By Jen Pommerenke, Cut Fellow
Desperation is a fantastic and curious catalyst. It causes aspects of a person’s nature that perhaps have lain dormant–or that have been nonexistent–to catapult to the forefront of action. In choreographing fights, I relish the opportunity to create a sense of manifested desperation and hope. Creating these stories of hidden fears, strengths, and character traits through a fight is intriguing. People’s fighting styles are developed out of a lifetime of teaching, movement, and convictions; thus, no two people should fight the same.
Once I understood what the overall style of the show would be, I began to piece together the kinds of fights that I had never seen–fights that heighten the terror which already saturates King Lear: creative kills, terrifying weapons, and, in some cases, humor. Seeing the rehearsal process for each character who would eventually fight helped me glean how they moved, how they spoke, and what their objectives were. I sought to reflect the story of what they were fighting for emotionally and psychologically in what they fought for physically. Each fight had a story in which only the end was certain, and I wanted the physical movement of the fight to tell that story. Fighting for justice shouldn’t look the same as fighting for power; fighting with a sense of honor should be colored differently than fighting with murderous ambition.
However, even in a fight, love should have its place. And especially in combat, there should be a love of living that transcends the fear of death, instills a sense of desperation which calls forth hidden character traits: secrets woven within the tapestry of a heart that may have never been illuminated without a challenge to live. Love is a deep well of secrets, even to the combatant. And in this, love is that tricky and paramount emotion that calls us beyond ourselves or deeper within ourselves to fight harder for everything. We are desperate to live, desperate to love, and in this desperation, we can often find a new side of a character. In Lear, love in a fight leads to a betrayal, love for a King leads to violence against a helpless character, and love for a father leads to rage in a once peaceful man. But hey–it’s just a fight, right?