production of Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ once again in the Besthoff Sculpture Garden at NOMA, and I believe that in no other NOLA Project production have those three essential A’s worked together in such beautiful harmony. 

The advantage of opening a production for the second time is that we have already worked with the third essential A, the audience.  In May, we were bowled over at the astounding turnout for our production.  But what struck me the most was the way that the audience, sitting quite literally in our collective laps, created a sense of true magic like none I have ever experienced before.  A live audience laughing together, gasping together, and experiencing a collective catharsis is unlike anything else achieved in any other art form. 

And so it is with great pride and utter excitement that we welcome our audience back tonight and for six full nights to this magical shared experience we call ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’  In many instances and on many occasions great theatre happens.  But when the perfect combination of action, actor, and audience fuses as it does in this splendid production, something more than great theatre results.  Something indefinable.  I can’t give it words, so I only ask that you come join us and experience it for yourself. 

Thank you so much for supporting The NOLA Project.

-A.J. Allegra

Artistic Director, The NOLA Project

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‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ Returns for 6 Performances Only, October 6-16th!


We here at The NOLA Project are excited to be teaming back up with The New Orleans Museum of Art to bring you an encore run of our sold-out production of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream! The weather is getting cooler, so what’s a better way to spend an autumn evening than outside in NOMA’s beautiful Besthoff Sculpture Garden with The NOLA Project, lots of friends, and a few fairies? Check out the new trailer below, created by ‘Midsummer’ director (and NOLA Project company member) Andrew Larimer, and get a taste of some of the sights and sounds of our thrilling production!

We’d love for you to come share the experience that had New Orleans buzzing last spring–it’s super fun, family-friendly, and an unforgettable time for all ages! We’ve added a few new cast members, and we all can’t wait to take you on a whimsical journey through the garden with us. PLUS, delicious food and drinks by Ralph Brennan’s Cafe NOMA are available for purchase at each performance for your dining and drinking pleasure. Besides something to sit on, like a blanket or a lawn chair, all you need to bring is your wonderful self. Just leave the rest to us! And, if this is your first time experiencing our outdoor ‘Midsummer,’ NOLA Project Artistic Director A.J. Allegra has put together a very handy fact sheet for audience members! You can read it here:

Some Q&A About Sculpture Garden-going

There are only 6 performances of ‘Midsummer,’ on Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays, October 6-16. Tickets sold out FAST for our first production in May, so we highly recommend you grab your tickets ASAP over at NOMA’s user-friendly ticketing website:

http://www.noma.eventbrite.com

Having the chance to work in such a beautiful space with this incredibly talented group of people has been nothing short of magical. We hope you join us for what is sure to be a very special evening for you and your fellow audience members.

See you in the Garden!

NOMA & The NOLA Project’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs OCTOBER 6-16, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays at 7PM in the Sydney & Wanda Besthoff Sculpture Garden at The New Orleans Museum Art.
**note that there are NO SATURDAY NIGHT PERFORMANCES!

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Collaboration. It’s a Beautiful Thing.

I have been a student of UNO for the past 7 years.

I have been a member of the NOLA Project for the past 2 years.

So when David Hoover told us that we were going to be able to do a production at UNO in the fall I was extremely delighted at the idea.

We had a meeting and the play Is He Dead? was mentioned as a good possibility.

A large cast farce.

Something our company hasn’t done in quite some time.

And something that would be very, very fun to do on the big thrust stage at UNO.

The play is absolutely ridiculous.

The idea is that the real life painter, Jean Francois Millet, is under the fiscal thumb of the evil art dealer, Andre Bastien. In order to save himself, his poor artist friends, his lady friend and her family (who also owe money to Andre), Francois must fake his death in order to gain the fame and riches that comes to most artists posthumously.

Chicago, a felow painter, suggests that Francois disguises himself as his own fictitious twin sister, Madame Tillou.

Obviously, hilarity then ensues because Alex Wallace in a dress, is just too good to pass up.

