Saturday, October 29, 2005

A Kiss is Still a Kiss

Only a few months ago, (May, to be precise), I performed my first on stage kiss, in the musical, Baby. I had somehow avoided being in shows that required it up until that point. (Though one show in college probably should have included a kiss, I talked my way out of that one.)

My former acting professor once said to his class something alone the lines of "99% of all stage kisses at the amateur level look horrible on stage." I can easily agree.

Yet most people who saw me on stage in May commented on how natural my kiss with my stage wife looked. "How did you keep it from being cheesy", I was asked more than once.

Two ways.

Firstly, I never let it be awkward. I never joked about it with the woman playing my opposite, and we told each other early on that we would do what we had to do, without feeling weird about it. During one early rehearsal, we just said we were going to do it, and we did so. We did not make the mistake of many people in the same position; holding off on it until the last possible rehearsal. Bad idea. This just gives the day when it must occur an ominous feeling usually reserved for an impending tax audit.

Another reason I think it looked so natural was that both me and the person playing opposite me, did not do as many do; simply touch each others lips quickly in hope of it being over soon. Many people hope this passes for a kiss. (It doesn't.) Instead, my co-star and I were aware that the part that sells the realism of a stage kiss is the moment leading up to it, as opposed to the actual "point of contact". If that 2 seconds or so before the actual kiss has feeling to it, what comes after cannot help but look natural.

So if the script calls for a kiss, start doing it very early in the rehearsal process, and do not rush the actual kiss when that part comes up. Replace that awkwardness with a depth of feeling as you approach your cast mate for the kiss, and everything else will usually fall into place.

85 comments:

musicaltheatreaudition.com said...

I like the fact that you and your costar seemed to be working through it together.

My first stage kiss was awkward (in rehearsal) not because of us, but because of the way our director handled it. And our music director, who was my co-stars wife. She glared at me all through the scene every time.

I think amateur directors can be just as much to blame for bad stage kisses as the actors.

Freeman said...

I also think if your co-star is nice enough to let you kiss her throughout the entire rehearsal process, it's a fringe benefit of a job with very low pay.

Oh, and it's very professional.

(Did I say the right thing the second time?)

Ty Unglebower said...

I agree that directors do share some of the blame for a bad on stage kiss. Luckily, in the case mentioned, we had a good director, which made it all much easier.

Another part of musicaltheatreaudition's comment got me thinking...why do real life spouses get so, for lack of a better word, weird about that sort of thing? I have seen it far too often.

Well, I suppose I know the why of it, but still it is a tad silly I think. Even if a real life spouse has those feelings, to glare at you, or any other stage spouse sounds kind of 7th grade-ish to me. As if it's not difficult enough for a performer?

As for your comment, Mr. Freeman, I am not sure it was as much an on-the-job fringe benefit for me, as it would be cause for hazzard pay on the part of the actress, having to be on the recieving end of it all. Ha.

Seriously though, I have always been thankful how easily we got along for that moment. All was well. (Perhaps in no small part due to vigerous teeth brushing and mouth rinsing on my part before each rehearsal/performance!

Anonymous said...

What's odd about the situation for me is that my colleague and I are neighbors... and one of her best friends is my wife's co-worker. Feels sort of incestuous, really.

M'Balz Ez-Hari said...

Thank you so much for posting this info. about perfecting the stage kiss. I found it to be very helpful.
As a follow-up question: In what ways do think directors can be detrimental to the stage kiss?

Anonymous said...

I am currently in rehearsals for my first stage kiss role. It has been awkward and uncomfortable. I have gotten several pieces of advice: Just relax and have fun with it, put your game face on and just go for it, get off book as fast as possible, slow down. My issue is not the kiss itself but how I feel about myself as I launch myself at this man who I am working with for the first time. I find myself wondering what he thinks of me and heres the demon, "what if he thinks I am difficult to kiss and can't wait for the play to be over" Well, as an actress, who has some experience, I am humbled by this 'first stage kiss' and do know that I will do whatever it takes to make it work and enjoy this role that I am so excited to be given. Thanks for listening.

Anonymous said...

o.k. a stage kiss is all well and good, but ive been cast in a production that specificly asks for me to make out with my castmate. how do you get around that!

Ty Unglebower said...

