Intimacy Director Joins Barcelona Opera House to Ensure Safety and Comfort of Actors

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Barcelona’s opera house has hired an “intimacy director” to ensure performers are comfortable participating in passionate scenes, a first for Spain and a rarity for continental Europe. In the wake of the #MeToo movement that rocked the movie industry and the opera world with sexual harassment accusations, a new position was created to ensure the artists were safe and had all necessary support during shows with potentially sensitive or upsetting scenes.

Known as the “intimacy director,” the person will meet with each performer before a show and help them explore how to play their roles best while staying safe and comfortable. It’s a role similar to a safety coordinator on a film set. The difference is that in a live production, the scene will be repeated each evening in front of thousands of spectators.

Ita O’Brien, who will oversee the intimacy department, has advised on intimate scenes in TV and theatre and is the founder of Intimacy On Set. She says she wants to be there for the artists to give them a voice and support. She has even brought in a trained therapist to discuss the issues with performers before their shows and an actor specializing in sex education and consent.

A 2019 study from the Musicians Union found almost half of musicians had been harassed or assaulted at work, and O’Brien believes an intimacy coordinator could help to prevent it. For a show like Antony and Cleopatra, where there are a lot of sex and emotional scenes, she said it was essential to “create a culture of respect and trust” to keep the performers feeling safe.

O’Brien has been a theater and musical director for 25 years. She has directed the Broadway adaptations of Normal People, I May Destroy You, and It’s A Sin. She has also appeared onstage as Portia in The Merchant of Venice, Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Adele in Ode to Joy. She has an MFA from FSU/Asolo Conservatory.

The opera house, which is a cultural landmark, will be opened to the public on Monday. To not disturb the coronavirus quarantine, it will be filled with plants instead of humans.

The UceLi Quartet, a classical music group, will perform the plant-filled opera. NPR reports the venue will also be used to host a variety of other performances throughout the season, including flamenco, classical during the Barcelona Festival of Mozart and Strauss, dance and ballet (including Swan Lake), jazz, Beatles+Queen+ABBA, and Haydn.

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