How To Sell A Stage Slap

Screenshot: ABC News

We've told you how to actually hit someone. But here's how to pretend to hit someone. First, a tip from The Good Fight actress and Broadway treasure Christine Baranski on the loose hand and the follow-through.

Keep a loose hand

Baranski describes actually landing a slap, but selling it as much harder than it is. The trick to this, she says, is to keep a loose hand. Still, when she gives herself a light tap, she mentions that even this might leave her with a red cheek for a little bit.

Match the reaction to the slap

A stage slap is a test of two actors' communication and teamwork — everything needs to match between slapper and slapped. When that matches, you can get away with plenty. Baranski mentions this briefly, but let's look further.

If you watch the video below, everything will look fake until that final demonstration. It's like a magic trick, and the magic is teamwork.

Fake it, fake it, fake it

Some stage productions think that for minor violence, they can just do it for real. "Eh, just slap me, I can take it!" says the actor. No one wants to be the weak-arse baby who can't take a slap. But, writes actor and fight director Ned Donovan, this is begging for trouble.

Perform the same slap eight nights a week for a play's full run, he says, and you're running a real risk that something goes wrong, someone pops an eardrum or leaves a mark or starts hating their co-star.

Donovan recommends hiring a fight director to heighten the realism. If that's not in your budget, study more of these fake-slap techniques online to increase realism. Use those angles, and if you're performing for video, trust post-production to give you a meatier smack than you could ever safely achieve with a real hit.

The key is to avoid hand-to-face contact. Stage fight choreographer Richard Pallaziol, owner of the theatrical weapons shop Weapons of Choice, writes that "the contact slap is inherently unsafe." He emphasises the risk of ear drum damage from a misplaced slap, noting that repeated performances raise the risk of this mistake to dangerous levels.

So first set that boundary, and then worry about realism. Unless you're Christine Baranski, who's earned the right to pop an eardrum or two.


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