Welcome back to another exciting academic year! Many departments across the country are gearing up for auditions for their fall productions, and some of those shows may include intimacy and/or sexual violence. We at Theatrical Intimacy Education wanted to offer some tips and tricks to help your auditions for shows with intimacy, nudity, and sexual violence run a little more smoothly. In this two-part blog series, we will be offering guidelines for directors and actors. This week, we are focusing on actors.
The audition flyer has been posted. Time to prepare material and wow the director with your skills. Check out the flyer and see if moments of intimacy, nudity, and sexual violence are listed. If not, send the director an email and see if there are any moments of that nature in the show. If you don’t feel comfortable emailing in advance, you can always ask at the audition. In the mean time, try to get your hands on a copy of the script so you can read it in advance and know what roles might require intimacy, nudity, or sexual violence.
To thine own self
Before you get to the audition, know your non-negotiables. What are the things that you are not willing to do? Are they in this play? If so, think about whether or not you really want to audition for the play. And be honest with yourself.
If you are in a program where you are required to audition, make sure to make your boundaries known when the opportunity arises. You are allowed to have boundaries when it comes to your artistic work. If you aren’t sure about your comfort level regarding a specific moment of intimacy, it’s better to indicate that you would like to discuss that moment should you be cast. Be honest and open about what you are and are not comfortable with.
If you know that the content of the show may be too much for you, it’s absolutely okay to opt out of auditioning. There will always be another show.
If you have questions about how to navigate auditions as an actor, feel free to send us an email. We are happy to consult with you (or your class!) via Skype.
We will be back soon with more exciting updates, but for now, break legs at auditions! We’re always just an email away.
Welcome back to another exciting academic year! Many departments across the country are gearing up for auditions for their fall productions, and some of those shows may include intimacy and/or sexual violence. Theatrical Intimacy Education wanted to offer some tips and tricks to help your auditions run a little more smoothly. In this two-part blog series, we will be offering guidelines for directors and actors. This week, we are focusing on our director friends.
You have a vision. You just need the cast to make it a reality. When selecting a script to direct, know your non-negotiables. What are moments of intimacy, nudity, and sexual violence that you need to present for both your artistic vision as well as maintaining the integrity of the script? Whatever these moments may be, it is important to include them on your audition flyer. Being transparent with your potential cast gives actors the opportunity to opt in or opt out of roles that they are comfortable performing. Be clear about which specific roles will be involved, and to what extent you plan to stage the intimacy, nudity, or sexual violence because this is an actor's first opportunity to tell you that this isn't the role for them.
At the audition, have a form for your actors that includes all of the anticipated moments of intimacy, nudity, and sexual violence in the show. Be specific as to which roles require these moments. This provides a second opportunity for your actors to opt in or out of these roles just in case they missed it on the flyer or if they haven’t read the script. We recommend that you don’t look at these forms until after you have decided your cast. This way, answers from your potential pool of actors don’t cause unfair prejudice or bias. Instead, have your stage manager check the forms once the cast has been selected to see what those cast in the roles with intimacy have said regarding those moments.
If the actors you have selected have indicated they are willing to perform moments of intimacy, you’re good to go post that cast list! If not, consider whether these moments you want to stage are non-negotiables. If the moments are non-negotiable, recast.
Respect their boundaries and get what you need. It's the ethical, efficient, effective dream.
If you have questions about how to format audition paperwork, feel free to send us an email. We are happy to consult with you via Skype or work with you to provide sample materials.
Stay tuned for our next installment of this two-part blog series for tips for actors.
At Theatrical Intimacy Education, we firmly believe that knowledge is the greatest source of empowerment for artists, so this blog post will provide an overview some of the new policies that have been enacted and resources compiled in recent months and what that means for working conditions within the entertainment industry.
Laura, Kate, and I are excited to introduce you all to the TIE research and marketing intern, Celeste! Like the three of us, she's focused on education and has a huge passion for educating others. She's a great addition to our busy team and we hope to help her grow in her own business.
Celeste Carle was the dramaturge for Lasso of Truth at Arizona State University when I was brought in to stage the intimacy, bondage, and violence in 2016.
She will be working with us on connecting to educators across the country and hopes to be a TIE representative at ASU, where she is a junior. She is completing her degree in the filmmaking practices program, but Celeste is also completing certificates in LGBTQ Studies and Arts Entrepreneurship.
We hope that working with TIE as we grow will support her long term goals of starting a small business that connects artists and entrepreneurs with people who are social media fluent. She’s also helping high schools build and maintain more robust GSAs, which is just plain cool.
