Reprinted from March 1998 issue of SHOUT MAGAZINE
When a Broadway Producer want's to have somebody, slapped, kicked, stabbed, shot, or thrown over board they call Rick Sordelet. Rick Sordelet is one of the busiest guys on Broadway. He's the Stage Fight Director for Scarlet Pimpernel, Titanic, Beauty & The Beast, and the Lion King. After a quick brush up rehearsal, backstage at the Minskoff for the sword fight that creates the swashbuckling finale for the hit musical "Scarlet Pimpernel" I sat down for a quite Italian dinner with Rick Sordelet and his lovely wife, actress Kathleen Kelly and three children, Kalen 12, Christian 9 and Colin 3.

"So kids, what do you think about their dad making a living as a stage fight director?" Kalen, the eldest of the clan said, "I think its, really, really, really, cool. I don't know anybody else's dad who does anything like it. I don't know anybody else who gets to see so many Broadway shows and stuff like that as I do, so it's been really, really nice." Did your dad teach you how to fight fair with your brothers? "Yes he did." What's your favorite strangle hold or move as a fighter? "Head lock, cross kick and knee sweep." "That's dirty fighting" her brother Christian shouted across the table. "So Christian, what is your favorite thing in stage fighting. "Swords, daggers, my favorite sword is a rapier." "Christian was my assistant fight director on 'I Hate Hamlet' proud Papa Rick announced. "I'm starting to work early" his son beamed proudly. "I did this thing with the phone" The wide eyed youth of 9 explained. "I had this great idea that the ghost of Barrymore should slash through the phone cord when the other character was on the phone - so we loosened the connection so their wasn't too much tension on the cord so when they sliced through it would just fall and not whip back and hurt somebody." Then Colin, the littlest Sordelet proclaimed "I have lots of swords in my play room!" "Since your dad has worked on Lion King, Titanic, Scarlet Pimpernel and Beauty and The Beast, which one is your favorite show?" Kalen said "I have to say I liked Lion King and Scarlet Pimpernel the best, but I haven't seen the Titanic yet." Christian added, Scarlet Pimpernel's the best. I love the set. And the Lion King."
"How has it been balancing a family life with three kids and two professionals in the theatre. "Kathleen has been very generous in her situation in working with me in how we do this. She has the same degree I do, she's a brilliant actress, but we have a strong commitment to the kids and we work really hard to be there for them when they get home from school. "Home is where?" "Monte Claire New Jersey. We bought a 5 bedroom Victorian House. It's a great big house, fenced in yard, swing set, dog, cat, beautiful city with a great school system." "OK, what I want to know is how does a scholar, actor, writer, director and college Professor, make so much money from fighting? "By using all of those things that you described. My training started as an actor. I have an MFA from Bill Espers school at Rutgers University, and it think it was my ability to approach the work from an actors' view point using the skills of an actor, writer, director to stage it in a way that is character motivated. I don't pre-arrange the fights. I did that in the beginning till I learned I could service the directors vision better by listening to the actors and shaping that" "How often does it happen that you work with a director that wants you to do something that really isn't safe? How do you tell them 'this is really not a good idea" "Most of the directors I've worked with have been really great about understanding the safety element. They will understand from a common sense point of view that you might be able to pull something risky off once or twice, but not 8 times a week. The odds catch up, something happens and you're in trouble. When I get into a situation where a director feels strongly about a move I say to him, 'show me how to do it.' Suddenly the director is in a position where they have to physically try it and realize how difficult it is - they do the math. - 'Could I do this 8 times a week safely?' 'Is this fair to ask an actor?' That's how you educate a director."
