Stage Combat Program Attracts Theatre Students from Across the Valley

Tuesday, March 19, 2024
Stage Combat Program Attracts Theatre Students from Across the Valley

Paradise Valley Community College’s Stage Combat Certificate of Completion (CCL) continues to carve out a unique niche for theatre students across the Valley. As the first college in the nation to offer a Stage Combat CCL and the only school in Arizona, PVCC has attracted a mix of students to receive training, including working professionals who come back to take advantage of this certification. 

Under the direction of Andrea Robertson,  theatre students learn compulsory techniques for safety, theatrical commitment and believability with a dramatic context when acting out stage violence. As actors who are trained in stage combat move forward through the discipline, they gain more skill in performing choreographed violence while remaining safe and creating an accurate depiction to the audience.

“I feel incredibly lucky to be able to share my love for this art with my students,” Robertson said. “So many plays and movies depict violence, from sword fights to guns firing to slaps and falls. I believe in safety and repeatability for the actors; they should safely be able to repeat a fight or a move over and over again without injuring themselves or others. But just as important is to make sure we are making it look real so it helps tell the story of these characters to the audience.”

CCL credits are broken into nine classes, two weapons per semester and the last semester becoming a teacher's assistance and the opportunity to help choreograph as part of a students capstone project. An added benefit – the graduates also earn recognition for their work through the Society of American Fight Directors (SAFD), an organization promoting safety and fostering excellence in stage combat and theatrical violence. Robertson is one of only two instructors in Arizona certified by SAFD.

Marshall Vosler is PVCC’s first official graduate of the program, completing his certification in December 2023. Vosler, who has an extensive background in martial arts and dance movement, specifically came back to PVCC for the SAFD designation because of the respect it carries both nationally and internationally. Six years after earning his bachelor’s degree in theatre at Arizona State University, he joined PVCC to earn his Stage Combat certification and SAFD designation. 

“Andrea (Robertson) has a wealth of experience and working alongside her has definitely broadened my knowledge and skills. She helped me to dig deeper and understand the logistics and storytelling of a fight scene and why the character moves in certain ways, elevating my craft even more.”

Vosler said studying under Robertson and having his SAFD designation has opened up doors and employment opportunities as well. 

Since weapons certification is only valid for three years, those wanting to renew their certificates can come to PVCC and take renewal classes as well. Two additional students will graduate this coming May with more students in different stages of the CCL. 

For those interested in the program, Robertson suggests registering early because classes fill every semester. For more information, contact Robertson at 602-787-6580 or