En Guarde with The Duelists!

En Guarde with The Duelists!

  1. What is it that you do?

    We’re The Duelists; we perform comedy sword-fighting shows at renaissance festivals around the country, as well as create fight choreography for film and music videos. And, occasionally, we teach Stage Combat. We’re students of Western Martian Arts, the revival of actual sword techniques used in the middle ages and renaissance, so we’ve incorporated that into our shows, as well. In fact we’ve begun a whole new element at some renaissance festivals: a children’s School of Defense hands on introduction into Historical Swordsmanship.
  1. Where are you located?

    All over the country! Los Angeles and Chicago are our home bases, but we spend more time on the road than we do at home! (well…not in the last year, anyway!)

  1. What got you interested in starting out in this business?

    I dunno…? We were both born performers? We both had a passion for swords and armor and sword-fighting films from a very early age. It started with swinging sticks and garbage can lids in the backyard, then graduating to fencing foils and “SLO’s;” sword like objects before using the ‘real’ thing! Maybe it’s genetic, I don’t know, but we both definitely had that affinity for swords very early on.
  1. When did you start performing?

Randal started performing at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Southern California, the original Faire that started them all in the late ’80’s. First with St Anne’s Guild the Tournament of Horse, sword-fighting in the joust, as well as the military guild, St Michael’s, where he choreographed fights for the Battle Pageant. And then college theater and film in L.A.

Michael followed a more traditional path as a Performing Arts major with college productions, then on graduation began working professionally acting and fight directing in local theatre including The BoarsHead and All-Of-Us theaters, as well as independent films.

  1. How are you compensating for this strange time we are in now?

Strange times, all right! We’re actors, and fight directors, so Renaissance festivals are just one stage we perform on, figuratively speaking. We’re still busy with film and music video projects, modeling for both professionals and Art schools. All of it social distanced, of course! We’ve been on book covers and Magic the Gathering cards and various different paintings. And calendars 😉

  1. How do you handle thefts or copying of your works?

Very Good question! You’ve touched a nerve for us! Plagiarism is RAMPANT both in and out of the renaissance festival circuit and, aggravatingly, we’re constantly plagiarized. Scripted lines, jokes and references, choreography– even our equipment. There’s nothing more shocking than being backstage and hearing your stage mate use your lines. Heck, there’s even a non sword act that added an entire sword show, modeling it after what we do, and how we do it, even lifting complete lines.

Of course the first thing you do is address it directly by asking them (Nicely, of course) to stop using your material. If they refuse, your next step is legal action. Sometimes a letter from a copyright Attorney is enough, sometimes you have to pursue legal action. We’ve resorted to all three. We’ve copyrighted all our material right from the beginning, and we update that copyright whenever we make substantive changes.

The question is, of course, are we affected financially when we’re plagiarized? On the renaissance festival circuit? No, not really, for a few reasons. (It sure pisses us off though) Outside renaissance festivals? Absolutely, and that’s where our legal efforts have been.

Aside from the financial element there’s the outright irritation of being plagiarized. It’s a violation. We take pride in what we do and how we do it: we’re creative, original and unique. But once you work past your anger, you realize two things: first, if people plagiarize you, its because they think your material is better than their own. (And they’re right; if their material was any good they wouldn’t steal yours!). Second, as I said, we’re original and creative; we can always write and create new material; so it’s easy enough to stay a step ahead of them. The other interesting thing is, when people plagiarize your work, they rarely what’s behind the joke, or it’s funny– or even how to deliver them. So when they deliver the stolen lines it rarely gets much of a response, and makes very little impact. We’ve seen this time and time again.

  1. What do you miss most about faire?

    The actual performing, crossing swords, the interaction with the crowds, and the laughing! We’re always laughing, always messing with each other onstage , and we genuinely have a REALLY good time doing our shows– Audiences notice this and always and comment that “It’s obvious you guys are having a really good time!” So yeah, we’re really looking forward to getting back onstage!
  1. Do you think that there will be faires in the future or what steps we should be taking next?

    Oh, Absolutely. Once we get past this pandemic, I’m confident everything will go back to normal. But we have to get through it first. Had everyone worn masks and stayed home when everything shut down that first time back in March, we’d have been over the hump within a couple of months, and life would have largely returned to normal in six weeks. Instead, what should have been a matter of national public health somehow became a political issue that cost 530,000 lives. The Flu Pandemic of 1918 lasted two years, and eventually life returned to normal. So will this.
  1. Are you doing any online sales or virtual performances?

We aren’t doing any online performances, per se, because we’re riding out the pandemic in different states, but we’ve tried to kick up our presence on our pages with This Week in Armor, a weekly feature highlighting historical arms and armor (Or anything related) as well as keeping in communication with our fans via with direct posts, various images and memes–you know, cats in armor? And any news relevant to us or the festivals.

  1. Are you creating more stock or more content?

We’re always working on new stuff; always coming up with new ideas–Our Duelists School of Defense that I mentioned earlier is relatively new: a 45 minute hands on introduction to the historical longsword–for kids! Corrupt ’em young! But whether its shows or merchandise, its always the execution and delivery that’s the hardest part. Even though faires have shut down, we still continue working on modeling and choreography projects

12. Do you have any specialized training or education in your field?

As mentioned, we both have theater and stage combat backgrounds; Michael’s degree is in Performing arts, and though Randal’s degree is in Philosophy, he also was in theater in College. Michael worked with the Art of Combat and R&D choreography, Stage Combat groups in the Great Lakes region. Randal worked with a number of Fight Directors in LA, as well as Medieval Times where he learned both horsemanship and stage combat. And in the late 90’s as the revival of Western Martial Arts began in earnest, we both jumped in on the ground floor, researching historical manuals and attempting WMA symposia

20 What makes your act unique or different? What makes you stand out?

The first thing that comes to mind-something we do that no one else does– is invite our audience to heckle us! But, we also heckle them back. Which becomes a super fun back and forth which adds yet another unique dimension to our shows! It’s fun and funny, and we’ll run with it. It Always makes our shows unique and memorable. Also, besides rapiers we use flails, halberds, maces, bucklers long swords and shields in addition to rapiers in our shows. When I started performing in the early 80’s, you didn’t see that. (There weren’t any jousting shows then either) The few shows I did see all used rapiers (fencing foils, actually) and nothing else. I thought a sword show could be so much more fun and exciting–so we added them. I can’t tell you how any times people would say, “I’ve never seen that before!” Of course now, it’s somewhat commonplace.

21. How do you handle or deal with rainy days?

Rain days always suck, of course. Besides lower attendance and getting wet–for us there’s the very real issue of safety because the stages become slick and unsafe. When you’re super physical, and have to stop on a dime because you’re swinging a sword at the other guys head, yo don’t want momentum to keep you sliding across the stage. So we have a couple of options, modifying the fights is one, but we also have alternatives, including, a hands on interactive instructional show on actual swordsmanship with attacks defenses and disarms. NOT onstage, but on the ground in front of the stage, and slowly of course. It’s an introduction into some really cool disarms with swords, but even better its a hands on experience for the crowd that super memorable and something they wouldn’t otherwise be able to experience at a festival.

So rain days give us a chance to turn a wet, limiting day into a completely immersive, interactive experience, above and beyond, what they’d normally experience at a festival. Hows that for turning a disadvantage into a super positive advantage!

Website is: http://www.duelists.com

Facebook page is : https://www.facebook.com/TheDuelists

Twitter handle is: https://twitter.com/TheDuelists

The Duelists – photo provided by Randal of The Duelists

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