“The stuff I liked talking about, applied to a real life person’s job. Here’s the niche job that I could do”
Welcome to the team, Celeste. We’re so excited to have you with us.
“Hello….can you tell me a little about theatre intimacy training and how it works?”
“I don’t understand how it works, can’t the actors just work it out for themselves?”
“I have my own system of doing things. Why do I need this?”
“I am traditionalist isn’t this going to get in the way of the actor’s instincts?”
“Who has time to add an intimacy call into the preshow preparations?”
“If the actor has that much voice, how is that not self-indulgent?”
People have lots of questions about our work with Theatrical Intimacy Education. And I understand where each one comes from. The #metoo movement has gotten everyone talking about what many of us have felt for a long time: that we have to create a more respectful work environment in all professions. The theatre and film industries are starting to acknowledge that they are lacking in techniques and skills for dealing with how to stage intimate scenes. But many are still unaware of where to learn these skills. Furthermore, many seem unsure about how to incorporate these techniques into their systems of training and rehearsal. Understandably, some fear that the work is going to stifle the creative and instinctual process of the actor.
Of course there are a lot of questions. The problems are old. The solutions are new.
Over the past year, I have met and discussed this work with practitioners at professional theatres and on movie sets, spoken with teachers in many different types of training programs, chatted with casting directors, and presented workshops. I have learned that there are just as many people who are resistant to, confused about, and/or oblivious to theatrical intimacy training as there are people who welcome it. The resistance seems to center around two main areas of concern: the first, some directors fear it will inhibit the freedom of the creative process; the second, some teachers feel that it will get in the way of traditional acting training.
I get it. But in the 2000 years of theatre history, we have not done enough to address how to create self-care for actors as they deal with the physical and mental effects of staging and performing sexual intimacy and sexually violent scenes. In the past 100 years since traditional studio acting training was created, we have not traditionally included this work in training pedagogy. So of course theatre artists are going to resist adding a new system of training into what they already do. The history for this work is short lived. It's happening right now.
This is an opportunity for professional development.
We are willing to do it with other areas of our work pretty readily. If we need better skills in helping an actor connect with the voice, we are open to taking a voice workshop in one of the many voice training systems or hire a voice director/coach. If we want to improve our movement skills, we do not think twice about signing up for a Viewpoints, Margolis, Lucid Body, Alexander, or stage combat workshop. Everyone has taken a movement workshop. Not everyone has seen what good intimacy training can do for a theatre practitioner.
This work is not about forcing any actor, director, teacher, or producer to throw out their creative process, it is about helping everyone improve what they already do well.
Theatrical Intimacy Education seeks to help the industry improve the work and training environment, not only when staging intimate scenes and sexually violent scenes, but in how we treat each other in rehearsal and on set. We can help practitioners understand how to have healthy discussions about positive body image, how to discuss boundaries without judgment, understand empowered consent, and teach in a safe, supportive environment. That's what we do.
Recently, I was consulting with a chair of a top ranked theatre program, and he informed me that he wanted me to create a policy stating that all his performance teachers had to use the work we teach in Theatrical Intimacy Education. I told him to slow down. Forcing teachers to use any technique won't end well for anyone. Instead, I told him to make opportunities for his faculty to train in this work. That he needed to seek funding for that training. He could make change in his department by creating opportunities for professional development. He agreed.
We want to help you incorporate this work into what you already do. We want you to see how it serves the repetition work in the Meisner technique, the physical action ideals in Adler, the sensory work in Strasberg, the composition exercises in Viewpoints, the tremoring of the Fitzmaurice technique, the spontaneity of improvisation. Whatever techniques you work with, we are going to help you further develop an even more healthy practice that gives the performer agency and voice without sacrificing the work. That's why we're here.
The time for readily available access to this type of professional development is long overdue, but now there is no excuse. There are a number of organizations doing this work, all listed on our resource page. Find the right training for you and go. This is the beginning of a ground breaking, positive movement in our industry. Feel free to reach out with any thoughts, questions, and concerns. After all, we are all doing the best we can and learning takes time.
We are here for you. Let us help.
TW: sexual violence
Kate recently had an article published in the Society of American Fight Directors’ industry magazine, The Fight Master, about her experience as a movement coordinator and violence and intimacy designer on Good Kids. The article, “When the Problem is Personal: Working on Naomi Iisuka’s Good Kids as a Sexual Assault Survivor,” talks through Kate’s process for staging some really challenging moments with undergraduate actors.
