Death by Genitalia? How an Intimacy Director Made Those ‘Teeth’ Work.

Song, dance and deadly genitalia: It’s all on full, gory display in “Teeth,” Michael R. Jackson and Anna K. Jacobs’s campy musical adaptation of the 2007 cult horror film. The story follows Dawn O’Keefe, a God-fearing good girl — surrounded by shame-lobbing, not-so-good men — whose body has a sharp sense of justice.

In a show in which violence begets vengeance — Dawn has a curious case of vagina dentata — it’s a lot to endure, for both biter and bitee. (As Jesse Green cheekily put it in his New York Times review of the Playwrights Horizons production: “If you don’t want to see bloody amputated penises, why come to the theater?”)

Campy or not, choreographing the many scenes of intimacy and assault required extraordinary sensitivity. Violations vary: In one scene, Dawn seeks relief for her condition, only to be repeatedly ogled and groped by a creepy gynecologist. As she protests, her body takes revenge. The director, Sarah Benson, wanted someone dedicated to creating a space for the actors to feel safe, and free to set boundaries.

“There’s so much sex and intimacy and sexual violence and everything in between that I just knew immediately that intimacy direction was going to be a massive part of the work of the show,” Benson said. “It was so important to me to have someone who was really creating a container in which we could be vulnerable and raw and make this very intense story.”

“I am still able to go home feeling like I didn’t give every single part of myself and my body to the work,” said Alyse Alan Louis, who plays Dawn. Here she’s in an early scene with Jason Gotay, who plays her boyfriend.Credit…Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

That someone was Crista Marie Jackson.

Intimacy directors, or intimacy choreographers as they are also known, help actors simulate sex by laying out the specifications of consent and organizing the logistics of bodily contact.

Back to top button