Actors prepare for student produced, boxing-based play

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On one side of the boxing ring is Dani Perez, waiting to tap gloves with her opponent James, who waits anxiously on the opposing side, each hoping for the final knockout. They are about to fight in one of the biggest matches of their lives so far, and audience members at the premiere of the new UT production “Fight” will be there to watch as they duke it out on stage.

“Fight” tells the story of a young girl named Dani Perez, who is abandoned by her mother and moves to Brooklyn to begin training as a boxer at the same gym her father fought at. Through her rigorous training, Perez struggles to make connections with those around her and finally discovers a place where she feels that she belongs.

Kimberly Lee, an MFA play-writing candidate at UT, who wrote and directed “Fight,” was inspired to create the show after she took up boxing herself.

“I really developed a great love for the sport and the history of it,” Lee said. “It’s a world that is populated with a lot of characters.”

To prepare for “Fight,” the actors portraying boxers have been training at a local gym since June. Lee, who is a certified boxing coach, worked together with local boxer Ray Perez to get the actors in top shape for the show. The actors trained and now fight in accordance with the amateur USA boxing rules.

“It’s been pretty intense,” said Matrex Kilgore, the actor portraying the boxer James. “We’ve been training with one of the best trainers in Austin. We’ve been sparring almost every day and training like a real boxer would.”

All of this training will be put to use when Kilgore and another character have an actual boxing match on stage each night.

“It’s three rounds of two minutes that will be fought in real time,” Lee said.

In addition to the excitement of the on-stage boxing, Lee is excited just to see her play come to life.

“It’s all those things that you might imagine,” Lee said. “When you write something, it stays inside your head and it takes a giant step to get down to the page, and then it takes another giant step to get into the mouths and bodies of the actors and into the minds of the directors and designers, and then from those minds collaborating, it takes another big step to actually end up on a stage in front of people.”

The process has also been exciting for Kilgore, who found a lot of creative liberty in developing a character that no one else has ever played before.

“The excitement is that no one has an idea of what this character should be like because you are the first one to breathe life into it,” Kilgore said. “I am the alpha, I am the beginning of this thing.”