Columbia College Chicago to Host Virtual Panel on Intimacy for Stage and Screen

On June 21, a panel of Columbia alumni will discuss the work of staging and performing intimate scenes in theatre and cinema.

Join Columbia College Chicago on June 21, from 6 to 8 p.m., for a virtual alumni panel discussion on the work of staging and performing intimate scenes in theatre and cinema, a field that is rapidly growing as more focus is given to safe and consent-based production practices.  

The event offers the opportunity to learn from and engage with theatre practitioners, intimacy coordinators, and intimacy choreographers who are pushing boundaries of this new field in film, TV, and live performance. The alumni panelists include David Cromer HDR ’17, Orion Barnes ’97, Sheryl Williams '20, Bessie Zolno ’20, and moderator Khanisha Foster ’02 (see biographies below).  

Those interested in the field are also invited to explore Columbia’s new Intimacy for Stage and Screen Certificate program, which offers an in-depth, year-long education in coordination, choreography, and advocacy for theatrical intimacy and performance. This one-year, 16-credit graduate certificate program is currently accepting students for fall and is designed to empower artists with industry best practices for the safe, ethical, inclusive, and effective staging of intimacy, nudity, and sexual violence for both stage and screen.  

As the panel event is virtual, registration is required to receive a Zoom link for the event. 


Learn More About the Alumni Panelists 


David Cromer HDR ’17 


David Cromer is a director and actor originally from Chicago and is currently based in New York. As a director, his New York credits include A Case for the Existence of God (Signature), The Sound Inside (Broadway); The Band’s Visit (Atlantic Theater Company, Broadway & National Tour); the Broadway revivals of Brighton Beach Memoirs and The House of Blue Leaves; The Treasurer (Playwrights Horizons); Man from Nebraska (Second Stage Theater); The Effect, Orson’s Shadow, and Tribes (Barrow Street Theatre); Women or Nothing (Atlantic Theater Company); Really Really (MCC Theater); When the Rain Stops Falling and Nikolai and the Others (Lincoln Center Theater); and Adding Machine (Minetta Lane Theatre). Other directing credits include BUG (Steppenwolf Theatre Company) Next to Normal (Writers Theatre); Come Back, Little Sheba (Huntington Theatre Company); The Sound Inside (Williamstown Theatre Festival); and Our Town in London, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, and Kansas City. As an actor, he recently appeared on Broadway as Howard Fine in the 2018 production of The Waverly Gallery. Prior to that, he appeared on Broadway as Karl Lindner in the 2014 revival of A Raisin in the Sun, and Off-Broadway as the Stage Manager in Our Town, which he also directed, at the Barrow Street Theatre. He appeared in the HBO series The Newsroom, the Showtime series Billions, and in the motion picture The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected). Cromer has received a Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, three Obie Awards, three Lucille Lortel Awards, a Joe A. Callaway Award, four Jeff Awards, and in 2010 was made a MacArthur Foundation Fellow. 


Orion Barnes ’97 


Orion Barnes has been choreographing, teaching, and performing stage combat and theatrical intimacy for over 25 years. In that time, he also taught fencing to children and young adults at fencing studios in New York, Boston, and Los Angeles. He is currently on faculty at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (Los Angeles Campus). Orion believes in a consent-based approach to intimacy and stage combat and that actors of every shape, size, and skill level must have a solid foundation in both. His intimacy training includes Theatrical Intimacy Education and Intimacy Directors and Coordinators (Certified Consent-Forward Artist). As well as the many projects, shows, and scenes he has coordinated for college productions and summer camps, he has also built fights for The Group Rep, New Jersey Shakespeare Festival, and the Oak Park Shakespeare Festival. He has done several high-profile film, television, and stage projects and has trained many A-list celebrities (including Anne Hathaway, Chris Pine, and Sir Ben Kingsley) for film and television projects. Orion would like to thank Columbia College, David Woolley, and Sheldon Patinkin for setting on the path to his life’s work of keeping actors safe, both physically and emotionally. 


Sheryl Williams '20 


Sheryl Williams is a fight choreographer/intimacy consultant. Originally from Phoenix, with 10-plus years of acting experience and a BA in Musical Theatreand Stage Combat training from Columbia College Chicago, she has been using her multiple skill sets to enhance herself as an intimacy professional. She has been a repeat guest artist for North Central College, Columbia College Chicago, and Roosevelt University. Her credits include Zorro the Musical, La Cage Aux Follies, and Mamma Mia!  (Music Theater Work), The Wizards (Free Street Theater), Among the Dead (Jackalope Theater) and Little Women (First Folio), Fen (Court Theater) and Cabaret (Porchlight). She also works frequently on Chicago indie films as an intimacy/stunt coordinator, including Romance Package for Two with Red Films and Hummingbirds with Bouy Films most recently premiering at festivals. 


Bessie Zolno ’20 


Bessie Zolno is a mental health informed violence and intimacy choreographer and performer. She has worked on nearly 50 productions as a choreographer and consultant. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Bessie has performed in over 35 productions across the Bay and won a Best Leading Actress award from SFBWW. She graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Musical Theatre and a minor in stage combat. While attending Columba, she began choreographing for productions and films in Chicago. Additionally, she has taught this work to improv troupes, opera singers, teens, and theatre collectives. She is based in Tel Aviv and the Bay Area, where she helps create collaborative and consent-driven spaces. 


Khanisha Foster ’02 (Moderator)


Khanisha Foster’s work and her outrageous family history landed her writing opportunities with K&L Productions (Kay Cannon & Laverne McKinnon) as well as with Julie Hébert (The Man in the High Castle) and Electric Shepherd Productions (stewards for the adaptations of the Philip K. Dick library). She was also a Fox fellow, and her series Sancho was a semifinalist at the Austin Film Festival and is being produced by Max Arciniega (Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul) and Alonso Alvarez (Snowfall). She’s written video games for Probably Monsters (the company founded by the creators of Halo and Destiny) and for Episodes. Her solo show Joy Rebel, directed by Obie Award winner Lou Bellamy, received critical acclaim, and it was chosen as a DC Metro Staff favorite for 2019. Her plays have been commissioned by Penumbra Theatre, 1st Stage, and 2nd Story. She was a featured storyteller on NPR’s “The Dinner Party.” Along with Lena Waithe, she was named one of 18 Black Women We Think Are Phenomenal by Mater Mea Magazine. American Theatre Magazine named her in their Role Call series as one of the “6 Theatre Workers You Should Know.” Broadway World named her best director for The Bluest Eye, which also won best production. Her production of Yellowman is currently nominated for seven OC Theatre Guild Awards.