A Lexicon Around Intimacy

This blog post is part of a series presented in partnership with the Guthrie Theater, connecting the latest stage productions with the library's collections.

From hand-to-hand combat to kissing a co-star, intimate exchanges are often par for the course for actors. Although the physical actions and portrayed emotions are simulated, the people behind these moments are real. Associate Producer Lauren Keating recently became the Guthrie Theater’s first-ever intimacy consultant, and she’s been helping actors feel empowered while rehearsing and performing intimate scenes for the Guthrie’s upcoming production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Read on to learn more about this essential work.

Following the Q&A, check out our staff-recommended reading list inspired by As You Like It.

By Guest Blogger Kaitlin Schlick, Guthrie Theater

Kaitlin Schlick: What exactly is an intimacy consultant?

Lauren Keating: Much like a fight director who safely stages violence, an intimacy consultant safely stages intimate moments between actors and facilitates an empowered, mindful process in the rehearsal room.

KS: What are some examples of intimate scenes?

LK: Any moment with close physical contact, from a hug to a kiss, is an intimate scene. This can include familial intimacy, embraces between friends, sexual tension, chemistry without touching or scenes of physical and sexual violence.

KS: How do you begin the process?

LK: The director and I discuss the “why” behind each intimate scene. If there is no “why,” we work together to define it or to change the moment. Every action should be connected to the story.

KS: What sparked your interest in intimacy consulting?

LK: There’s a lot of known vocabulary around fight choreography and virtually none around intimacy choreography. As a director, I wanted more tools for intimate moments, and we found that this skill would be of value to the Guthrie as well. With the support of the Guthrie, I attended an Intimacy Directors International training and became certified in Mental Health First Aid.

KS: What was the key takeaway from your intimacy training?

LK: Creating a shared vocabulary is critical. Asking if it’s OK to touch someone can be tough. But when you practice saying agreed-upon words or questions and invest in a process together, you develop muscle memory that makes rehearsing intimate moments easier for everyone in the room.

KS: What’s the most rewarding part of the role for you?

LK: A deep sense of trust among actors means you can take more risks. The work is more vulnerable and present. Actors move further into their roles. Creating boundaries allows them to keep their sense of self and professional relationships intact when they step out of a scene.

KS: Why is intimacy consulting important?

LK: It fosters a safe working environment where actors feel free to say what they are (or are not) comfortable doing in a role. That kind of artistic empowerment is something the Guthrie believes in pursuing and protecting. We’d never ask an actor to stage their own slap. So why are we asking them to stage their own kiss? Intimacy work should be a professional skill that actors practice and develop. When we do it together, we can start to change the culture of our industry.

See Lauren’s work onstage in As You Like It playing now through March 17 at the Guthrie Theater.

All the World's a Stage

List created by SPPL_Recommends

New to Shakespeare's language? Start here for an accessible version of the text.

Starring Bryce Dallas Howard and David Oyelowo, this Kenneth Branagh production moves the Forest of Arden into Feudal Japan, for a visually interesting production.

PBS brings together several actors and directors to examine different Shakespeare plays within their context as performance and as fabulous stories with fabulous sources.

While a bit out of date, it still covers most of the over 400 year production history of Shakespeare's works, with info on actors, audiences, and stagecraft.

Thousands upon thousands of pages have been written on Shakespeare and his work, but the notoriously witty Bryson condenses that down to a rounded approach to the subject.

Sometimes reading 400 year old plays is difficult after language changes and words fall out of favor, and this book can help with that.

Based in the research of father-son duo, David and Ben Crystal, this introduces the sounds of Shakespeare's plays as they would have sounded to their original audiences.

As one of Shakespeare's music-filled comedies, As You Like It benefits from knowing more about the music referenced throughout.

For those auditory enthusiasts, listen to the songs being sung as you read from Shakespeare's Songbook.

It is believed that "As You Like It" was written in 1599, along with with Henry the Fifth, Julius Caesar, and (somehow!) Hamlet. Shapiro examines each work, along with the events that may have influenced Shakespeare's writing.

The definitive edition for Shakespeare scholars--great for those looking to do a deep dive into any of Shakespeare's works.

For fans of the wacky, and for those who really know their Shakespeare, or who really don't, this production is fun for all!

A masterclass in performing Shakespeare from some of the great est company members to ever pass through the RSC.

There were more playwrights in Elizabethan and Jacobean England than the beloved Bard, and the many actors of the day influenced the works of Shakespeare and his contemporaries as well.

Shakespeare's other famous cross-dressing comedy, check this out if one wasn't enough.

One of Shakespeare's earliest plays, and another cross-dressing comedy, but Two Gentlemen of Verona is a problem play with an ending to give you pause.

A look at certain women in Shakespeare's plays, by someone who took on their roles herself.

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