In addition to Mr. Wallace the show includes company members AJ Allegra, Sam Dudley, James Bartelle, Kristin Witterschein and myself.

There are 7 UNO students rounding out the rest of the cast.

I think the casting is fair and balanced, and our director, Beau Bratcher, is a good friend of the company, and a graduate of UNO.

The design team is also a split between UNO and professional, with Mignon Charvet doing costumes, Mike Harkins doing sound, and Joan Long doing lights and scenic design.

I think everyone involved has been having more fun at rehearsal than should be allowed.

I, personally, have never laughed more during a rehearsal process.

Watching Sam, AJ and Jared Gore just run amuck on stage, and then having Wallace prance around in giant, 1846 women’s wear, is just the icing on top.

And the facial hair. How can I not mention the massive amount of facial hair that is happening on this stage.

EVEN I GET A FAKE MUSTACHE!

I think this show is a great choice for the company because not often do we do big, broad farces. We generally stick to the pitch black dark, twisted comedy. So, it has definitely been a lot of fun to take all the silliness we have inside of us and be able to put it towards the show.

At first, I think some of the UNO students were a little taken aback at all the wacky things we were trying on stage, and how we made fun of each other and our acting choices, but once they realized that was how our family rolled, they have certainly jumped on the bandwagon.

The whole collaboration has been positive for both sides, I hope.

We have gotten to work in this giant space, with a director and actors that most of the company have never gotten a chance to work with.

And the students of UNO have gotten to see how our little company operates, and how productions are definitely a team sport, and we are a team that knows how to work hard and play even harder.

So.

In conclusion.

Get your tickets and come spend 2 hours at the lakefront.

Jared Gore’s German accent alone is worth the drive.

Peace.

Natalie B.

Is He Dead?

September 9th-18th

Fridays and Saturdays and Thursday 9/15 at 7:30

Sundays at 2:30

TICKETS AVAILABLE NOW!

http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/194135

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“Art” Press Recap

"Art" Poster

"Art" Poster

We are extremely lucky as a theatre company to have consistent help from New Orleans media outlets when it comes to getting the word out about our productions. We’re only two weeks into performances of our current production of “Art” at the New Orleans Museum of Art and we’ve been overwhelmed by the number of reviews and press we’ve received. In case you missed any of them I thought this would be a good place to recap what people have been saying about “Art.” If their words sway you, head on over to http://noma.eventbrite.com/ and reserve your tickets for “Art” before they sell out!

If you’ve already seen “Art,” let us know what YOU think! Visit our all new audience reviews page and leave a comment about which show you saw and what you liked or didn’t like: Audience Reviews Page.

Now bring on the critics! Click a link below and the review will open in a new window.

We didn’t forget about our TV friends! The following links will take you to video segments of the cast of “Art” performing on “Good Morning, New Orleans” and “News With a Twist” on ABC/WGNO. Thanks to ABC New Orleans for always having us on their programs!

Thanks for letting us brag a little. Now go see some theatre!

–Richard Alexander Pomes

Marketing & Publicity

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“Art” for F**k’s Sake

Serge, Marc, and Yvan

As a freshman at NYU Tisch school of the Arts, the initial topic of any group class discussion began with the age old question, “What is Art?” Our unformed, naive minds tossed and turned with notions and quandaries, tracing the origin of hip-hop and dissecting the value of shock art until one became driving on the endless roundabout of what actually defines art and who decides. Is the purpose of art to make you feel? But art is relative. Right? Is art for art’s sake? But art should be for everyone. Right? And who is really qualified to decide what is art and what is yet another Lindsay Lohan film? Maybe the root of all this exciting art gab around the water cooler needs to be about what perpetuates the purpose and creation of art. The fact that art is both object and subject, is in fact what makes it “art”. While I am sure this is the topic of discussion pursed on everyones lips as they gallivant down Bourbon or pop it like it’s hot to some yacht bounce, it’s hard to get a really good banter about the social implications and worth of modern conceptual art while knocking back a few brewskies before riding a mechanical whale. So in preparation for The NOLA Project’s run of “Art”, a play by Yasmina Reza, at the NOMA all August long, I have decided to create a “Cosmo” like quiz (how pop “art” culture appropriate, right?) to help audience members find out where they stand on the issue of what defines art and more importantly what character they identify with most!

