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Blade Runner

You have a national reputation as a sword fighter. how did you start?

 I began fencing in elementary school, in Englewood, New Jersey, where I grew up. Later I moved more into dancing and acting, although in 11th grade I was in a production of Romeo and Juliet that got me interested in fight choreography. At Barnard, I was drawn to fencing again and became an NCAA Division I finalist, as well as attending national stage-combat workshops and continuing with acting.

What attracts you so much about fencing and sword fight scenes?

 I’ve always liked physical performance. Fencing is strategic, it has grace and etiquette, similar to ballet—it’s not about muscling the other person. Sword- fighting is also exciting to watch and be in the midst of. You get a kind of double excitement in knowing how it makes the audience feel—when you take a swipe at someone and hear the audience gasp.

Is acting in a stunt show, like Terminator 2: 3D, very different from acting in a part with no stunts?

 You need to capture a wider range. You’re acting the part, but you also need to completely capture the technical side, so that it rings true. For example, if you’re falling, you have to look like you’re not in control, but you have to be in complete control as a performer. If you’re doing sword work, you need to watch where the tip of the weapon is going.

You’re making a name for yourself in motion capture, a movement recording process used in computer animation. What attracts you to this area?

Motion capture is a meld between film and theatre; it also mixes special effects and the actor’s performance. You don’t have to worry about costumes, just props. You use your imagination, and your work is transformed into animation. There’s opportunity for a lot of variety, which I like—for example, in Devil May Cry 4, I was the main actress plus two other characters. It’s a new niche for actors.

You also work in acting and improv, videos, documentaries, and sing with a group that mixes sketches and songs. how does it all fit together?

I really like to do a lot of different things! I think the notion of juggling came from my Barnard years— balancing an academic course load and fencing. It taught me to be efficient and resourceful, to do my research, and to be an entrepreneur. I’ve had the most fun choreographing my own stuff. When I played Francisco in Hamlet Shut Up! with the Sacred Fools Theater Company, of which I’m a member, I was rolling around in a shark suit, fighting Hamlet. I got to put my own spin on the choreography. You know what moves you do well, and you put all that into your performance.

-by Trudy Balch '78