WOU Professor Master Of Fake Fighting

Photo of stage combat
COURTESY TED deCHATELET/for the Itemizer-Observer

MONMOUTH — He’s the last guy you’d want on your side in a bar fight, but the first you’d call to make sure no one got hurt on stage.

“I can make it look like I’m totally kicking your (butt), but it’ll be completely safe,” said Ted deChatelet, adjunct professor of theater at Western Oregon University and stunt double for Noah Wyle in TNT’s new TV series “The Librarians,” which airs on Sundays.

“It’s all about creating the illusion of violence without actually hurting anyone,” he said.

DeChatelet went to Portland, where the series was filmed, to choreograph sword fights for the show and was asked to work as Wyle’s stunt double.

“I did some stunt doubling for him, which was actually pretty silly and easy,” he said with a chuckle. “I mean, incredibly difficult and highly skilled.”

The craziest thing he ended up doing for the show was sliding down a curved bannister, which is more difficult than one might think.

“I start about four steps up and slid down, and start moving up,” deChatelet said. “I got to where I could do two-thirds and stick the landing.”

He spent more than an hour practicing sliding down in a sitting position, only to discover that the actor, Wyle, decided to slide down on his belly.

“It was 10 times easier than what I’d been practicing,” deChatelet said. “It’s just one of those things. You get all worked up and practice, practice, practice, but that was no big deal.”

DeChatelet said stage combat feeds his inner athlete.

“I was a frustrated athlete,” he said. “I wanted to be a jock when I was a kid, but I was never any good at any sports enough to make a team. (Stage combat) is kind of like athletics for theater geeks.”

His first paid acting job was a summer outdoor performance of “The Legend of Daniel Boone.” He played Jamie Boone, Daniel’s son, and was beaten up, scalped and gutted on stage at the end of the first act.

“In the second act, I came back as generic Native American No. 4, and I died three more times in mass battles, so I had four deaths a night,” deChatelet said.

The Society of American Fight Directors held classes for actors during the Daniel Boone show. He went from an actor combatant to a fight choreographer by the time he completed graduate school at the University of Illinois.

For deChatelet, being able to choreograph fights — from a seemingly simple slap and a push to a full-length sword fight — is just another tool in his bag.

“It became a way to supplement my income,” he said. And the more an actor can do, the more valuable he is.

“The bottom line is you have to have equal parts passion and follow-through (in acting), that commitment,” deChatelet said.

“There’s a lot of people with talent, but the people who succeed are the ones who work the hardest. There’s no substitute for that. It’s far too competitive. No one’s going to hand you anything. You’ve really got to take the initiative.”

Polk County Itemizer-Observer
by Emily Mentzer