Sunday, July 21, 2019

Intimacy directors for film and stage

Did you ever wonder how actors worked things out when they had to play intimate scenes, nuder or seminude? Well, neither did I, not really. But it's an issue, isn't it. Here's a fascinating article by Laura Collins-Hughes in last month's NYTimes about Audra McDonald and Michale Shannon in "Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune". The production hired Claire Warden as the show's intimacy director:
For approximately ever, expecting performers to improvise was a widely accepted practice. It’s only in the last couple of years that helping them through it has become the work of intimacy directors.

One of the first things Ms. Warden does on a show is talk privately, one-on-one, with the actors, to learn what they’re uncomfortable with or anxious about. (“It’s kind of like going to confession,” Mr. Shannon said.) If there’s a place where they don’t want to be touched, or a part of their body that they don’t want to be seen, she will defend that boundary for them.

As she creates a choreography that achieves what the director needs for the production while ensuring it can be done safely, she includes nothing that fails to get the actors’ “enthusiastic consent.” Any response short of that she considers a no, and respects as such.
I found this particularly interesting:
So she has actors “tap in” and “tap out” of scenes in rehearsal, to formally separate art from life.

“Intimacy directors, I think,” Ms. McDonald said, “are going to be able to save many relationships and marriages down the road in theater and in film.”

Mr. Shannon, though, thinks that kind of safeguard might be more applicable to younger people.

“The irony of Audra and I doing this play,” he said, “is we’re both married with children, domesticated. Our kind of crazy days are behind us.”

Which doesn’t mean he can’t see the value of an intimacy director.

“I really did appreciate being able to have Claire, just to talk to,” he said. “But I’m not going to lie. Most of what I said to Claire was ‘I just want Audra to be comfortable.’ ”
That tap-in tap-out, that's about marking modal shifts, in the sense of behavioral mode as I've used it here.

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