"As a family man, what are the advantages to earning a living as a stage fight director in the theatre industry?" "Making a living as a fight director helped me to teach our kids not to fight. To show them if, they want to solve their problems they need to talk it out. During the Gulf War, I began to question what I was doing for a living. If I was promoting violence in a violent society. I've come to the conclusion that if we show with violence, that violence does not help the situation, show them its braver to walk away from it whenever possible. That violence is not the answer. In Beauty and the Beast, Gaston didn't profit from his violence. The Beast was not willingly violent. He was pushed into it and yet in the moment of violence he chooses to be human. To be in on that show from the begging was a fascinating experience. Rob Roth, was about 28 at the time when he was giving the job, and there is a director who truly earned his wings. He had done some exemplary work for the company and was rewarded with the job. That is when Katzenberg and Eizenber were still together and they made a wonderful team. When they did come to rehearsals, their notes were very succinct and to the point, and I know their was some controversy that Rob Roth was just Katzenbergs yes man, - uh uh, that was not the case. That show was, and is, Rob Roth's Show. . . .I've been part of Pimpernel since the beginning too. In Scarlet Pimpernel we're dealing with courage and self sacrifice with a the big, heroic, romantic sword fight at the end. We're doing well at the box office. The people know what they want to see and they open up their check books for this one. Lion King was a situation where I came into the show in New York, after they had already done a production in Minneapolis, and basically did a lot of clean-up. In Titanic the thing I'm proudest of is the spirit of safety I instilled in the company. I can't tell you how much I love working with the Dodgers. There was a moment when we were working on the Titanic when Michael David came out and talked to the cast, that was a real tide turner in the production. Everybody knows we had a lot of problems during previews, technical glitches, a lot of growing pains. He stood there with all the Dodgers behind him said 'Stick with us. We are aware of where the problems are, we're working on it, stay with us, and we will get through this together." Five Tony's later, there we are. "How did you like working on the Dodgers production of 'Once Upon A Mattress'?" "Sarah Jessica Parker! I cannot tell you what a fan I am of hers. What a professional. You could not have asked for a better talent to be in that role. It was her sheer personality that kept that thing going. She was just a phenomenal force behind that production.
"Aside from theatre, you've done a lot of other things, the Superbowl half-time show, action sequences for the Star Wars CD-Rom games for George Lucas, Disney crews ships-" "Disney's Broadway at Sea. Yes, Disney is building six ships, one is being built right now in Italy. They've assembled a wonderful crew to create these hour long shows. They've written a Hercules that is hysterical. They took the movie and created the barge and chariot version. Then they have another show called the Disney dream about all the Disney characters and a new show called "The Voyage of the Ghost Ship". Not only are we sword fighting as pirates but as ghost pirates, so we're flying all over the set and it's really exciting. "Tell me about the CD-Rom you did for George Lucas." "I did one of the new Star Wars out in LA called 'First Jedi' it's the second CD-Rom in a series. All state of the art equipment against the bluing screen doing the light saber battles using a lot of the equipment from the original film. The light sabers turned out to be phosphorescent painted broom sticks so the computer guys could track the weapons. So in the studio you're having this great battle but all you can hear is this wooden sounding whack, whack! It's during post production that they add all the great sounds."
"When you did the Superbowl, half time entertainment show, that was a big break. What was it like doing such a big show in such a short amount of time with all those people in the middle of all that mayhem?" "This was the Indiana Jones Superbowl back in '95 when San Diego played San Francisco. I was an amazing experience to have over 3 billion people see your work live. We had 12 minutes to do the show and the best part of it was the planning. We had over 800 people assembling the show in only four minutes. We had another 700 extras dancing on the field with Patti LaBell, Tony Bennett and Tito Fuentes, Miami Sound Machine singing. Of course the number one objective was in promoting this new Indiana Jones ride in Disney Land. So the director, Jay Smith we got us all together in June and we worked solidly for six months to plan how we could put this 12 minute show together. A lot of folks get a kick out of knocking Disney, but there is not another company on this planet that could have pulled that off. Nobody does entertainment better than they do."
"Aside from all the stage fights, you've done a lot of writing. You've had a few stagings and productions of one of your shows that was very successful haven't you?" "George Street Playhouse produced my 'Buried Treasure' and it got great reviews and was a tremendous success. Jim Vias at American Stage Company had done a series of readings to develop the piece and it had also had a reading at 'Naked Angeles' here in New York. The play is about the courage of the human spirit in the face of death. On a personal level I had watched two very close friends of mine go through aids related deaths and an eleven year old boy named Nathan Chapman, and they all died approximately at the same time. Part of the grieving process came through writing Buried Treasure. I still get people who call me or the director Joe Mancuso to talk about the play who say 'That play really changed my life." Or "I called my brother who I haven't spoke to in 10 years because we had a falling out and that play made me realize how time is very short.' It was a great feeling as a playwright, that something I wrote and collaborated on with a great director and two terrific actors Bill Doyle and Chris Mixon could move people. I've done a couple of readings out in Los Angeles and got a lot of feed back from the Movie industry and I'm on my second draft of the screen play - which has to be done by the end of February to keep the ball rolling."
"What are you working on now? "I'm in rehearsals for 'Wait Until Dark' with Quentin Terantino and Marisa Tomie and Stephen Lang, two Oscar winners and a Tony nominee, really strong actors. I'm amazed that people keep asking me 'Quentin Terantino? Can he really act?' - and of course he can. He acts beautifully. This is a great role from him and he brings a lot to the table. And Lenny Folio is a really strong director. Besides that, I just finished directing several industrials and I'm about to do my sixth episode for 'Guiding Light' as a fight coordinator. I really like the Soap work because you get in there, get it on it's feet and you go. Soap actors are pros, Especially Kim Zimmer. Oh my God, this is a woman who is worth her weight in Emmys.
"Besides all these Broadway shows and Musicals, you also do a lot of Shakespeare don't you?" "Yes, right now I'm doing Richard the second with the Pearl Theatre. It's one of my favorite Theatre Companies to work with. It's this little jewel of a classical theatre that just has such heart. Shep Silberman, the Artistic Director has a tremendous eye for the classics. I really love working there, it's a vacation. I've done 27 productions of Romeo & Juliet alone. I truly love that play because it captures what we've all gone through. That first great love would we do anything to realize. All of us are capable of making mistakes. Romeo & Juliet is about people making un-wise decisions. We have all made un-wise decisions. I think that's why the play is so popular. And of course Hamlet is another favorite of mine along with Othello, Julius Caesar and 'The Scottish Play'. (Macbeth). "Now kids, since you're immersed in so much theatre, can you give me your favorite Shakespeare quote?" Kalen: "To be or not to be" The inner conflict in it. The person versus himself. When I first saw it, I was only five and then, it was the only part of the play I got." "How about you Christian? "The same one because he's asking do I kill myself. It has a lot into it and I liked the way it is said." "Mother Kathleen, what is your favorite quote?" "All the word's a stage and we are but players. The speech about how we are hear to learn our lessons and our lines." So what is your favorite Shakespeare quote Rick?" "Well I'm very fond of the quote from Henry VI, 'The first thing we do is kill all the lawyers', I just got back from doing a production of that in Washington every night they said that line the audience when nuts! But actually my favorite Shakespeare quotes is 'She doth hang upon the night like a jewel from an Ethiopes ear.' It's from Romeo and Juliet when Romeo first sees her, it's the click, the moment of the decision that he has to be with her. It's such a classical, beautiful moment that we've experienced. To look at somebody across a room and have your heart seize up in out throat. That's what happened to me the first time I saw my wife. True! When I first saw her standing there at Rutgers University, I knew I was going to marry her. It just took me a year to get a date. And she did hang upon the night like a jewel from an Ethiopes ear." If I could say anything, I would like to say that I'm the luckiest guy in the world. I enjoy the people I work with and I feel so fortunate to be a part of the Broadway community. "Technically you have more show's on Broadway than any other director. "Yah, well I try to keep my feet firmly on the ground and you know what? I don't believe my own press. If anything keeps me grounded it's my family. After all the work and shows and events, when I get home, I have to change a diaper, empty the garbage and take the dog for a walk."

by Robert W. Cabell

© and all rights reserved by Robert W. Cabell 1996-2010 site maintained by Get Z'd Productions email rwcabell@aol.com for questions or comments.

zorro musical zorro Broadway zorro Gibson Debra theater zorro showtunes zorro theatre Menudo zorro soundtrack zorro musical zorro Broadway zorro Gibson Debra theater zorro showtunes zorro theatre Menudo zorro soundtrack zorro musical zorro Broadway zorro Gibson Debra theater zorro showtunes zorro theatre Menudo zorro soundtrack zorro musical zorro Broadway zorro Gibson Debra theater zorro showtunes zorro theatre Menudo zorro soundtrack zorro musical zorro Broadway zorro Gibson Debra theater zorro showtunes zorro theatre Menudo zorro soundtrack zorro musical zorro Broadway zorro Gibson Debra theater zorro showtunes zorro theatre Menudo zorro soundtrack