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Alum spotlight: Jenny Male (MFA ’02)

woman smiling

Jenny Male, MFA 2002, Pedagogy with emphasis in Movement and Fight Direction

jennymalefights@gmail.com

According to Jenny, the IDC (Intimacy Directors and Coordinators, the leading organization for Intimacy Professionals in the entertainment industries) identifies people who do intimacy work as directors for stage and coordinators for screen. Jenny is certified for theatre work. 

As a tenth grader in Richland, Mississippi, Jenny saw a production at a nearby high school and actually transferred to that high school “because I knew I wanted to do theatre.” She also attended the Performing Arts High School in Jackson, Mississippi.  

girl opening present by christmas tree
 Opening presents at Christmas when Jenny was eight – her brother was trying to steal back the present he gave her (1983)

In her undergrad studies at the University of Mississippi, Jenny got to take stage combat classes, “which made me want to attend a national stage combat workshop in Las Vegas.” That’s where she started hearing about VCU. 

actors performing
from the VCU production “Violent Delights” in 2000 with alum Tiza Garland (see Tiza’s alum spotlight from 2020 back by clicking on the photo)

While at VCU, “I got a wonderful education with classes in movement and fight direction and clowning, but one of the things that was a surprise was getting very involved in voice work.” She assisted Janet Rodgers (Voice and Speech Professor Emeritus) and “this was not something on my trajectory, but I fell in love with it.” In addition to teaching fight direction, she also teaches voice and dialect as an Associate Professor of Theatre at Howard Community College in Columbia, MD. “It’s all because of VCU.” 

group of people posing together
This is all the participants at the NYC stage combat workshop Summer Sling in 2015.  Photo by Theik Smith

Jenny met her husband Peter Boyer in undergrad and after graduation at VCU, “It was his turn to pick where we’d move, so we went to New York for a year. Ironically, in order to pay the bills, I had to take an acting job.” She was cast in touring educational shows because, “I was loud, could speak Spanish and had basic dance skills.” 

choreographed woman punching man on stage
A slow motion fight with Christian Sullivan from “The Continuing Adventures of John Blade: Super Spy” by Kyle Encinas presented by Live Action Theatre in 2013.  

Another fight scene from “The Continuing Adventures of John Blade: Super Spy” with Robb Hunter, a Fight Master who also received his MFA from VCU.

In 2003, they moved to DC, where Peter continued to act and Jenny worked with most of the major area theatres. In 2006, she went full time at Howard Community College, acting as the coordinator of their theatre program. She’s proud of HCC, because, “It’s the only community college in the country that has an Equity theatre in residence, the Rep Stage. All I have to do is go downstairs and work with fabulous DC actors.” She serves as resident intimacy and fight director for Rep Stage. 

actors in costume bowing on stage
This is the final curtain call for “How I Became a Pirate” at Adventure Theatre in 2017.  Jenny directed and choreographed the production.

Jenny credits much of the intimacy direction movement to VCU alum Tonia Sina (MFA  2006), who chose intimacy direction as her thesis and later went on to form Intimacy Directors International with two other women. It’s been rebranded as IDC.

As an intimacy director, the field “grew so much with the demand for safe practices in the workplace, but also ways to inspire creativity. We’re not here to water down the work, but to help the artists fulfill their vision. I want to make sure the actors feel safe and confident in their work.”

group of people looking at camera
This is the teaching staff for the Summer Sling in 2018.  Jenny has taught at the workshop several times over the past decade.  Photo by Theik Smith.

One of the takeaways from VCU was to, “learn to take time to listen to the director’s vision and take copious notes on the text, then communicate with the actors to make sure all of us are working toward the same goal. Always think about the performers.”

woman in front of iron swords
The Iron Throne!


Compiled by Liz Hopper (Emeritus Faculty) and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the January 2021 Theatre Alumni Newsletter