Interplay 2014. pub



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Interplay XIX-2014
Sexuality and eroticism 
The “forbidden” spaces in Playback Theatre 
 
 
Informed by key reading in the area, Assael Romanelli investigates areas that might be considered taboo or even for-
bidden within playback theatre events. Drawing on his own dedicated practice with actors in Israel, he reflects on his 
experience and makes some recommendations for practice.
As a Playback Theater (PT) instructor and conductor throughout the years I've noticed that we rarely hear a story in 
workshops or performances that specifically talks about sexuality and eroticism. Thus, I’ve rarely seen actors enact 
erotic or sexual stories. A few years ago, I started wondering why this is so and began investigating these topics in 
workshops. Since sexuality is a major part of our lives, I thought that many stories we hear in workshops and perfor-
mances implicitly include aspects of the erotic and sexual elements. I started reading about this topic and found a book 
called “Mating in Captivity” by Ester Perel (2007) that influenced me both as a therapist and a PT trainer. I will refer to 
this book throughout the article. 
Definitions 
Let us begin by defining the illusive terms of intimacy, sexuality and eroticism. 
Intimacy is defined as “A close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or 
group” (1). Perel (2007) adds that Intimacy requires repetition, familiarity and security. We focus on our partner, take 
care of him or her and expect the same, allowing ourselves to feel vulnerable. 
Sexuality (or sexual) is defined as “Involvement in sexual activity, having sexual organs or reproducing by processes 
involving both sexes” (2). For our purposes we will use this term to refer to the physical act with the male and female 
genitals. 
Eroticism is defined as “The use of sexually arousing or suggestive symbolism, settings, allusions, situations in art, 
literature, drama, or the like”
(3). Perel
sees eroticism as a space or sphere within a relationship that includes separate-
ness: “Aggression, objectification and power all exist in the shadow of desire, components of passion that do not nec-
essarily nurture intimacy. Desire operates along its own trajectory” (Perel, 2007, p. 31). This description echoes 
Schnarch’s (1997) emphasis of differentiation, the ability to maintain who one is within a relationship with someone 
important, as a key component of sexuality and eroticism. Therefore, when we want to play onstage the erotic space,
we must create a space where there can be power dynamics, aggression and most of all objectification.
Since the intimate and erotic spheres are addressed directly and indirectly, in some of the stories we tell and hear in the 
PT experience (and possibly in our daily lives), it is important that we develop simple techniques that will enable us as 
PT actors to play back these sensitive, elusive, somewhat taboo spaces. 

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