‘Intimacy director’ helps stage actors navigate love scenes

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  • Geoff McMaster

Towards the end of John Dryden’s play, All for Love, there is a scene in which Antony and Cleopatra declare their love for each other as they near death.

In the University of Alberta’s Studio Theatre’s production of the play, opening Thursday, the actors are expected to demonstrate those feelings physically.

There was a time not long ago when actors might have been left to their own devices to make such passion look convincing, without it getting awkward, triggering uncomfortable emotions or crossing the line of consent.

But there is a new breed of director on the rise in the theatre world guiding actors safely through scenes that can sometimes feel dangerous. Meet the intimacy director.

This winter, local combat director Janine Waddell has been choreographing student actors through All for Love’s crucial love scene. Working with renowned director Peter Hinton, she is there to make sure consent is clear in every move.

She treats such scenes like dance—“pure movement,” divorced from the context and motivation of the scene, she said.

U of A drama student Helen Belay, who plays Cleopatra in All for Love, had never before worked with an intimacy director, but is now convinced of its value.

“Now, because of Me Too, people are allowed to come forward and give it a name, and heavily advocate for it," she said.

"It's nice as a young artist to be given these terms now, so when I enter the professional field I know what I can ask for, and how to describe my needs in a way that’s clear and concise. That's very empowering."

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