Meet Brianna, the Intimacy Choreographer for "A Surplus Of"
How did you get into intimacy choreography?
"While working on my Stage Combat Minor in college (Go Columbia College Chicago!) I took a course that focused on "attack and manipulation." We were split up into groups of two, given scripts, and had to choreograph our own intimate attack, as well as choreograph a retaliation attack with found weapons (ie: something around the room; books, phone cords, irons, etc.) It taught us that as actors and choreographers, we have to deal with such these heavy subjects on stage, and how to healthily separate ourselves from whatever happened in the rehearsal room. Next thing I know I'm choreographing a knife fights/sex scene/circle jerk in Spring Awakening and the rest is history!"
What’s the big difference between stage combat and intimacy choreography?
"The two are very, very similar. I think of them both as a dance. Every move is planned, well-rehearsed, and executed in a professional manner- no space for improvisation here! There is a constant need for understanding and the actors to be on the same page."
"HOWEVER I think that the biggest difference is how the actors take care of themselves during/after the choreography process. With intimacy scenes you have to find what works for you to separate yourself as the actor from the character. You the actor are not being attacked/being made love to/etc. It is your character. When I am choreographing a scene, particularly those of a darker variety, I like to encourage my actors to step out of the rehearsal room, grab some chocolate, and get some fresh air CONSTANTLY. There is no such thing as too many breaks. It's better to get out of your head and take care of yourself than overworking your emotions."
In which ways is this rewarding? In what ways is it challenging?
"It is so rewarding to know that you are creating a safe creative environment for the actors. I know many of us at some point in our career have been involved in a production where something just felt off or something happened that made you feel majorly uncomfortable. That's where an intimacy choreographer comes in. My job is to make sure that both the cast and crew feel safe, and I value that responsibility."
"Sometimes this proves to be challenging since everyone is different and comes from different walks of life. Often times you will find that what feels safe to one actor, may not feel safe to the other. So you always need to be flexible and keep their best interests in mind."
"Non-consensual and attack scenes prove to be just as challenging. It's not easy for anyone. It's not meant to be comfortable but we do want everyone to constantly be on the same page and feeling safe."
What’s been your best experience so far practicing intimacy choreography?
"The amount of loving energy that comes from the actors during the choreographing process is amazing. I find that when working on intimate scenes they just care about each other so much and about making each other safe. They constantly check in on one another, they connect, they discuss what they are feeling... It's something that I hope they carry on to every project they work on."
What do you find special about “A Surplus Of”?
"It is just so natural. You feel like you're just sitting in somebody's living room watching them live their everyday lives."
"It is probably one of the most intimate pieces I will have worked on and I cannot wait to see what happens next!"