person using a wire brush to scrub the top of a sword
Graduate Student Becca Mahar using a wire brush on pitting at the tip of a broadsword.
side by side image of rapier swords
Before and after of an older rapier sword

Hawaiʻi’s warm tropical climate can make the islands an ideal place to live, work and play. However, it can take a toll on some of the important equipment for the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Department of Theatre and Dance.

Steel is an essential component of quality stage combat weaponry, and Hawaiʻi’s climate can wreak havoc on the material. In February 2021, following appropriate COVID-19 safety protocols, students worked outside of Kennedy Theatre to mitigate the ravaging of rust to protect and preserve the inventory of stage combat weapons used by the department for in-class training and on-stage performances.

“To date, passers by have not caused us any trouble in regard to keeping a safe distance—might be the three-and-a-half-foot broadswords we’re scrubbing,” said Theatre Manager Jessica Jacob.

Training and performances

two people fighting with swords on a stage
Behind the scenes rehearsal image of Sueño in February 2020

In select semesters, the Department of Theatre and Dance offers a three-credit course in stage combat training, from hand-to-hand techniques such as the illusions of punching, strangling and falling, to quarterstaff techniques and swordplay. This course offers students and community performers “an edge” in the competitive job market of live and film performance when the illusion of violence is called for in the production.

The stage combat weapons have been used in Kennedy Theatre productions such as, Macbeth (2008), Hamlet (2010), Twelfth Night (2017) and Sueño (abruptly canceled before opening night in March 2020 due to COVID-19 precautions).

This is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF), one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.

several people looking towards the sky with swords
Image from performance of Macbeth in 2008