Some people know from an early age what they want to be when they
grow up. Scot Mann was one of those people.
Even as a child,
the assistant professor of theatre at The University of Southern
Mississippi stood out from the crowd. When his friends would take
up arms in the neighborhood to play war games, Mann was the only
kid to grab a stick and a garbage can lid for battle. "While
everyone else was playing soldier, I was the one fighting in the
bushes against imaginary pirates."
explains things. Today, Mann makes his living with essentially the
same tools and the same skills that made him king of the mountain
in the backyards of Georgia, where he grew up.
fighting off two villains with a single blade, disarming a bandit
with the crack of a bullwhip or falling four floors without breaking
a bone - much less a sweat - Mann makes it all look easy. And very,
very real. These superhero skills have made Mann a highly sought-after
stage combat instructor and acting coach on both sides of the proverbial
Mann, 38, spent two weeks as guest instructor in London at the invitation
of the British Academy of Stage and Screen Combat. There, Mann instructed
professional actors, fight directors and theatre students from the
United Kingdom, Germany and Malta in the use of the double-rapier
for stage and screen. It was Mann's second trip to the British academy,
considered by most as the cradle of stage combat.
the source of our art," Mann said. "As you read Shakespeare,
you realize he mentions places that are right across from the London
pub you're sitting in. The whole place is just steeped in it."
profession might be the envy of every 6-year-old boy, his work is
far from child's play.
five to 10 seconds of a fight on stage, it takes about two to three
hours of rehearsal," Mann said in his office at Southern Miss,
which is packed with the tools of his trade: swords of all shapes
and lengths, shields, martial arts weapons, even juggling pins.
use protective equipment on stage, so we have to be very precise
with what we're doing."
All of Mann's
stunts and fight sequences are made to look dangerous; in reality,
Mann and his students take every precaution to eliminate unnecessary
hazards. Steel stage swords are deliberately dulled, punches surreptitiously
pulled at the last second.
maintaining such a grueling work schedule requires Mann to be in
peak physical condition. Each morning at 5 a.m., Mann starts his
day with a martial arts workout and strength training exercises.
Staying in shape also helps Mann avoid injuries. In his 15 years
working both professionally and freelance, Mann has been injured
only once. "I've seen others get hurt. Our maxim is 'safety
first,' though. A good stunt performer always shows up to work the
next day," he said.
to Southern Miss to become a full-time instructor last semester,
Mann spent about seven years studying stage combat while earning
credits toward his certification. During that time, Mann traveled
around the country, working with different fight instructors and
acting in various productions. He eventually opened his own fight
instruction studio in Atlanta, which still exists today under different
He has performed
and choreographed fights and stunts in productions of Titus, Macbeth,
and Romeo and Juliet, to name a few. One of his more memorable performances
was playing Zorro's stunt double in a Houston production, replete
with massive pyrotechnics. "I had the mask and the sword. The
lead actor playing Zorro would disappear behind a column, and I'd
come out and do the fight scenes, or swing from a rope, and then
he'd come out and finish the scene. The change was so seamless,
no one ever knew I'd come on stage."
Mann, who has
degrees from Mercer University and Alabama Shakespeare, also teaches
character movement and improvisation at Southern Miss. Possessed
with a rich, strong voice forged from years on the stage, the father
of a 4-year old daughter also does voice-over work for animated
entertainment companies. And, he's taken his fighting techniques
from the stage into the wide-open world of digital computing. "My
work has bled into other things like DVDs and animated video games,"
Mann said. "I did some motion-capture work for a company in
Atlanta. I was shooting fight scenes for about eight hours a day."
assistant dean of the Theatre and Dance Department, said that although
Southern Miss has several professionally accomplished instructors,
Mann is "putting us on the map in a whole new way."
the nationally and internationally elite status of Fight Master
to Southern Miss, an accomplishment reserved for about two dozen
people nationwide," Hayes said. "He is regularly hired
as a guest artist by Alabama Shakespeare, Florida State and dozens
of important professional theatres particularly in the Southeast."
he sent out his new contact information, they all got to read that
Southern Miss hired him permanently - and that speaks highly of
us. He's the best, and he's also the nicest professor I have ever