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The Folger Spotlight

Rex Daugherty (Tybalt) and Brad Koed (Mercutio) in rehearsal.

So, we got these swords.

And we keep striking at each other with them.

This is one of the things that happens when you decide to be an actor.

People keep putting weapons in your hands and other people keep coming after you with similar weapons.

This is one of the things that happens in Romeo & Juliet.

Boys being boys.

And all that.

I mean, there wasn’t really a National Weapon Association doing everything it could to make sure that swords got into the hands of as many testosterone fueled sweaty ectomorphs with heartbreaking teen acne and an inferiority complex as possible. But the well-dressed teenager simply had to have a rapier and dagger as part of his breezy spring ensemble.

On guard!

On guard!

Or, in the case of this production, some pretty wicked looking, barbed and matching short swords with which to slash and stab each other.

Because teenagers are immortal.

Because Death is Fashion!

Would you like this in a small or a medum, miss?

Would you like this in a small or a medum, miss?

Besides, they look so hardcore COOL!



Not that I’m about to get all political here, but if you arm a bunch of young men sans “Well Regulated,” mix in feuding patriarchs, and set them loose on a hot day in July…well…if you’re surprised that a few of them end up bleeding out, you haven’t been paying attention, have you?


Shakespeare understood that.

Why doesn’t the gun lobby?

When your father and his father keep waving weapons at each other, and tossing threats back and forth, there is a sad inevitability that tragedy will occur even long before the tragedy occurs.

I mean, if we had never seen this play and hadn’t heard the title, for awhile we might well think it called, Mercutio & Tybalt. It feels as much about them as anyone.

But then they run into each other, each with a couple of nasty looking short swords on a hot day.


The rest, as they say, is history.

And the play can’t be called that anymore.

Here’s one of the things about fight directors (and, yes, this is a gross overgeneralization, but it’s my blog so it’s MY gross overgeneralization – you got a problem with that, write your own blog) — fight directors get this perverse grin, this sly snicker, this borderline sadistic glee at the idea of presenting a scene where a surprise slap comes out of nowhere, or a man in a bar gets his brains beat out by his daughter with a baseball bat, or a favorite character gets a lung sucking wound under a friends “helping” arm. I guess I do understand that. I mean, if you’re the guy who gets his kicks out of shocking folks with sudden violence, better to work on a zombie film or a fight heavy play, than, say, work it out on your own. There’s only so much patience we have for the guy at the office who puts fake severed fingers in the break-room fridge. At least that’s how Human Resources explained it to me.

So, our fight director is Casey Kaleba ( and these swords were forged for the show by a blacksmith (yes, there are still blacksmiths) named Kerry Stagmer of Baltimore Knife and Sword (

And they’re AWESOME.

It’s one of the problems with getting older. They don’t give you the roles anymore where you get to grab some gear and work out the tension of the day with a knock-down-drag-out. Although, I’ve been known to get winded shaking a cocktail mixer, so I’m spared that.

And don’t get me wrong, I get my hands a little dirty, too.

Dykstra_yogaAfter all, it’s still Romeo & Juliet and all that violence in the society has to come from somewhere. It wouldn’t make sense if the father figures in this play were a bunch of Enlightenment-Seeking Pacifists who’ve embraced Transcendental Meditation and Yoga while our kids keep offing themselves and each other, with the regularity of shootings in America.

Not that I’m about to get political here.


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Pianino Klasyczne — July 10, 2022