June 2007 Issue
Putting Up a Fight
The buzz whips round the stage: "The fight choreographer's here!" Actors search for the man who'll create their derring-do, looking right through the woman with the riotous caramel curls.
Overlook k. Jenny Jones at your peril. The instant she twirls toward the actors, they realize she's ready to rumble.
Jones is America's first female fight master, one of just 14 directors who have reached the highest level of proficiency as accredited by the Society of American Fight Directors (SAFD). SAFD members have been encouraging Jones since the Cincinnatian picked up her first broadsword in a 1988 production of "Cymbeline" in graduate school.
Jones moves far beyond her realm as associate professor of drama at the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music. She has choreographed violence for more than 100 stage performances. Jones travels the world teaching the fine points of fighting -- from barroom brawling in Seattle to sword brandishing in Chicago to scrappy fighting in London -- to acting students and professional stage performers.
Her trademark is unarmed contemporary fighting, but Jones loves to cut loose with rapier and dagger. "There's a lot more flourish, and you can counter-attack much faster," she says. "I get to engage my whole body."
During skirmishes, she presents the female take on stage violence: less powerful than men, women are quicker. They even fall differently because of their hip structure. "I had no female teachers, so I had to create my own [methods]," she explains. "If there were more women in this organization, I wouldn't be as innovative as I am."