An intimacy director (or intimacy choreographer) is responsible for safely and effectively implementing practices and choreography for staging intimacy onstage. This can include, but is not limited to:
- establishing and modelling a culture of consent in the rehearsal room
- teaching protocols incorporating consent into the rehearsal process
- staging romantic intimacy, including tools for creating “chemistry” between actors
- staging sexual intimacy, including simulated sex acts
- establishing healthy guidelines and practices for nudity in performance
- staging platonic intimacy, including intimacy between family members or friends, or vulnerability in a medical setting
- staging scenes of sexual harassment or assault, sometimes in collaboration with a fight director
- offering tools for managing personal boundaries, and for creating separation between the artist and the work
- building best practices for addressing conflict and harassment within an organisation
Context is the dramaturgy that justifies the action. How does the intimacy choreography support the text and the director’s vision?
Early, open, and clear communication is essential for establishing boundaries, understanding expectations, and keeping everyone safe.
Without enthusiastic consent of all parties, theatrical intimacy is both unsafe and ineffective. An intimacy director will incorporate asking for and providing consent into the rehearsal process. These tools can be applied even outside of situations involving intimacy, and are meant to be repeated throughout rehearsals and up until closing night. An intimacy director helps create protocols for the entire team to state and understand their boundaries and those of others.
Choreography is an agreed-upon framework that keeps actors safe in the service of telling a specific story. It can be extremely specific, a supporting framework, or anything in between, based on the needs of the actors and the story. Choreography is the structure that sets artists free.
Closure is a set of tools to allow casts and individuals to safely separate themselves from the performance of stage intimacy. The unconscious mind often has difficulty understanding the context around physical actions, so closure practises are one way for the actor to leave their work in the workplace.
When hiring an intimacy director, consider starting with a professional organisation such as Intimacy Directors & Coordinators.
An intimacy director should have specialised training and mentorship in safely staging intimacy, as well as certification in mental health first aid, bystander intervention/conflict resolution, and anti-oppression training. Theatrical intimacy is a relatively new field, and simply taking on the title doesn’t mean an individual is qualified, so doing your due diligence as a producer/engager is important. For example: though the disciplines of stage intimacy and stage combat share some common foundations and many individuals are qualified in both fields, qualification as a fight director does not inherently constitute qualification as an intimacy director.
Consider bringing in an intimacy director as early as possible during pre-production. Beyond choreography in rehearsal, an intimacy director may be able to help in a number of other ways:
- creating a casting notice that clearly manages needs and expectations of intimacy for each role
- running a workshop on the Pillars, best practices, and consent as a rehearsal practice, which can make the choreography process much more efficient
- advising on practices around masking (selectively not showing the audience certain things - i.e., using bed sheets to hide certain body parts), modesty garments and other production logistics
- advising on conflict resolution, should the need arise
There are currently no set minimums for hiring intimacy directors, but plan on budgeting for them at the same rate as other movement professionals, such as a dance choreographer, fight director, or other movement specialist.