Human Combat Chess 2016: A (Hopefully) Spoiler-Free Recap

The referee wants to discuss this week’s Game of Thrones episode before Callan Korpi has seen it.

Any doubts you may have about the athleticism of this year’s Human Combat Chess players are put to rest before the pieces even line up on the board.

If you arrive early, the warm-ups are a show of their own. I watched Ethan Jensen, a curly-haired White Piece enforcer, balance himself against the wall upside-down with one arm. I watched David Elwyn, a Black Piece with a spy villain getup, tumble across the chessboard and engaged in some playful (but frighteningly precise) hand-to-hand combat with fellow Black Piece Chase Mabson.

Even beyond the 15 hours of rehearsal required for each fight, even beyond the six years Six Elements Theatre has been putting on Human Combat Chess, many of these athletes have been at it a while.

Elwyn is a fourth-rank in Kai Shin-style Japanese swordsmanship, and hosts a podcast about theatrical fighting; Callan Korpi, who played the queen of the White Pieces, is certified as proficient in seven weapons through the Society of American Fight Directors. I could go on and on.

A spectator asks Darwin Hull about the Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback situation.

Human Combat Chess is exactly as it sounds: a chess game, using real people as pieces, with square captures done via duel. The kings pace the game boards, wielding clipboards — hey, the swordplay might be the main draw, but a chess game also must happen. It does, caps tipped to classic chess maneuvers.

Fight director Mike Lubke said there has never been as many fights as there are in this year’s edition, and the dedication is evident in the final product. Do you want elegant, artistic swordplay? They’ve got that. Do you want floor-shaking, artistic brutality? They’ve got that, too. Darwin Hull (a bearded giant, the most recognizable of Six Elements’ faces) is given a big ol’ broadsword and he swings it right out of the starting block. Hull sets the tone for the night marvelously.

Not every move brings a fight, of course, but the actors do a good job keeping the board interesting between clashes. Some taunt, some stand with menacing glares, others engage in awkward group hugs, and Eleanor Sampson twirls her braids like nunchuks on occasion. Forget conventional arms: if she figures a way to install blades in those things, watch out.

The action flows well between displays of prowess and displays of pure power. Even the imperfect fights look well-rehearsed. None of the actors or actresses look like they were holding their weapons for the first time. The commentary was amusing, but didn’t interfere.

The cast leaves it all on the chessboard. It’s all in good fun, but make no mistake: these folks(‘ characters) are genuinely out to hurt each other(‘s characters).

Human Combat Chess runs through May 7. Find more information at Brown Paper Tickets.

Human Combat Chess 2015
Callan Korpi and Loe Lubke demonstrate a swordfight
David Elwyn demonstrates offensive shield use

Radio Recap: Modist Brewing, Outlaw Grill

April 25 show

Did you miss Monday’s show? Luckily for you, I’ve got everything you need right here. If you haven’t subscribed on iTunes yet, get to it! You can also watch it on the Livestream Monday nights from 5-6 p.m. and 6:45-7:30 p.m.

If links aren’t your thing, you can listen right here!

In the studio, John Donnelly of Modist Brewing recapped their grand opening in the North Loop, and walked us through a brewing process unexampled in the Twin Cities (and perhaps anywhere). Darren and Lana Thomas of the Outlaw Grill food truck told us a few truckin’ stories, as well as their weekend at First Avenue as fans celebrated the loss of Prince.

In case you missed it on Facebook, here are some shots of the Modist Brewing taproom along with some fun facts:

If you sit next to these tanks, you can reach over and refill your glasses for free. Ask John Donnelly about it when you visit the taproom.
This machine pulverizes the grain at the start of the brewing process at Modist.
At the end of the brewing process, finished beer comes through those hoses. For a decent price, you and 40 friends can all line up with one of those tubes and drink fresh beer together directly from the machines. Ask John Donnelly about it when you visit the taproom.
If you’re thirsty at Modist Brewing, ask one of their friendly staffers for a beer! They’ll stand by the tap handles and laugh at you. I’m kidding: they’re very nice folks and the beer is delicious.
Modist Brewing has a special offer where your next beer is free if you can drink three samples in three seconds or less. Ask John Donnelly about it when you visit the taproom.


Radio Recap: Bent Brewstillery, Six Elements Theatre


Did you miss Monday’s show? Luckily for you, I’ve got everything you need right here. If you haven’t subscribed on iTunes yet, get to it! You can also watch it on the Livestream Monday nights from 5-6 p.m. and 6:45-7:30 p.m.

If links aren’t your thing, you can listen right here!

We went coast-to-coast at Teresa’s Mexican Restaurant again, and kicked off the show with another weapons demonstration courtesy the Human Combat Chess players at Six Elements Theatre.

Bartley Blume of Bent Brewstillery stopped in and I popped open Bottle #1 of 2013’s Pour Decisions quarter-cask Kalamity. I followed exactly zero of those beer-aging rules you keep hearing about, but the Kalamity tasted incredible nonetheless. That’s all you need to know about rules.

I’ll apologize ahead of time for the scratchy qualities you’ll experience on this sound file. Don’t crank this one up to 11. Keep it at a nice six or seven, perhaps.

April 11: Six Elements Theatre Sword Demonstration, Bad Weather Brewing
April 4: NorthGate Brewing, Dallas Cowboys Suck, Dagger Dolls, Surviving a Goose Attack, Sorry About Smashing that Bottle
March 28
: Day Block Brewing, Day Block Bacon
March 21: Sisyphus Brewing, 6Smith, Marlon Hanson, rap battle.

March 14: NorthGate Brewing, The Draft Horse, Joe Shea, Left Hand Brewing, Garda Belts.