Choose one answer for each of the questions below that best describes you and post your results by leaving a comment below!

1) If at a gallery opening of a new posh artist do you…

a) Inquire how much the art work is because you’re building a collection.

b) Pop a few vitamins out of frustration and have playful argument with the curator about the purpose of deconstruction.

c) Pick the cashews out of all the nut bowls and then ask if the artist is fashionable.

2)When considering purchasing a new work of art you ask…

a) Check or credit?

b) Do you think I’m an idiot? Because only and idiot would pay that price for that child’s drawing you call art.

c) Will my new wife like it?

3) Upon receiving an invitation to the new installation at the NOMA you decide to bring…

a) A friend.

b) An apprentice.

c) Your nagging future mother-in-law.

4) In decorating your living room you prefer to hang…

a) Modern art with simplistic nuances.

b) A traditional Flemish painting.

c) Family heirlooms.

5) When starring at a seemingly blank canvas you…

a) Buy it.

b) Laugh at it.

c) Stare inquisitively with a half smirk, half smile.

If you answered mostly a’s you are a Serge, b’s a Marc, c’s an Yvan. Post your results by leaving a comment below!

Now go see what all the fuss is about: “Art” at the New Orleans Museum of Art

–Kyle Williams

Actress & Blogger, kylejunewilliams.com

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“Art” Concept & Performance Schedule

From L to R: Michael Aaron Santos, Jason Kirkpatrick, James Bartelle, Alex Wallace, Richard Alexander Pomes, & A.J. Allegra

Just in case you’re holding out on buying your tickets for our upcoming production of “Art,” here’s something that might get you excited…

We’ve got an award-winning cast of six NOLA Project actors including A.J. Allegra, James Bartelle, Jason Kirkpatrick, Richard Alexander Pomes, Michael Aaron Santos, and Alex Martinez Wallace who will play in rotating fashion so no two shows are exactly alike!

The show will begin Friday, August 5 at 8 p.m. and repeats every Friday evening and Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. in August. Scroll down to see which gent is performing on which date and then visit www.noma.eventbrite.com to purchase tickets!

Fri Aug 5th 8 pm

  • James Bartelle- Yvan
  • Richard Alexander Pomes- Marc
  • Michael Aaron Santos- Serge

Sun Aug 7th 3pm

  • Alex Wallace- Yvan
  • AJ Allegra- Marc
  • Jason Kirkpatrick- Serge

Fri Aug 12th 8 pm

  • James Bartelle- Yvan
  • AJ Allegra- Marc
  • Michael Aaron Santos- Serge

Sun Aug 14th 3 pm

  • Alex Wallace- Yvan
  • Richard Alexander Pomes- Marc
  • Jason Kirkpatrick- Serge

Fri Aug 19th 8 pm

  • Alex Wallace- Yvan
  • AJ Allegra- Marc
  • Michael Aaron Santos- Serge

Sun Aug 21st 3 pm

  • James Bartelle- Yvan
  • Richard Alexander Pomes- Marc
  • Jason Kirkpatrick- Serge

Fri Aug 26th 8 pm

  • James Bartelle- Yvan
  • AJ Allegra- Marc
  • Jason Kirkpatrick- Serge

Sun Aug 28th 3 pm

  • Alex Wallace- Yvan
  • Richard Alexander Pomes- Marc
  • Michael Aaron Santos- Serge

See you at the museum!

