February 16, 2023   by Phoebe Moore, NYTW Development Fellow

For February’s Community Spotlight, we are featuring the wonderful Ann C. James,  the Intimacy Coordinator who is currently working with the cast and creative team of How to Defend Yourself and the Founder of Intimacy Coordinators of Color.

How have you seen the industry shift when it comes to creating space for intimacy and cultural sensitivity work?
I am extremely excited to see where the industry is going when it comes to accepting the fact that we have all gone thru a pandemic and our artists, technicians and creatives need more support. Not only do we need to do better in recognizing freedom of gender expression, but at the most fundamental core of our craft we can, with the assistance of proficient and professional cultural coordinators and sensitivity specialists, invite companies to respect performance boundaries and uplift the people of color in their employ. When it comes to mental stability and capacity for delivering difficult content in storytelling, these professionals can bridge the gap and give artists the tools necessary to sustain their craft over a lifetime. Changing the narrative of the “suffering artist” is at the top of my mind when I accept a project. Now is the time we can make these changes and it is going to take all of us.

What is different about working with How To Defend Yourself than with the past productions on/off-Broadway?
I am happy to admit that this will be my first experience with NYTW! In a nutshell, I can describe my experiences so far as “a whole vibe”. Everyone is so calm and easy. The work is demanding because this gorgeous script by Liliana is an incredible piece of the most present theater I can imagine. It quite literally is NOW. The NYTW team is holding such good space for us. I love the building and I love the rehearsal room because they are at the very seat of tradition and what I looked up to as that kid in high school theater. There are no frills, but it is a useful space that has the ability to offer a comforting feeling for those who enter. Is this a shameless enough plug to one day come back and work here again? Time will tell.

When you’re creating/coordinating an intimate scene, what is your process?
While the process does vary depending on all the factors that bring me to a production, I generally begin by reading the script to see where there are opportunities to create brave space with the work that I do. I then have at least one conversation with the producers and/or director to see where the need is; are the producers interested in providing my skills to the cast? Is the director excited or challenged by sections of the play? Has an actor asked for a sensitivity specialist or intimacy coordinator? At some point I meet with the cast-usually early on-but sometimes the process has already been in rehearsal and so I just come in when the time can be scheduled. While in the room, I support the crafting of consent-based storytelling and in addition may add intimacy choreography, thoughts on sustainability of mental health through repeatable movements and staged intimacy whether it be cultural, racial, generational, disability-based or even pregnancy and childbirth-based content. I truly love what I do and I feel so honored to be on what I believe to be the forefront of where we can be as an industry. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to share my craft with NYTW.

To hear more about Ann’s unique and impactful work, tune into to the Intimacy Choreography in Conversation podcast on Spotify or Apple Podcasts!

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Categories: NYTW Spotlight. Tags: How To Defend Yourself.