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Oregon Shakespeare Festival hires a resident intimacy director

[OREGON] Just a few years ago, intimacy direction was such a new practice in the theatre that hiring someone to choreograph sex scenes was almost unheard of. Then along came #MeToo, and awareness rapidly began to shift. By last summer, intimacy direction was on Broadway.

Now Oregon Shakespeare Festival, one of the nation's leading regional theatres, has upped the ante, hiring a resident intimacy director, Sarah Lozoff, for all 11 productions in its 2020 season.

In a field that so far has relied largely on show-by-show contracts for intimacy directors, a salaried position with benefits is a significant step.

"It's huge," said Tonia Sina of the organisation Intimacy Directors and Coordinators, which certifies intimacy directors for stage and screen work.

"It confirms that the company has made a promise to keep their actors emotionally and mentally safe — that they have made that a priority," Ms Sina said. "It's not just like an add-on: 'Get in there and choreograph that kiss.' This is somebody who is going to be there for them all season."

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The position is variously called intimacy director, choreographer or coordinator. The job in any case is to safeguard the actors in vulnerable situations, getting their consent for each step along the way while working to realize the director's vision.

Corinna Schulenburg, a spokesperson for theatre Communications Group, a service organisation for American nonprofit theatres, said that at least a couple of smaller companies across the country have resident intimacy directors, but none that would "be considered flagship theatres" like Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Evren Odcikin, the festival's interim associate artistic director, said in a news release Thursday that the "naming of intimacy direction as an essential artistic resource" would "have long-lasting impact at our institution and nationwide".

The company, in Ashland, Oregon, is known for the often political bent of its work, including plays like Lynn Nottage's Sweat and Robert Schenkkan's All the Way, both of which went on to Broadway.


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