–Richard Alexander Pomes

Marketing & Publicity, The NOLA Project

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Directing Yasmina Reza’s ‘Art’ in an Art Museum

The cast of "Art" and director, Kate Kuen

The cast of "Art" and director, Kate Kuen

My first class at NYU was called Writing the Essay: The World through Art.  One of the first discussions we inevitably had, being a private liberal arts school, was “What is art?”  One girl raised her hand and said “Everything is beautiful, and everything that’s beautiful is art.”  I asked “If I pissed on your shoe right now, would that be art?”  You can tie yourself in knots trying to objectively talk about something as naturally subjective as art.  And it’s both these persuasions of personality and environment of opinions that enable and disable so much of our lives, most importantly, our friendships.  I have been incredibly lucky to help showcase a small buffet of our community’s artistic talents in this coproduction with the NOMA from performing arts of not just 3 but 6 talented actors to visual arts of Sarah Zoghbi’s delicate Antrios to Byron Asher’s original score for our show, recorded in NOMA’s Great Hall itself.  With a special thanks to my team of women, Ashley, Christina and Kyle for keeping me sane.

I am humbled by this world through art, and I hope you enjoy our story.   x

–Kate Kuen

Director of “Art,” The NOLA Project

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Some Q&A about Sculpture Garden-going

If New Orleanians know how to do one thing, it’s how to stake a spot on a patch of grass:  with a blanket and some lawn chairs.  And with our current production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ we want to make sure that our audiences know exactly what they’re in for when it comes to viewing an outdoor production.

First off, the seating is Bring-Your-Own.  This means a blanket or portable chairs would work best, or (if you prefer a more au natural technique) its butts on the grass.  BUT BE WARNED:  The production is a promenade production, which is a fancy way of saying that the audience will move around.  The show occurs throughout the garden in three total locations.  So whatever you choose to bring in terms of seating, make sure it can travel.  Personally, this is why I think a blanket is best.

Now for some FAQs that we’ve been asked in the last week, here presented for your convenience:

Q:  Can I bring food and drink into the garden?

A:  You don’t even need to!  Ralph Brennan’s Cafe will provide delicious cheese platters, turkey sandwiches, and vegetable sandwiches, as well as wine by the glass or bottle that can be purchased for a reasonable price!  (That is our very positive spin on ‘No, Im sorry, no outside food or drink allowed)

Q:  Can I bring my child?  Is this family friendly?

A:  That decision is really up to the parent that knows their child best.  That said, this is a fun, vivid, and very physical play that I think many kids will enjoy.  I’d say any children over 8 would really enjoy themselves, but any age children are welcome.  Its 90 minute running time is also conducive to short attention spans (young OR old) :)

Q:  How do I order tickets?  Will they be mailed to me?

A:  The internet is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?  For that reason, we strongly suggest purchasing your tickets online at www.noma.eventbrite.com with a credit card.  When you do this, you will receive an online receipt.  Print this, and this can be used as your ticket when you come to the show!  If you hate computers and all that internet garbage and are more of a people person, you can always call the reservation line at 504. 658.4100.  Or if you like to fly by the seat of your pants, you can purchase at the door.  BUT BE WARNED.  You may be denied a seat if you attempt to purchase at the door and we have reached our capacity.

Q:  Should I bring bug spray?

A:  Is the Pope Catholic?  But just in case, we will have some available at the front for ya ;)

Q:  Will this be the best production I have ever seen in my many years of extensive theatre-going?

A:  It’s a damn safe bet.

–A.J. Allegra

Artistic Director, The NOLA Project

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“All the world’s a stage”

Image

“All the world’s a stage” 

Join @theNOLAproject for ‘As You Like It’ @NOMA1910 #asyoulikeitnoma

 May 9th, 10th, 13th, 16th, 17th, 18th, and 20th 
Tickets are $16, and $8 for students, NOMA members and children under 17.  Tickets will be available be starting April 2nd at www.nolaproject.com, or at www.noma.eventbrite.com

Featuring:  James Bartelle, Natalie Boyd, Kathlyn Carson, Keith Claverie, Mike Harkins, Clint Johnson, Kate Kuen, Michael Krikorian, Jason Kirkpatrick, Michael Aaron Santos, Kris Shaw, Michael Sullivan, Alex Martinez Wallace, Kristin Witterschein, and Jim Wright Directed by Sam Dudley.

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