Kayla Williams spars with Nick Mora.Front from left, Jalil Toussant, Kayla Williams, Aundrea Enrique and Max Estudillo. Back from left, Bryan Hardee, Jonatan Ramirez, COM Theatre/Artistic Director H. Russ Brown, Fight Master Scot Mann, Nick Mora and Michael Salas.

“I’m going to ask you one more time – Did. You. Touch. My. Drums?” Nick Mora asks Jalil Toussant. “No!”

Tempers flare. Fists fly. Knives flash. A man falls.

Performing choreographed fight scenes, eight College of the Mainland theatre majors earned certifications in knife and unarmed fighting with the Society of American Fight Directors. Scot Mann, a Fight Master with Society of American Fight Directors, a designation held by only 16 in the world, judged the students’ skills and awarded certificates.

“[Certification] helps me so I can show a larger skill set to any company I work for,” said theatre major Max Estudillo, who plans to pursue theatre at Texas State University after graduating from COM. “My favorite part is the audience reaction [to fights]. Then you know it’s believable.”

All eight students passed both knife and unarmed skills certifications, with outstanding students passing on a recommended level. Stage combat certification training for Theatre majors is made available at no cost to them.

“It’s not common for a 100 percent pass rate for a school certifying students for the first time,” said H. Russ Brown, COM head of theatre/artistic director. “When students come here, they get training in three weapons by the time they graduate.”

Brown teaches stage combat to theatre majors as a supplement to their actor training.

“He’s teaching us [stage] knife fighting, punches and kicks,” said Aundrea Enrique, of Texas City. “I like dealing with knives. I feel like Zorro.”

Brown, a nationally recognized Certified Teacher with the Society of American Fight Directors, introduced stage combat training to the COM Associate of Arts Theatre Program when he came to COM last year. COM is one of four schools in the state that offer this training.

“He is the greatest teacher I’ve ever had in my life, and I’m not just saying that to kiss up. He taught me not to be afraid to go outside the box,” said Jalil Toussant, who hopes to act in Hollywood. “I love to create a character in yourself. I love to find that person in me I’ve never met before.”

Theatre major Bryan Hardee, of La Marque, 19, is stage-managing for COM’s production of “Bleacher Bums” opening May 19. He wants to learn the technical side of theatre – lighting and sound.

“There were three sections [of the staged fight for certification]. H. choreographed two and we did one,” said Hardee. “We choreographed my ‘death.’”

Students excitedly showed off their official Society of American Fight Directors certification. 

“I’m going to show my grandma this,” said Toussant.

Putting away their stage knives, students look forward to next year’s class: swashbuckling.

For more information about COM theatre classes in acting, drama, musicals and combat, visit www.com.edu/theatre or call 409-933-8544.