Context and consent matter — OnStage Blog

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by Ashley Griffin

In addition to contributing to the OnStage blog, Ashley Griffin has appeared on Broadway and elsewhere, as well as on television and film in New York, Los Angeles, London, Stratford and Chicago. As a writer, Ashley’s work has been developed at New World Stages, the Manhattan Theater Club on Broadway, Playwrights Horizons, and more. Ashley has taught at NYU and is a member of the AEA and the Dramatists Guild.

As Chris Peterson shared: “News broke this week that a member of the public secretly recorded a nude scene during the Broadway play, ‘Take Me Out’ and then released footage and video of the scene. actor Jesse Williams on social media.” The theater where “Take Me Out” plays has a policy for this show (which has become standard in many venues) to require audience members to place phones and smart devices in sealed cases before the performance. Someone deliberately swiped a phone and took the footage.

There has been a lot of talk about this incident over the past week. The producers and Actor’s Equity have spoken out against the actions of this smuggler. But it turned into an even bigger conversation with some condemning the producers and condemning AEA because, to some people, it seems to be based on “We’re crazy because now people are seeing nudity for free online when we needed the nudity to sell tickets” — claiming that the producers’ and AEA’s problem with the incident is simply based on current issues surrounding bootlegging in general.

But, frankly, whatever the intentions of the producers and the AEA, whatever the ins and outs of the public and professional frustrations, it concerns me greatly that we have no idea why this incident is so problematic – and it has to do with the emotional safety of interpreters and understanding the basic concepts of consent.

I’ve heard people express opinions like “hey, if you agree to appear naked on a show, you can’t complain about people taking pictures/filming you. You accepted it, now you swallow it. You don’t have to complain.

As an interpreter, I completely disagree. Let me break it down:

If I decide that I am comfortable being naked in a performance, I consent to an audience seeing my nudity in the context of the play I am performing and theoretically for the building of the story I am performing. recount. If someone takes a photo or video of my naked body and then starts posting it online, it’s extremely inappropriate and I didn’t consent to it. I have not consented to nude images being posted out of context and potentially ending up on sites whose sole purpose is to allow people to “get down” on the posted photos/videos. This is similar to the argument I hear women make:

“Oh, but if you’re comfortable wearing a bikini on the beach, why would you be upset if I joined you in your bra and underwear?”

The difference is context and consent.

Sure, the production may be using nudity to sell tickets, but that has nothing to do with violating the actors’ consent. Of course, there’s a risk you take in our tech-heavy society if you agree to be naked in a show, but you trust your production to live up to its part of the deal to keep nudity in the context of this show and only in this context.

There is also a big difference between agreeing to be naked in a play and agreeing to be naked in film/TV In a film, the exact nudity shown, right down to the camera angels, is negotiated in the an artist’s contract and an artist agrees to certain shots knowing that they will be on posters, in trailers and online forever. And in a film, you can be very specific: “I’m ok with this part of my body being shown, but not that part.” And guess what? If this is violated, it is grounds for prosecution. There have (sadly) been plenty of cases of directors taking advantage and shooting something they weren’t supposed to – and it’s led to lawsuits.

But negotiating nudity on a movie is a very different situation than being on a show and having bootleggers just “go on it.”

If I agree to appear naked on a show, I do not consent to photos or videos of my naked body being permanently posted on the Internet. These are very different things. It’s like saying that if I agree to sleep with one person, I agree to sleep with anyone.

NOPE.

This bothers me because it’s the same argument I hear when private photos of naked performers are leaked, often in a “revenge porn” scenario. The default seems to be “Well, if they took the pictures in the first place, why are they so upset when they’re shown to the world?” If they took them, they ask for it.

NOPE.

Context and consent are important and it horrifies me that in these arguments they seem to mean less than nothing. I would also like to point out that “revenge porn” includes the word “porn” for a reason. Out of context, that’s it. And that’s something the person in the picture didn’t consent to.

Maybe it will help you to watch it from these real life situations:

When I train, I wear clothes adapted to my activity. I can wear a sports bra and shorts because that’s what I feel most comfortable in. If someone in my dance class or gym pulled out a camera and took pictures of me, I would immediately put on a sweatshirt and let someone know who is in a position to deal with the situation. . I consented to my fellow dancers or gym members seeing me in my workout gear. I did not consent to be photographed there for who knows what reason or potential distribution.

I usually wear a two piece swimsuit to the beach – I’m an active swimmer and surfer and want to wear something conducive to athletic activity while not giving me tan lines that might interfere with the costume pieces that I have to wear. I’m not comfortable with someone stepping on top of me changing and seeing me in my bra and underwear and will call some form of security if someone does it on purpose.

If a fellow actor enters my dressing room without permission – especially if I am undressing, I will report my discomfort to him and to someone in a position of authority. I don’t care if I have a nude sex scene with them on stage. It does not matter.

And let’s also be very clear – accepting nudity on stage is not a black and white situation – “I’m okay with being naked or I’m not.” Once the issue of nudity is addressed, that’s where the conversation BEGINS – usually with the performers, director, producers and director of intimacy. Comfort levels are discussed – and keep in mind that these comfort levels can change, even from night to night, and most intimacy directors will choreograph in different choreographic “options” which can be adjusted at the comfort level of an actor THIS DAY. Conversations about the poster art will take place to which the performer may or may not consent. On the day publicity photos are taken, the performer has the right to request that certain scenes or moments not be photographed (not just photographed and not used, not photographed in the first place.) If one of these consensus decisions is violated, that is grounds for a trial.

A bootlegger deliberately violating theater policy and bringing a camera into a show for the express purpose of photographing or filming nude performers and then distributing that material online is equivalent to someone catching you taking a shower at the gym, films you and then when you get angry saying, “Hey, you’re naked in a public place. You asked for it. You’re comfortable with everyone in this locker room seeing you naked, so you’re clearly okay with people, in general, seeing you naked. You don’t have to complain.

The fact that there is still this huge misunderstanding about what consent means really concerns me. It’s time we had a serious conversation about this, and I think we should start by talking about the violation suffered by the cast of “Take Me Out” and the emotional (and potentially other) ramifications it caused to these actors. For once can we stop deviating from making the conversation about money, or ticket sales, or the value or lack of smuggling of theatrical productions and actually talk about how the consent of these actors has violated, their trust (with the public in particular) betrayed and the fact that a crime has been committed against them?

Let’s perhaps reframe the conversation and move forward with these questions at the heart of any future nudity in theater projects.

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