2nd Edition

Actors on Guard Training, Rehearsal and Performance Techniques with the Rapier and Dagger for the Stage and Screen

By Dale Anthony Girard Copyright 2021
    422 Pages 453 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    422 Pages 453 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Actors on Guard, Second Edition is the most comprehensive book covering the current practices in learning, rehearsing and performing safe and dynamic swordfights with the single rapier and the rapier and dagger for both stage and screen.

    Focusing specifically on the Elizabethan rapier and dagger – the most popular weapons used in stage fights – Actors on Guard provides actors, directors, teachers, stage managers and technicians the skills and knowledge essential to presenting safe and effective swordfights. The book takes the reader through the complex process of selecting safe stage weapons, learning the basic handling and management of the rapier and dagger, as well as how to safely move and interact in the potentially dangerous process of learning, rehearsing and performing choreographed swordplay. This new edition has been revised with current industry practices, featuring hundreds of step-by-step practical exercises in the care and handling of prop swords, footwork, guards, parries, cutting and thrusting techniques, blade taking actions, disarms, wounds and kills using the rapier and dagger, with revised diagrams and photographs.

    An excellent sourcebook for university stage combat classes as well as self-learners, Actors on Guard provides the reader with the historical, theoretical and practical basis for mastering the art of sword fighting for the stage and screen.

    The book includes access to a wealth of online resources, with additional information that expands upon specific mechanics, techniques and concepts covered in the text as well as some video demonstrations of solo and partnered techniques and exercises.

    Preface List of Illustrations List of Plates Acknowledgments To the Reader Part A. Foundations of Technique 1. Safety First! 2. Stance & Footwork 3. Arming the Actor Part B. The Single Rapier 4. Getting the Feel of Steel 5. The Guards of the Single Rapier 6. Cut & Thrust 7. The Parries of the Single Rapier Part C. Engaging the Blades 8. Crossing Swords 9. Evasive Actions 10. Attacking the Blade 11. Deceits & False Play 12. Closes & Grips 13. Wounds & Kills Part D. The Rapier & Dagger 14. Adding the Dagger 15. Guards of the Rapier & Dagger 16. Parries of the Rapier & Dagger 17. Offensive Actions with the Dagger Part E. Moving from Page to Stage 18. Acting the Fight 19. Preparing to Fight 20. Crafting the Fight 21. Performing the Fight HARM - Handy Acronym Reference Materials Bibliography Index


    Dale Anthony Girard is an award-winning Fight Director, Choreographer and Stunt Coordinator. A Third-Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo/Hopkido and Haidong-Gumdo, he is a Fight Master with the Society for American Fight Directors (SAFD), a SAG-AFTRA stunt coordinator and stunt performer and founding member of the North Carolina Stuntmen’s Association (NCSA). Mr. Girard spent five years on the faculty at the National Theatre Conservatory and has been the resident Fight Director for Yale's prestigious School of Drama and School of Music's Opera Program. He is currently the Director of Stage Combat Studies at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

    "When you watch a Dale Girard swordfight, your hair stands on end. In our Macbeth, the fights ranged from wild and animalistic to swift, cool, and lethal. Every blow was motivated and the audience was drawn into the story of each fight. I've seen Dale render a deafening, stage-filling battle… and a chilling moment when Macbeth audibly broke his victim's arm and gutted him with his own sword (the audience shrieked and clawed their seats). Dale's repertoire of moves and principles — and safety practices — puts him at the top of his game."

    Teller (Penn & Teller)


    "This second edition of Actors on Guard (first published in 1997) is a real improvement over its predecessor and comes closest to a book that can help performers and directors understand rapier combat. The challenge of stage combat is that it is much like driver’s ed: one can learn it conceptually from a book, but it requires experience and a knowledgeable instructor to truly learn—a reality Girard acknowledges at the beginning. The book is excellent for teaching that conceptual knowledge; one strength is the presentation of the historical reality of rapier combat as opposed to contemporary stage practice. […] An excellent, valuable text."

    K. J. Wetmore Jr., Loyola Marymount University


    "As founder of the Society of American Fight Directors it is my privilege and honor to speak on behalf of Maestro Dale Girard whom I have known and worked with for nearly 40 years. During our many years together, he has always presented himself as the consummate professional with a huge skill set. . . His reputation in the fight/stunt industry precedes him, and his knowledge of the industry is foremost in his book Actors on Guard which should be a must read for anyone wanting to enter the industry."

    David L. Boushey, Fight Master and founder of the Society of American Fight Directors