I've recently written about how a known sexual harasser's casting on a Broadway stage sets lasting and harmful precedents within the industry that will continue if appropriate steps are not taken. One of these important steps is hiring intimacy directors.
An intimacy director is a person who specializes in creating comfortable, safe, and appropriate choreography for scenes that are sexual or intimate in nature. For those outside the theatre and film industry, this may seem like a trivial job; why can't people just kiss, don't they do it all the time?
But acting doesn't operate in the same way as real life. When creating a character, actors remain human beings who have lives and feelings completely separate from their work on-stage. Human beings are complicated!
Creating intimate scenes is a complex effort that must consider all psychological and physical elements of safety in order to execute appropriately.
Intimacy directors are able to create not only a comfortable space for actors to work in, they also are knowledgeable on the Actors Equity Union standards for on-stage kissing, nudity, or simulated sex. It is imperative that, at the very least, these standards are upheld to provide a safe environment for vulnerable experiences.
Intimacy training and intimacy directors are an imperative element in creating an industry that respects and values the safety of its workforce. It combats the expectation that actors are required to be instantly agreeable to any intimacy presented to them and ensures that all members of a production staff are aware of the correct procedure when rehearsing or performing intimacy on-stage.
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival has recently taken the monumental step to normalize this process by hiring a resident intimacy director, Sarah Lozoff. As one of the largest names in professional theatre, OSF is setting the standard for theatre companies around the nation that the safety of those employed is a paramount concern.
This Valentine's Day as you're watching a romantic movie with a sweet kiss between the romantic leads, consider the nuances of work the actors are doing and recognize the value of an intimacy director in creating spaces where art is safe for all involved.