Why "Intimacy Direction"?

About 6 weeks ago, I posted about what “intimacy direction” is. But, even knowing what it is, some people don’t know why it is. So, I thought I’d share my thoughts on that, based on some of the things I’ve been told about why intimacy direction is not necessary.

  1. Our director has been doing this forever, so we don’t need one of those.

  2. It’s just a fad, it would not be a good use of the company’s money.

  3. Actors should be able to do their jobs, and this is part of it.

  4. Our director is a woman, so we don’t need one of those.

1. Our director has been doing this forever, so we don’t need one of those.

I’m not going to make you hire me, nor will any of my colleagues. I’m a resource; just like a dance or fight choreographer, or a dialect or text coach. I’ve had specific training for this work. I built it onto my dance degree and over a decade of work as an actor, choreographer, and director. I’ve added to it with my own studies in Laban Movement Analysis, the ethics of touch, and trauma-informed teaching. I take my job seriously, and I think it’s a worthwhile field. If you need me, hire me!

2. It’s just a fad, it would not be a good use of the company’s money.

I recognize that most theatre companies do, indeed, operate on small and tight budgets. People donate to non-profits because they believe in the work they are doing, and/or the humans doing that work. For companies that hire an Intimacy director, it likely makes sense for who they are as a company, and their donors will get that, because they already believe in their mission. Also, if it’s just a fad, it will fade away, and then you won’t have to worry about this any more.

3. Actors should be able to do their jobs, and this is part of it.

Yup. It absolutely is. And our jobs, as members of creative teams, is to make sure that the actors have the tools and supports necessary to do their jobs safely and well. We have dialect and text coaches. We have choreographers for dances and fights. And now, we have intimacy choreographers.

There is another version of this comment that goes something like, “Well, they already know how to kiss/have sex/get out of bed in their underwear because they do that in their real life.” Maybe, I don’t know, that’s not really my business. Actors also sit, stand, and talk in their real lives, and we still think it’s important to make them rehearse those things in specific ways!

Also, acting is not their real lives. It is their job. The job of those of us in charge of steering productions includes creating a professional working environment, that our actors can walk away from at the end of the day and return to their real lives, without entanglements, trauma, or even a nagging “I wonder if that was really what s/he was looking for there”?

Audra McDonald worked with an intimacy director for Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune. She didn’t feel like having an intimacy director was redundant or insulting. And, if it’s good enough for Audra, it should be good enough for all of us! Read what Audra had to say to Variety here. Check out my personal FB profile for a ton more links on the experiences of her and other professionals in working with intimacy directors.

4. Our director is a woman, so we don’t need one of those.

Oh. Good. Phew. Women don’t abuse their power and privilege. They also know all the things about all types of intimacy, inherently, simply because…estrogen. Done and dusted. Except, no. None of that is true.

RAINN does not offer statistics regarding the gender of sexual predators, but we can rest assured the number is not 0. Likewise, the abuse of power or privilege imbued in a leadership position is not specific to the male gender.

And, being a woman does not, in fact, make you knowledgable about all things sex/love/romance related. It’s like saying, “Our director is a man, so we won’t need a fight choreographer, because…testosterone.” My friend Yarit Dor, who does both intimacy and fight at the Globe in London (yeah, that one), just wrote about this today on her Facebook profile. So this is a global issue we could all be better at.

It’s also a very ridiculous sentence that reinforces the binary and gender norms. Don’t do that.

Pushback like the above comments comes from 1 of 2 places:

  1. Complete misunderstanding or a simple lack of knowledge of what intimacy direction IS and what it can bring to a production.

  2. Fear

The answer to the first is easy: knowledge. Besides the websites for Intimacy Directors International and Theatrical Intimacy Education, there are many, many articles regarding the use of intimacy directors for the stages of Broadway and off-Broadway and intimacy coordinators on set, particularly at HBO. For those who are members of SDC and/or SAG-AFTRA, those unions have published statements as well. I even wrote a quick hit on this for my blog last month.

The second however likely has no answer. Maybe these people are afraid that others think they are incapable of doing their jobs well. Or are afraid of losing power. Or are afraid of looking weak if they accept help. Or are afraid of being exposed as someone who has abused their power in the past. Or maybe they just fear change. Knowledge will help, but it likely won’t be enough. Until they look deeply at what they are afraid of and WHY, and deal with that underlying cause, fear will continue to make them reactive and negative about intimacy direction.

Part of the reason I was drawn to this work is NOT because I think the theatre and dance worlds are full of abusive predators trying at every waking moment to take advantage of the people they work with. On the contrary, I think our world is full of good people, who genuinely try to do the right thing and a good job. And having procedures and practices in place to help them do that makes their lives easier, and protects them from being lumped in with those who do abuse their power.

So, I’ll go on, doing my job, for whichever companies would like to hire me. Change, as they say, is inevitable. Or as Imgard Bartenieff said, “the only constant is change”. And I’m excited to be a part of it.