Finding Out About Fight Choreography with Rob Najarian (part 1)

by Karen Krolak

Working on Coriolanus earlier this year, I met several of Boston's Fight Directors who were mentored by Robert Walsh. For example, Rob Najarian and Ted Hewlett crafted a thrilling longstaff fight that was one of my favorite sections of the show. I am not surprised that several must see theatrical events of the fall season somehow involve Rob. He's the Fight Director for Taming of Shrew and a performing in Punchdrunk's Sleep No More at American Repertory Theater. I am very grateful that he was willing to carve out some time from his hectic rehearsal schedule to answer some questions for me via Facebook.

karen Krolak: When did you realize that you wanted to be a Fight Choreographer/Violence Designer?
Rob Najarian: I don't think I ever realized I wanted to be a fight choreographer. But when I was in grad school (I was 25) I realized that the only class I ever really looked forward to was combat. Also, whenever I went to see a movie then, I started to see the fights in a new way, technically and as a narrative, not just as bunch of cool moves.

kK: And, where did you train? Who were your mentors?
RN: I've had many teachers, but the ones I owe the most to are Brad Waller in DC who taught me in grad school at the Shakespeare Theatre, and Robert Walsh. I learned most of my historical weapons from Brad and he really piqued my interest - he's a bit of a mad genius. I owe probably 2/3 of my career to Bob. Don't tell him I said that, but he probably knows already ;) . He really took the time to help me develop my teaching and fight director sensibilities. He's got a fab aesthetic.

kK: Isn't there some kind of certification process that people need?
RN: There is a testing process for the Society of American Fight Directors to become an Actor/Combatant, which I took at the end of grad school. To become a teacher, I took a 3 week testing workshop, after which I was certified to teach by the Society. Nobody really trains teachers of this stuff. It's something that's more of a loose confederacy and relies on some strong individuals who come together at various points in the year to share ideas, techniques, and socialize.

kK: Are there particular weapons that you prefer to use?
RN: I've gotten pretty attracted to the knife, really by necessity than anything else. Most theatre companies don't have the budget for swords, but the usually have knives lying around. I've geeked out and done some research into knife fighting styles - Italian Stilleto and Spanish Navaja. The former I used in a Romeo & Juliet with David Wheeler at Shakespeare Now! and the latter I employed with Carmen at Boston Lyric Opera which is up now. (Both Ted Hewlett and I worked on that one.) I still love swords though ;)

kK: Did you ever study dance?
RN: I took a modern dance class with this great guy, Paul Sarvis, when I was 18 at Bowdoin. I totally went because of a girl. But I stayed because.... well, there were 22 other girls and I was the only guy, but I actually liked it too. I took some dance in grad school too - modern and flamenco. And I've taken a dance class here and there, but nothing formal.

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