instructs at RCC
BY BEN RUBIN • THE
JOURNAL NEWS • AUGUST 21, 2008
- With measured cadence, Richard Ryan went through each step with two
Lunge. Wait. Turn around."
stood back and let the fighters try again.
it, that's it," he exclaimed. "Not quite so far on that one."
two weeks over the summer, Ryan, an 18-year stage and screen veteran,
has worked as a guest instructor at Rockland Community College, where he trained a dedicated
crew of 12 students and alumni in the fencing sword and quarterstaff.
2003, the British-born fight director has been in high demand in
Hollywood, teaching stars like Brad Pitt and Robert De Niro how to pull
off a realistic-looking punch. One of his most recent projects was "The
Dark Knight," where he helped choreograph scenes between Batman and the
also is one of only 14 people in the country currently awarded the
title of fight master by the Society of American Fight Directors.
class yesterday in a large room at RCC's Fieldhouse, Christopher
Plummer defiantly pointed his rapier at Patrick Birmingham as they
played a scene from "The Count of Monte Cristo," during one of the
practice exercises Ryan gave them.
couldn't live in a world where you have everything, and I have
nothing!" Plummer, an adjunct performing arts professor, bellowed.
battled until Birmingham swiped Plummer's sword and slashed him in the
leg. Plummer fell to the ground in miserable pain.
happened to your mercy?" he pleaded.
an RCC graduate, slowly walked toward him and offered Plummer his sword
back. But just as he went for it, Birmingham plunged his sword into
bent down to his level and rasped, "I'm a count, not a saint," as he
twisted the sword out while staring into Plummer's dying eyes.
his last gasp, Plummer broke character and got up.
came over to them, meticulously going over their stances, the way they
hold their weapons, their interactions, intermittently stepping in to
pantomime the action with one of the performers. Then Plummer and
Birmingham started the scene from the beginning, practicing it over and
them, several other pairs were busy going through their fight scenes,
as well, the sounds of angry lines and clanking swords filling the room.
group worked virtually nonstop for eight hours a day, even over
weekends, to gain certification in various stage weapons.
and Patty Maloney-Titland, the performing arts department coordinator,
met Ryan at a workshop in London four years ago and were able to bring
him to the college for two years straight while he had time off between
a thrill. It's always enlightening, sometimes intimidating," Plummer, a
stage fighting teacher himself, said about taking the class. "It's
exhilarating, because he's such a high-caliber professional."
looking for a career in acting, Ryan found an interest in stage
fighting when he was in college, learning under acclaimed fight
coordinator William Hobbs.
were a lot of really good actors, and I wasn't good enough to pursue
that," he said yesterday.
he found more and more work teaching others stage fighting and
coordinating fight sequences for British theater shows. He eventually
became the master at arms for London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art,
one of the world's top drama schools.
break into movies came in 2003, when he was chosen to choreograph
scenes in the war epic "Troy," and he has since worked on "Stardust,"
"The Golden Compass" and "The Last Legion."
had a great time. I really enjoy what I do," he said. "I get to play
with swords for a living."
from practicing lines and steps for hours, Christina Schaudel, 23, of
Pearl River took a quick breather to grab a drink.
"Even when you're across the room doing
something, he can just pinpoint what you're doing, which for technique
is so important," she said of Ryan.