Ep. 86: Stage Combat and Fight Choreography Explained by Jeff A.R. Jones, Heather Strickland, and Tara Nicole Williams
For over 20 years, Jeff A.R. Jones has staged fights for ballet, dance, theatre opera film and television. As a certified stage combat teacher, he has also trained some of the areas most sought after fight choreographers, including Tara Nicole Williams and Heather Strickland. But when COVID-19 shut theaters down, productions were canceled and so were in-person classes, leaving certified professionals without gigs and an industry scrambling to come up with new guidelines to keep actors and audiences safe.
Prior to the shutdown, however, Jones, Strickland, and Williams spoke to RDU on Stage about fight choreography. Hear what they have to say about stage combat, consent, and much more.
About the Guests
Jeff. A. R. Jones has served as Resident Designer for Carolina Ballet for 17 years where he designed sets and/or costumes for many of the company’s original works beginning with the company’s first new work, Dancers in a Gypsy Style, and continuing with such shows as Messiah, The Kreutzer Sonata, Carmen, Cabaret and Des Images. He created the scenery for Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Firebird, Tempest Fantasy, Dracula and The Little Mermaid among many others. He has designed throughout the southeast at theatres including Playhouse on the Square, Florida Studio Theatre, Asolo Conservatory Theatre, and TheatreWorks. As a Fight Director, he has staged fights for ballet, dance, theatre, opera, film, and television over the past 20 years. He has taught classes at Florida State, Asolo Conservatory, Duke University, and is currently faculty at Elon University and William Peace University. He holds the titles of Fight Director, Certified Teacher, and Instructor of Theatrical Firearms with the Society of American Fight Directors. Mr. Jones has a Bachelor’s degree from William & Mary and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Florida State University.
Heather J. Strickland started as the Executive Director of Raleigh Little Theatre in June 2020. Prior to joining RLT, Heather was the Communications and Development Director for the North Carolina Partnership for Children (NCPC), the organization that leads the Smart Start network across the state. In this role, she has led a network-wide rebranding effort and created and implemented fund development strategies for the organization. Prior to joining NCPC in 2013, Heather was the Director of Communications for the NC Department of State Treasurer where she oversaw all communications, branding, and marketing strategies for the agency, including the North Carolina Retirement Systems, the State Health Plan, and the Local Government Commission. Heather also served as the Marketing Director for Carolina Ballet, one of the largest performing arts organizations in the state. Heather has over 15 years of extensive experience and success in developing organizational strategy and branding, fundraising, and cultivating engagement for nonprofit and public service organizations. She has been involved with RLT since 2005, starting as a volunteer and stepping into the roles of director, teaching artist, and board member over time. Strickland has also worked as a director, actor, and dance/fight choreographer. She is a member of ArtEquity’s first cohort of National Board Leaders and has a degree in Theatre Arts and Communications from Flagler College.
Tara Nicole Williams is an actor, educator, and stage combat artist raised, right here, in Raleigh, NC. She has trained with the Society of American Fight Directors for the last 10 years, specializing in German Longsword and high fantasy choreography. She has also facilitated the introduction of intimacy choreography to the Triangle community; organizing workshops and special events. Currently, she is pursuing her Intimacy Director status with Intimacy Directors International. Along with her own training, she manages the Stage Combat Academy of North Carolina, assisting Fight Director Jeff A.R. Jones. Tara also teaches stage combat, acting, and movement with universities, schools, and organizations locally, regionally, and nationally. Her work focuses on empowering actors to own their unique physicality – using movement to tell intricate stories. Most recently she has appeared on stage in Raleigh Little Theatre’s production of DON’T DRESS FOR DINNER, for which she won a Cantey Award as Suzette. Tara is currently in Honest Pint Theatre’s production of THE METROMANIACS as Lucille. Her previous fight/intimacy choreography credits include: THE LEGEND OF GEORGIA McBRIDE(Honest Pint Theatre), BASKERVILLE: A SHERLOCK HOLMES MYSTERY (Raleigh Little Theatre), JULIUS CAESAR (William Peace University), CARMEN(NC Opera), THE MIRACLE WORKER (Seed Art Share), and SHE KILLS MONSTERS (Meredith College). For more information visit https://www.taranicolewilliams.com/.
Check out my live chats with Tara Nicole Williams and Heather Strickland: