Being Authentic in a New Theatre Practice

Ann James: Hello! This is an amazing moment in my life. I have been wanting to talk to you for a long time. Tell us a little bit about how you started your journey in the intimacy industry and how you started your training.

Jyreika Guest: In 2018, I started doing a lot of research on understanding movement through a dancer’s perspective and then how to infuse that with experience I have as a director, therapy in trauma-informed education, how to step into a space, and how to be able to scan situations in body language. As an actor, I’m always people watching. Not only am I watching the person and waiting and listening to them, I’m also seeing how they are moving and how they respond to questions that are given by the director and questions that are provided from other practitioners.

When it comes to blocking, we are so often told to go stage left or push this person, and sometimes we don’t necessarily know the “why.” So I started to dissect each one of the pillars of intimacy to know how to present that information to actors.

Ann: And so, tell us, tell us about the five pillars.

Trust and believe that technique does not have to be negated. It’s not negated. it’s truly just a matter of how you protect your instrument and protect yourself and separate that effectively from the character.

Jyreika: So the Intimacy Directors and Coordinators (IDC) curriculum is based on five pillars of intimacy. Consent is something that a lot of people first start off with—very important. Knowing how to ask for permission is communication. Then I’ll say choreography, which refers to the intimacy movement that’s designed and agreed upon by the actors and intimacy director and scored for safe repetition. This, of course, can change with the intimacy director’s approval to make sure everyone is safe and boundaries remain respected and supported. Context is the understanding of the story and scene surrounding the intimacy, which comes from the script. Context can be utilized to empower actors to ask the question “why?” I love breaking down context and allowing people to again go to that “why” and know that they can have that conversation and discussion with their directors, thus creating more collaboration. Then, there’s closure. Closure is so very important. It’s how we navigate the world and how we know how to separate ourselves from our characters. Whenever I present closure, I always feel like there’s gonna be that one method actor that’s resistant. But trust and believe that technique does not have to be negated. It’s not negated. it’s truly just a matter of how you protect your instrument and protect yourself and separate that effectively from the character.

Ann: What has your practice taught you about your humanness, your artistry, and even your spirituality? How do you use your knowledge of consent and choreography in order to bring your humanity and artistry to life?

Jyreika: I think it goes back to just being mindful that I still work in this industry as an actor, and every day we’re met with a microaggression. Every day we are met with a power dynamic. We’re met with institutional privilege and marginalization. I am constantly aware of that in any room that I step into. I try to keep that in mind so that as I’m talking about consent, as I am presenting intimacy, people know that I am an actor, too. I’m mindful that first day that we’re actually making contact and moving—especially now, with the pandemic. We’re still navigating coming out of isolation, coming out of familiarity with each other.

That is something for artists. We have been so empathic with each other. We’re still brushing off the isolation. I am bringing my humanness into the space, too, so we are on the same playing field. I try to be as honest and let people know where I’m at so that they know that we’re participating in this together. My collaboration is with the people that are in the room the day that you arrived, in this hour that we’re working together. If tomorrow you come in with a different sense of self, we navigate. So my expectations are high, but my expectations of what movement you are ready to jump into are low, just because I have no concept of… I mean, I don’t see you for twenty-four hour a day. I see for an hour or two in that day, and I’m asking that you just meet me there. We’ll figure out the rest.

My passion is driven from knowing that people are ready; and if they’re not ready, they’re curious.

Ann: I’m echoing a little bit. It sounds like you have this store of knowledge, but you don’t enter the room with knowledge in front of you. You enter the room with the knowledge on your shoulders, and you meet people where they are that day. That is such a refreshing way to institute the pedagogy into the room. It’s so refreshing, and it’s really important for everyone to understand that in your practice, while you have the knowledge, you don’t lead with that knowledge. You lead with your humanity.