Love, loss and intimacy coordination in Bucknell’s Theater Department

Ana Eckert, Contributing Writer

This year ’s Family Weekend is booked with activities, adventures and performances for Bucknell students and their loved ones to enjoy. 

One of the many performances being held this weekend is the annual first-year show, “Kodachrome.” It features all first-year students, from the lead roles to the stage managers, except for the director. 

This small and personal story takes place in the small town of Colchester, Conn., where love is just a little out of reach and everyone’s got a bit of history. Follow the Photographer as she walks you through the townsfolk’s daily lives, losses and loves and watch all the beginnings, endings and beginnings again. 

Director Nabeel Jan ’23, a film studies and international relations double major, split the lead role of the Photographer into three separate parts. He said this was partially for practicality, as the students had three weeks to put on this production and the Photographer narrates most of the scenes. 

There are three different interpretations of a complex and grieving character, with a changing story as each one passes the camera off. A story about humanity and healing, told through the lens of a vintage camera, “Kodachrome” is a moving and reflective piece audiences are not going to want to miss. 

But what does this small, black box production have in common with the Netflix sensation “Bridgerton?” The answer is a surprising one: an intimacy coordinator. 

The series famously features several sex scenes in its two seasons, but rest assured there will be no such steam in “Kodachrome,” Netflix’s regency darling did open up a larger conversation around all media: how can the industry make sure actors are comfortable with their intimate scenes? 

This is a conversation that was rarely happening in the film industry and even less so in the theater industry. In the wake of Bridgerton,” horror story after horror story came out about actors who felt unsafe and neglected in their physical scenes. In theater, there is the dangerous thinking of actors as set pieces that can be moved around the set as needed to tell the story. What intimacy coordination does is assure the actors their bodily autonomy and control of their scenes. 

For “Kodachrome” it started simply, as faculty member cfrancis blackchild was invited into a week of rehearsals to begin the conversation around the show’s kisses and slow dances. The discussion highlighted the importance of knowing how to say “no” how to say “yes” and how to find a space that works for both actors in the scene. Before anyone held hands, the actors understood consent, boundaries and the importance of being specific with movements. 

The coordination itself was a bit like choreographing a dance, said those involved: times, movements and touches were specific so the actors were in control of what was happening. And if, at any point, someone was tentative or uncomfortable, the scene stopped and everyone worked together to find an alternative. 

But why? This play includes a few kisses, some dancing and hand holding, all things college students are plenty familiar with. What is so important about these moments that time was to be taken out of valuable rehearsals to choreograph them? 

The common practice in high school theater is often just to send the two actors out into the hallway and let them figure out the kiss. The show’s choreographer says to take your partner’s waist for the dance scene and it is expected that you do so. But Bucknell hopes to create a more open conversation around these scenes and these sorts of touches. 

Every actor is coming from a different background, with different experiences, and different boundaries. Of course, you’d hope that scene partners would inherently respect and understand those boundaries but what intimacy coordination does is make sure that those boundaries are guaranteed to be honored and respected. 

It opens a safe space to discuss what the actor is okay with and there is no need to offer any explanation. In real life, you’d never want to make a move that your partner wouldn’t be okay with. The building blocks of consent are being informed and enthusiastic. But in the theater, actors don’t always get to pick their partners and so it is even more important that everyone feels heard and respected. And that comfort and understanding will come through in the scene, making the performance and the show all the better. 

An actor who knows what will be happening in the scene and knows that it will be within their comfort zone is going to be able to act better and bring more of their character to life. 

During “Kodachrome” this weekend, audiences should keep an eye out for those little moments. Watch the characters and their emotions come to life and rest assured that the scenes are the best that they can be. 

Every single Bucknell Theater production this year will also have an intimacy coordinator to make sure that both the audience and the actors are having the best possible show. Bucknell is excited to further the conversation about consent and intimacy in the arts and to create a safe space to make the best art possible. 

Kodachrome will go live on Friday, Sept. 16 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Sept. 17 at 2:00 and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are seven dollars and available now at the Bucknell Box Office.

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