The play tackles the Steubenville rape case and this production re-created several of the images from the events of that night on stage. Kate talks through her process for staging those moments and her struggles and strategies for keeping herself emotionally safe. Additionally, the production team worked with the Title IX office and Office of Civil Rights at University of Missouri.
She encourages productions to follow their lead in bringing in experts to empower the team with language and knowledge to keep conversations productive and rehearsals safe.
More knowledge and better language is at the core of what TIE stands for and we are excited for more people to share in the work with us.
To check out Kate’s work, look in the current issue of Fight Master. Not a member of the SAFD? Join here!
Creating an environment at rehearsal where the actors feel safe to explore potentially dangerous play is a top priority for me as a director. If I fail to establish such an environment, I know the actors will limit themselves in exploration and discovery in rehearsal.
A few weeks ago, I started rehearsals for a production of Romeo and Juliet. This is a production with all college students, so I started the first day giving them an overview of my expectations as a director, and specifically offering them some thoughts on tools for self-care when balancing the rehearsal process with real-life demands. I call this, “TLC for the Rehearsal Process and Beyond.”
Due to the required fights skills necessary to pull off a production of Romeo and Juliet, as well as the intimate nature of some of the scenes, I requested a few extra days at the beginning of the rehearsal calendar for some specific ensemble training. I used this time to have all members of the cast – not just the actors who would fight on stage - train in sword fighting with an SAFD certified teacher. I also trained the entire cast in TIE's system for staging intimacy. Although not all the actors are fighting or staging scenes with intimacy, I thought it was best to give all members of the ensemble an opportunity to experience and practice these skills, in the hope it would establish guidelines for safety, create a common vocabulary, and expand the learning opportunities the show provides to student actors in all roles.
In the time since we began rehearsal, I have perceived a positive sense of camaraderie in the room, and the cast has not shied away from asking hard questions: the rehearsal room feels like a safe place. I was curious if in fact this was the cast's perspective as well; and, if so, what had I done has a director to help establish this feeling? So, I took a voluntary, anonymous survey of the cast. I asked, “How has the director established a safe environment in the rehearsal space?” All of the actors surveyed responded with the same initial sentiment:
PROVIDING GUIDELINES FOR STAGING INTIMACY WAS THE REASON THEY FELT MOST SAFE IN THE ROOM.
They felt the TIE work gave everyone the professional tools needed to establish boundaries, and taught them a respectable way to talk about their bodies and that of their fellow actor's as a professional.
Another common response was the effectiveness of including all actors in the training for stage combat. The performers felt that by including the entire team, everyone continued to build a common language for safety, and understood the importance of taking things slow while allowing the rehearsal process to build the pace.
The survey was presented to the actors before the Weinstein scandal appeared in the media. In light of those vents, I find it interesting that it wasn’t the learning of the physical skills necessary to perform stage intimacy and combat that made the actors feel they were in a safe environment, but rather learning how to talk about safety, being able to establish boundaries, understanding body positive communication, and establishing as a regular practice how to give and receive consent. At this time, when we need to ask ourselves how to move beyond the inspiring #metoo phenomenon towards a #thisendsnow campaign of action, what these students learned are not only skills for rehearsal, but skills for life. I see the students carrying these healthy practices into their classroom work, and in their respect for one another outside of class.
If we can inspire students to establish these safe practices when it comes to intimacy in the theaters, rehearsal rooms, and the hallways of our training institutions, it will not be long before these safe practices become the norm of the studios and theaters of the most established producing organizations in the world. Creating a safe process for the industry can start with just one rehearsal and actors eager to learn.
Written with Jason Davids Scott, Assistant Professor of Theatre and Film, Arizona State University
It’s hard to write about the headlines in the news.
Not because we are unaccustomed to headlines about people abusing their power in performance industries, or immune to the stories about careers thwarted, bodies damaged, and lives ruined because of pervasive, unchallenged, and ignored acts of sexual misconduct, humiliation, and abuse.
But we struggle to write because it seems so lacking to make a statement about abuses in the industry that reduce the problem to any one person, or any one company. Focusing one’s wrath on an individual producer, director, executive, or other empowered individual only seems to serve to make each case seem so exceptional, so much a product of intentions and mistakes made by an individual and a small circle of people around them. While such expressions of outrage may be cathartic, the ultimate impact may be unproductive.
Because we all know: this stuff happens all the time. It’s probably happening right now, and today’s headlines about a famous person finally being held accountable for unconscionable and indefensible abuses of power seem to be little deterrence to others who commit such acts far removed from the spotlight or the vision of a journalist investigating a story.
We focus on ethical practices on discussing, staging, and producing sexual intimacy in educational environments because we are tired of the headlines about the industries the students we train are preparing to enter, and we want to make a long-term impact.
