Theatre needs violence directors to protect actors on set

In 2010, the Profiles Theatre production of Tracy Letts’ “Killer Joe” stirred controversy for many reasons, the first being the graphic nature of the play itself, but second being how the violence and sexual content were handled by the production team.

The theatre boasts the motto “Whatever the Truth Requires.” However, on many occasions, the show’s direction lost its grip on what was performance and what was real-life danger.

During many of the violent scenes, audience members could see very prominent bruising on the actors.

In addition to this, a scene in which one character chokes another was not choreographed. Instead, the actor performed the action without any safety measure in place.

The majority of the unnecessary danger was created by the aforementioned actor, but he cannot receive the entirety of the blame, as the director is also liable for their actors’ actions.

Ultimately, the entire situation could have been avoided if the direction and production team had followed their actors more closely.

Before we can address why they are important, we must first have an understanding of what intimacy and violence directors do.

Essentially, a director of this sort is exactly what it sounds like. They are directors who are responsible for directing work of abusive nature in theatre, in order to avoid harassment within the production.

Despite their best efforts, Profiles Theatre did not successfully protect their actors. In a profession such as theatre, this is an added element and completely unnecessary.

However, Profiles is not the only theater guilty of this infraction.

As of 2016, professionals in the theatre world have petitioned for unions and organizations to take action against this type of abuse within their theaters. Their hope is that this movement will lead to better monitoring of these situations.

Included within this movement was a petition against workplace harassment.

This was created by the Lilly Awards Foundation and has since been signed by more than 500 actors, tech workers and the like.

Equity actors have extensive rules and codes of conduct that include the procedure for filing complaints. Unfortunately, these safeguards are not available to those who are not affiliated with the Actor’s Equity union.

The movement has continued to grow and is now focusing on non-Equity theaters.

Not in Our House, a support group that deals with the after effects of this type of abuse and works to establish conduct codes for non-Equity theaters, has been formed and now involves over 700 actors.

In all, the lack of intimacy and violence directing in theatre is alarming.

With the many cases and reports over the last few years, it is a subject that is still being addressed.

Whether it is actors neglecting to follow their preassigned blocking or a lack of choreography altogether, it is important for all involved with the art to be cognizant of this element at all times.

Despite this issue, there is hope for change. With increasing support from the theatre community, it is potentially something that can be well-regulated and monitored.

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