Slapping lessons? New York sound designer teaches MSA drama class
“If you walked by the theatre class at the Math Science and Arts Academy West last week, you probably would have been surprised to see students lined up to take turns slapping one another in the face. In fact, an entire day of "slapping" took place there--all under the direction of David Huber, a sound designer at the Syracuse stage in New York City,” said Iberville Parish School System Executive Director of Special Projects Elvis J. Cavalier.
Huber's arts degree in theatre from LSU took him all the way to New York years ago as he pursued a career in professional theatre. He was in town visiting relatives when theatre teacher Bonny McDonald snapped him up to speak to her students.
"I'm a professional sound designer, but I was an actor first,” said Huber. “I always loved stage combat, and I know students love it too. It's very important that they know how to do it properly so it's as safe as it is shocking!"
Huber showed the classes how to execute the move--with one partner "slapping" a target a full eight inches from the face, and the other "napping," making a loud, sharp sound on an open palm hidden at their waist.
The important thing is not the slap itself," Huber said, "it's the relationship that matters. The first step is to make eye contact, to communicate with your partner, to listen with your entire body. The slap happens, but the reaction is what really sells it." Pairs of students took turns performing slaps while the rest of the class watched and rated the realism of their performance. Huber asked them to judge whether the intensity of the slap matched the reaction to the slap.
At the end of the session, Huber had all the students sit in a circle to assess what they'd learned. He asked, "How can you apply the lessons we learned today about stage combat to acting in general?" Seventh grader Carrie Hill said, "Eye contact and listening are really important." "It's about communicating with your partner," said tenth grader Devan Franklin, "you can tell what they're going to do and what you should do if you pay attention." "That's exactly it," said Huber, "that is the essence of acting."
Huber returned to New York Thursday, his bag stuffed with thank you notes, said McDonald.