Edge

Theatre professor Soroko teaches art of stage fights

Professor Lee Soroko instructs students during his theatrical combat class. The course focuses on utilizing safe and repeatable combat moves to tell a story and enhace acting technique. Emily Dabau // Edge Editor

Professor Lee Soroko instructs students during his theatrical combat class. The course focuses on utilizing safe and repeatable combat moves to tell a story and enhace acting technique. Emily Dabau // Edge Editor

It’s a typical day in Professor Lee Soroko’s class, where students are seen dropping to the floor and engaging in intense slaps, punches and kicks. Using his training as a professional actor, Soroko teaches stage combat in the Department of Theatre Arts.

In his stage combat class, Soroko shares the technique of using safe and repeatable violence to tell a story in a way that is believable to the audience. This, he says, is key to heightening the theatrical experience and keeping the audience interested in the action.

“It’s not violence for the sake of violence … violence is a tool, and all the great playwrights use violence, as it needs to make the ultimate point of the action,” he said. “We want the action to heighten the experience and the emotional journey that we’re taking with the characters on stage.”

Soroko sees his classes as fun and explorative, providing students the opportunity to learn how to use their bodies and weapons for performances. They learn techniques like punching and slapping in a realistic form without making contact. Other lessons include the element of touch and how to use their bodies to drop to the floor. In the more advanced sections, weapons like swords, shields and knives are used as students learn how to portray pain when these foreign objects enter the body.

“We use those weapons to further express character and need,” he said. In acting, he explained, it’s about making someone feel on the outside what the character feels internally.

Soroko’s own experience in fighting and theater performance began in college, when he was part of the college karate team and also did fencing. Because of these experiences, Soroko’s professor asked him to choreograph fight scenes for a “Romeo and Juliet” performance in which he was cast.

He later attended graduate school, where he took stage combat classes, gained more experience and was cast in “Romeo and Juliet” again. The director of the production encouraged Soroko to train with him and the Society of American Fight Directors. After applying for his teaching certification, he decided to transition into education as a professor along with his wife April, who also joined UM as associate professor of scenic design and resident scenic designer at the Ring Theater.

Senior Brian Reiff, a musical theater major, said he decided to take Soroko’s stage fighting class because of a longstanding interest in that type of performance.

“Stage fighting has always been interesting to me since I first saw the knife fight in ‘West Side Story’ when I was a kid at my local theatre,” he said. “Learning how to successfully punch someone across the face on stage as well as learning how to stab myself has been the best part of stage combat.”

When he’s not teaching how to navigate the world of weapons for performance, Soroko helps law students master their presentation by teaching litigation skills at the School of Law. Using his experience in theater and performance, Soroko helps the students navigate storytelling in their roles.

“This is an opportunity for lawyers or would-be lawyers who are really great at understanding the law, but what they don’t understand is how you get in front of a jury and tell a story, he said. “This is where the law and theater performance interconnect.”

By critiquing the presentation of lawyers not from a law standpoint but from a performance standpoint, he ensures that his students are articulate in their presentations throughout the entire series of events.

“You are no longer presenting an idea. When you’re in front of a jury, it’s a heightened theatrical experience,” Soroko said. “Facts are boring; however, a story is dynamic. A story is interesting.”

September 16, 2015

Reporters

Emily Dabau


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

The Miami Hurricanes may have found their future quarterback. Tate Martell, a former four-star recru ...

At 7:27 p.m Tuesday, University of Miami football coach Manny Diaz tweeted a GIF of a swirling Hurri ...

A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Tuesday: ▪ As Miami awaits decisions from its potential 2019 qua ...

A six-pack of Canes notes on a Monday night: ▪ FIU has decided that its Nov. 23 football game agains ...

Dewan Hernandez hit another NCAA roadblock on Monday, but the University of Miami forward will take ...

Gisela Vega, the former associate director of LGBTQA Initiatives at Florida International University ...

With new “personas” allowing for a more personalized mobile experience, the redesigned University of ...

Teams of scholars will use U-LINK grants to examine ways to reduce opportunity gaps and biases in mu ...

The film launches the 2019 film series for the UM Libraries Cuban Heritage Collection. ...

Here’s a go-to list of dates you should keep an eye on throughout the semester, along with some tidb ...

University of Miami head women's volleyball coach Jose "Keno" Gandara announced Monda ...

The University of Miami football program has hired Dan Enos as its offensive coordinator and quarter ...

University of Miami Athletics announced Monday that it will host its fifth annual Celebration of Wom ...

After a weekend bye, the Miami women's basketball team resumes action Thursday evening at 7 p.m ...

Pictures from the No. 17 Miami women's tennis team's season-opening action in the Miami Sp ...

TMH Twitter
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.