Columbia College Chicago Theatre Dept. Alum: ‘We need intimacy directors now more than ever’

Almanya Narula

Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department alum Almanya Narula ’16, a graduate of the Theatre Department’s BA Program in Acting, has published an article in the Chicago Reader – Chicago’s premier alternative publication since 1971 – examining the fast-developing discipline of intimacy direction as the theatre community transitions back to live performance.

“Intimacy direction is a practice in which a trained movement practitioner is employed for a stage or film production to choreograph a simulated sex scene or an intimate moment,” Narula explains in her article, “Intimacy Directors: More Important Than Ever,” posted on the Chicago Reader‘s website on October 27, 2020. “[Intimacy directors] are the advocate for the actors in the room and act as a voice between them, the director, and the rest of the crew.”

Carin Silkaitis

In the article, Narula interviews Carin Silkaitis, the Allen and Lynn Turner Chair of the Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department, who discusses the importance of intimacy direction in both theatre education and professional theatre. Silkaitis has partnered with Chelsea Pace, author of the book Staging Sex: Best Practices, Tools, and Techniques for Theatrical Intimacy, to host workshops on intimacy direction for students and faculty at the Columbia College Theatre Department to, in Silkaitis’ words, “create a culture of consent and to outline a system of best practices that we can work together at this department, so that everyone in my program is speaking the same language.” Silkaitis and Pace are currently developing a graduate-level certification program for intimacy direction at Columbia.

Narula — herself an actor and intimacy director — previously published a morale-boosting shout-out to Chicago theatre artists in the Chicago Reader’s March 25, 2020 issue in response to the then-emerging coronavirus pandemic, which forced the temporary closure of live theatrical production in Chicago and around the country. In her article “COVID-19 Has Chicago Theater Down, But Not Out,” Narula reminded readers:

“It’s hard to stay motivated and remind people of their triumphs during these uncertain times when many artists are filing for unemployment. But it’s times like these when we need to be reminded of our strength and power the most.  . . . With everything that everyone has gone through to make Chicago theater the vital industry it has become, COVID-19 has nothing on us. . . . So relax. Recharge. Because when this is all over and we see you on the flip side, you are going to slay this town and show us that you are a fierce theater warrior not to be trifled with. You got this!

Kerry Reid

The Chicago Reader‘s theatre and dance editor is Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department alum Kerry Reid ’87.