Intimacy direction on the academic stage.

Excerpts from an interview about my thoughts on the discipline and the workshop I organized at Whitman College:

1) What motivated you to put together this workshop?

 

Whenever I have spoken to people about intimacy coordination and what intimacy directors do, invariably the conversation ends with them sharing with me a particular situation where an Intimacy Director would’ve been invaluable—acting scenes of kissing where the direction was to “just figure it out”…being in a play with another performer where one performer takes the scenario/scene beyond the comfort level of another without repercussions… directors asking actors to do particular things for a scene that maybe they don’t feel quite comfortable with, but feel the need to “just power through” for the work or recommendation or to be cast again. Intimacy coordination provides a structure and a set of tools to be able to navigate intimate or violent acting content and how to break it down within the context of rehearsed, performed choreography by the characters involved, and I wanted to put together the workshop to empower the Whitman student in these very important ways. With my directing Playing With Fire (After Frankenstein), I was able to both create the space for the workshop as well as request someone in this position for my production team.

2) Had you ever worked with Intimacy Direction before? If so, how?

Intimacy direction is a new field within television, film and theatre, so having an intimacy director as part of the production team is new within the theatrical discipline. The fall production for the Harper Joy is the first production I’ve worked on where an Intimacy Director was a part of the production team. I’ve worked with Intimacy Directors International on introductory courses and worked with them this past summer on multi-day intensive trainings through the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Part of the training also includes mental health first aid training, which I took locally at Providence St. Mary’s hospital.

3) Why do you believe Intimacy Direction is important?

 

I think it takes back and reframes was something very intimate and personal performed on stage to a professional context; instead of wondering about a moment or worrying about a moment, it choreographs a moment with a fellow theatre artist… they become a colleague within a space with boundaries they communicate and feel comfortable with and you hear and feel comfortable with as well. Instead of worrying about whether or not you can or can’t hug someone, you talk in guided ways about how you might do it, the steps in which you would do it, and if touching those areas are OK to do it. I talk about in my design classes the creative power of limitations, and that creative power applies to intimacy coordination as well. When you have the certainty what you’re doing is not going to be out of bounds, or offend or upset, your creativity will run wild.

4) Is there anything you’ve learned from Black’s work that will help you with the show you are currently directing?

 

Not only help, she will be credited as intimacy director for the production. Part of intimacy direction is power dynamics. Who has the power in a particular situation and who does not. There are situations of violence and intimacy in Playing With Fire (After Frankenstein) that I wanted to make sure were achieved with consent by the actors along with with someone of power equality. I was there to articulate and maintain the aesthetics and theme of the production, while the actors and the intimacy directer created choices within those constraints. I also want to make a note, here. about certified intimacy coordinators and their work in comparison to certified fight coordinators. While I may know/can think of 15 different ways to punch somebody in the eye, a fight choreographer can think of 90 or 150 different ways, and do it in a way that outlines unique and individual movements and which also protect the physical safety of the actor. The intimacy director does the same thing, protecting the psyche as well.

5) Do you believe there is a need for Intimacy Direction at Whitman? If so, please explain.

I think that there is a need for intimacy direction or the awareness of intimacy direction everywhere. I truly look forward to the day when I mention intimacy direction and the response will be that someone had an acting scene, they broke the scene down, they figured out boundaries, and created an experience that was both right for the actors involved and beautifully communicated to the audience, and standing ovations were both long and loud.

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