Combat Chess

THE SETUP: Tension had been brewing in the Chicago stage combat community for several months. The two largest stage combat troupes in the city, Babes With Blades and R&D Choreography’s Fightshop, slid rapidly from friendly rivalry to thinly veiled insults, and rumors of backstage trash-talk abounded. No explanation was readily available for this change in tone – no one could pinpoint any direct action by any member of either troupe that was the root cause of the bad blood. Like many feuds, its origins may be lost completely, but the heat was definitely on as accusations of unprofessionalism and slurs against the prowess and abilities of each organization multiplied daily.

The conflict came to a head during a round-table discussion on stage combat hosted by the Women’s Theatre Alliance, attended by Babes’ founder Dawn ‘Sam’ Alden and R&D founders David Gregory and Richard Gilbert. With increasingly ugly mutterings and whisperings thickening in the room, Alden decided to clear the air and the gauntlet was thrown down – the Babes challenged the Fightshop to a public demonstration of stage combat expertise to prove once and for all who is the most proficient stage combat troupe in town.

Thus the stage was set for Combat Chess – a live-action chess match with each troupe providing actors to play the pieces and a demonstration of stage combat acumen to mark each capture on the board. Chicago critic Mary Shen Barnidge jumped at the chance to oversee the proceedings as judge, and she recruited prestigious local actor Kelly Van Kirk to serve as a referee.

Finally the night arrived, and with the moral high ground on the line and tempers barely held in check, the Babes With Blades and R&D’s Fightshop gathered to fight for honor and reputation.

(All of the above is, of course, STRICTLY a setup and COMPLETELY UNTRUE. We love the Fightshop crew and had a ball working with them!)

Referee: Kelly Van Kirk
Celebrity Judge: Mary Shen Barnidge

The Black Team (Babes With Blades):
King’s Rook Pawn…..Dara Bidwell
King’s Knight Pawn…Shelagh Collins
King’s Bishop Pawn…Kerry Smith
King’s Pawn……….Rachel Rasinski
Queen’s Pawn……….Kat O’Connor
Queen’s Bishop Pawn…Heather Kaminsky
Queen’s Knight Pawn…Kjerstine McHugh
Queen’s Rook Pawn…..Beth Zotos
King’s Rook…….Pat Parks
King’s Knight…..Michelle Corvais
King’s Bishop…..Jill Matarelli
King…………Dawn “Sam” Alden
Queen………..Stephanie Repin
Queen’s Bishop….Jessica Hester
Queen’s Knight….Jennie Ealy
Queen’s Rook……Leigh Anne Wilson

The White Team (The Fightshop):
King’s Rook Pawn…..Fred Mowery
King’s Knight Pawn…. Dawn Hunt
King’s Bishop Pawn…Anna Brennan
King’s Pawn……….Brad Wadle
Queen’s Pawn……….Jay O’Connor
Queen’s Bishop Pawn…James Klock
Queen’s Knight Pawn…Aaron Warner
Queen’s Rook Pawn…..Carin Klock
King’s Rook…….Joe Albright
King’s Knight….. Ali Dornheggen
King’s Bishop…..Mary Anne Bowman
King…………David Gregory
Queen………..Amanda Amadei
Queen’s Bishop….Scott Aiello
Queen’s Knight….Libby Beyreis
Queen’s Rook……Richard Gilbert

All photos by Johnny Knight

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