We focus our work in academia, because we want to have the opportunity to address the problem at the root: teaching people best practices results in best practices, while ignoring worst practices only perpetuates the systemic invisibility of everyday abuses of power.
In our workshops, classrooms and rehearsal rooms, we see the producers, directors, choreographers, and performers of tomorrow. We teach every single one of them the importance of ethical behavior and to understand power dynamics that extend from director and producer to ensemble to individual performer to audience member. We give them the skills to be the good people in their own rooms in the future, to give them the physical and verbal language and skills to create and maintain their own safe creative spaces. We believe that the skills that we give them also give them the confidence and fortitude to respond to unethical situations where abuse may occur with immediate focus and purposefulness.
If we don’t teach this work, we might be in the room with tomorrow’s headline.
We want today’s worst headlines to happen never - not because the conversation is being ignored and the individual symptoms have been identified, neutralized, and held accountable, but because the causes of the problem of systemic abuse and exploitation have been eradicated, and all creative artists have the language and ability to stop abuse every time it occurs . That’s why we do what we do. It’s about more than staging ethical, efficient, effective intimacy. It’s about teaching emerging artists that there is a better way.
Staging intimacy needs to be ethical, efficient, and effective because it’s not just about the intimate moment: it’s all about telling the story. At TIE, we know moments of theatrical intimacy need a little extra TLC, but the moments surrounding intimacy, or even around the idea of intimacy can cause problems of their own.
Social ideas of sexiness trick students into thinking sexy needs to look a certain way, sound a certain way, and move a certain way. Women try to make themselves impossibly small, restricting their breath, movement, and character choices. Men tax their bodies, straining their voices, creating tension, trying to perform a “manly” version of bigness. Non-binary actors can feel lost or forced to choose between hyper-binary ideas of how sexy “should” be.
It’s a real life behavioral Photoshop.
These ideas of “sexy” get in the way of truthful acting and they limit the types of stories actors have the opportunity to play. Missing the truth of the moment and “acting sexy” can drag a production down and can feel like a minefield to navigate as a director or educator. Giving an actor a note about untruthful “acting sexy” can make them feel nervous and actually make the problem worse. Trying to address it with action-based direction can help with the choices, but misses the vocal and physical issues. Fixing “acting sexy,” like staging intimacy, is all about having the right tools to describe the movement in a desexualized way.
Get out of the “Sexy” Trap
Always come back to the story. Just ask the actor to explain why their character is in the room. Ya know, acting stuff. It will help with the nerves.
Shallow breath is a giveaway of “acting sexy.” Try big sighs and shaking it out on a yawn. Think about letting the release of breath release your shoulders and shake it down into your pelvis. Those deep, full breaths will help with the next tip.
If the actor doesn’t understand their weight, it reads as nervous or stiff. There are lots of reasons actors are timid to be truthful with their own gravity. Help actors ground by trying some contact improvisation or weight sharing with partners.
It might seem a little out there, but nothing teaches grounding like squats. I know. Bear with me.
I highly recommend actors learn how to squat. Maybe even with a little (or a lot) of weight. The movement requires a supported core and causes the actor to literally drop their weight and engage their musculature. Pushing out of the bottom of a well-executed squat is a perfect opportunity to practice being fully grounded. Obviously, this isn’t an option for everyone, but it is one of my favorite shortcuts.
With any exercise-type of suggestion, I always drive home that this is about strengthening their instrument, not about physical appearance. Contact the student wellness center or a local gym and find a qualified instructor so everyone is working with excellent form.
“Acting sexy” lends itself to hyper extended thoracic spines for everyone! Focus on alignment and allowing the head to float to reduce the thoracic thrust forward. A good roll up and down the spine solves a lot of problems.
Nervous actors speed everything up and telling them to relax just makes it worse. Give them clear instructions about slower tempo to help tell the story of a more confident seduction. Or vary the tempo of a simple movement to help physically shape the story. If “slower” and “faster” aren’t doing it, try counts. For example: “That gesture is happening over about a three-count right now. Could we try an eight-count a big, low breath?”
The Confidence Trick
It can be tempting to encourage confidence in an actor when they seem reluctant to let their “sexy” mask go. Resist the urge to address their confidence. A nervous performer being told to be confident gets even more nervous. A performer that genuinely felt confident will now worry that they aren’t enough. Skip all of that worry and address the physical symptoms instead.
Images of sexualized bodies inundate us every day. Those ideas make their way onto stage, and we see real bodies trying to Photoshop themselves to look “sexy.”