1st Edition

Theatrical Violence Design Safety, Illusion, and Story in Stage Combat Choreography

By Richard Gilbert, David Bareford Copyright 2025
    360 Pages 16 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    360 Pages 16 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Theatrical Violence Design offers the reader a complete education in the theory and practice of designing violence for the theater.

    From sword fights to exchanges of gunfire to domestic violence, the theater abounds in physical conflict. The artists who design that violence, sometimes called fight directors or choreographers, will find in this book an invaluable resource for becoming more expert at their craft. In the chapters of this book, they will encounter the core principles of creating violent effects, the body of knowledge with which they should be familiar, and the nuts and bolts of the process of design work from the first meeting with a director through closing night.

    This book is written for the student of stage combat to transition into violence design and will also be of interest to experienced violence designers and choreographers.


    About the Authors

    Chapter 1:  An Introduction to Violence Design 

    Chapter 2: Dramaturgy of Violence

    Chapter 3: How Stage Combat Works

    Chapter 4: Before the Design

    Chapter 5: Designing Choreography

    Chapter 6: Specialized Designs

    Chapter 7: The Rehearsal Process




    Richard Gilbert is a violence designer who has been working in the theater for over 30 years and over 300 shows. He is also an academic with a Ph.D. in English from Loyola University Chicago, where he teaches dramatic literature and stage combat.

    David Bareford has designed the violence for more than 250 productions and has been teaching stage combat for since 1992. He is also a published playwright and director and holds a Theatre degree from Northwestern College of Iowa.

    “David and Richard have put together one of the most useful and clear guides to the craft of choreographing and designing violence for the theatre. They lay out a clear strategy for building and diagnosing any stage combat technique, and for crafting violent stories for a live audience. This book is as useful to beginning artists as it is to seasoned choreographers, challenging engrained patterns, and raising the bar for the stories of violence we put on sage.”

    ––Zev Steinrock, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, USA