Jon Jon Johnson on ‘Flying V Fights: Love is a Battlefield’-Which Plays Through This Sunday at Writer’s Center

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I had been approached to audition for projects with Flying V before, and I had always been busy. When I was approached to audition for Flying V Fights, it felt like the stars and planets all aligned. They were looking for fight choreography and movement experience, which is something that I don’t typically get to do.

Robert Bowen Smith and Natalie Cutcher. Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography.
Robert Bowen Smith and Natalie Cutcher. Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography.

So I brought along a pair of deer-horn knives (a weapon specific to Bagua Kung Fu, which I studied), and showed them a routine. When directors look at actors my size, they don’t ever expect that I can move in the way I do. I’m always prepared to meet skepticism, but Jon Rubin and Jason Schlafstein were so open about this that they didn’t care about my appearance.

So I wound up in this cast, and haven’t looked back yet. The other 5 in the cast (Theresa Buechler, Danny Cackley, Natalie Cutcher, Rebecca Hausman, and Robert Bowen Smith) all brought movement styles vastly different to my own. Considering the highly martial nature of our show, we all immediately developed a close bond of trust with one another. After all, we had only a month to devise, develop, and rehearse several different scenes, all revolving around combat, violence, and love. We had to open up, be vulnerable with our emotions and spirits, and also be trusting of our partners to not hurt us in the staged combat. While that’s a tall order, I was so pleased to see everyone else in the crew and cast step up. The Flying V Team runs their rehearsals with a high level of transparency; nothing is withheld from us, people speak clearly, attempt to communicate, and never try to manipulate.

Such a rehearsal process cultivates an excellent rehearsal room; both a physically and emotionally safe one.

The show itself is quite unique. The only other times I’ve seen shows combine this many varieties of stage violence or stage combat have been at the Fringe Festival. At the same time, without being satirical, Flying V Fights looks at relationships through clowning, tango, Pro-Wrestling, Knife Fighting, MMA, Bo Staff, Gladiator style battles, contemporary dance, and a few others. For me, as a performer, I find utter joy in the eclectic mix of styles and stories, and I’m sure that many in the audience feel a similar delight! It’s also rare to feel the sheer joy of exploration and creativity in a rehearsal room mix with the special adrenaline of staged combat. Combine that with the energy of a well-thought out, painstakingly crafted devised piece, and everything just feels electric! That explosive mix of energy reverberates through the space in a way entirely new to me, and hopefully to audiences as well.

Knife-happy Jo Jo Johnson. Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography.
Knife-happy Jon Jon Johnson. Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography.

Flying V Fights: Love is a Battlefield is delightfully different, and differently delightful. So far, each audience member I’ve spoken to has found something enjoyable, something that resonates, or something that hits home. That energy I spoke of earlier? We just want to share it with you! I encourage (and not just because I’m in it) everyone to come see our work! Come early for the pre-show lobby, where you can play some Cards Against Humanity or some old-school Rock’em Sock’em Robots, then stay for the show where we’ll romp and revel with you!

REMAINING PERFORMANCES

Writer’s Center
4508 Walsh Street
Bethesda, MD (10 minute walk from the Bethesda Metro on the Red Line)
1 hour, 30 minutes

 TONIGHT: Friday the 27TH at 8 pm

TOMORROW: Saturday the 28TH at 2 pm and 8 pm

SUNDAY the 29TH at 2 pm.

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BUY TICKETS HERE.