Anob=nymous, if you check the front page of the blog, i will address you question. Thanks!

Taylor said...

i liked this a lot!
i have to do my first onstage kiss in Oklahoma. it just isn't very easy to talk this through with my co-star. we're simply aquaintances. and he's dating my friend. :S

flaming_chaos said...

Hey, I'm playing Sarah in Guys and Dolls, and Sky Masterson is actually being played by a very shy girl...it's awkward, but she was the best for the role. Anyways, the show opens in a few days and she is sooo not comfortable actually locking lips. Does anyone know a good technique for making a fake, non lip contact kiss look realistic? Neither of us have ever really kissed someone before and it's just getting ridiculously awkward feeling...

Ty Unglebower said...

Thanks for the comment. The only way I know,(though I still think getting over the awkwardness is best) would be to make sure one of you,(the taller one) with their back square to the audience. If that person masks it just right, you can each kiss the very corner of each other's mouth, or the very small of your cheek near the lips, and still appear as though you are making contact on your lips. It's tricky, and not especially good looking on stage, but if you are in a pinch for an option, I would go with that. Let me know if it all works out.

Anonymous said...

Hi there. I just found this on a google, and I am really appreciative for your comments. I will be performing my frist stage kiss in a couple weeks, and we've already kissed a few times in rehearsals. And I'm feeling ... really weird. Your comments really helped. For one thing, I haven't kissed anyone but my husband for a very, very long time. I am feeling a bit of guilt in my heart, even thought a) I know in my head that this is what has to be done and it's not a big deal; only it is a big deal to me, and b) he's a great friend, and I feel strange; incestuous is not the right word, but close. But I feel my director is handling it great, as we've been directed to rehearse the kiss from the get go. And I must agree that doing it that way, rather than waiting till the very last minute is certainly the way to go if you want to actually pull off the scene realistically. I also think the real kiss rather than faking it is the rigth way to go if this particular scene is to be taken seriously. Interestingly, my husband is not the jealous type, and he's not upset. His girlfriend is also my friend, and she's been great, too. He's also been really normal about the whole thing. It seems to be just me feeling the guilt. How do you recommend I sort of process that?

Another question. Um. What if you run into a good kisser? Our kiss is not a make out session, so I'm not really coming away going, wow, HELLO. But in theory, if someone's a good kisser, you're having a real kissing scene, you're acting like you enjoy it, which is not a stretch if you're actually enjoying it. How on earth does one process that?! I'm having *sigh* guilt. It's always been one of those actor things I didn't think I'd ever run into. I just ignored it. And now here I am and, well, yeah.

If you're still reading comments from this post, then I look forward to your reply. If not, then I guess I'm talking to myself, here. Either way, this post has really helped me. Thank you!

Ty Unglebower said...

Dear "Anonymous", or the most recent one anyway...

I do still read these comments, and I thank you for posting them, and for reading my blog.

My suggestion about the guilt is to just relax. This is not a brain thing, or else your mind would just tell you there is nothing to be guilty about, and it would all go away. Since that is obviously not going to help, what you have to do is just be a more relaxed person about it overall.

Do this by focusing on the character. On what needs to be happening. Do whatever it is you do personally when you want to be relaxed about anything else in the world. Once you calm down, and can think about the kiss without feeling the physical symptoms of this guilt (and you know what they are) you will find the guilt is also going away. Just run it in your mind as much as you can, free of the guilty feeling.

My guess is that this feeling of guilt comes from a but of insecurity about doing this. Look into yourself and find the confidence to believe that you are telling a story, and telling it well. That it is pretend, and nothing more.

I am sure you have seen romantic movies and enjoy the romantic moments in them. Do those make you feel guilty? If not, just see this play as one of those movies, only you are telling the story, and not a famous person.

As for running into a good kisser, it is an interesting topic, but one I think people probably assume too much about. Assuming that you happen to be partnered with a good kisser, whose good kissing survives even into his acting (which does not always happen), you are not likely to be distracted by it, if you are focused on your job...telling the story of the scene you are in. It's all very utilitarian on stage, and if you just remain committed to your art and your job in the scene, you won't have to worry about being swept away.

Again it is about the scene. I have been straddled on stage by a friend of mine before, and really the main thing on my mind was how to block the scene so that it looked right.

We can acknowledge a good kiss as a matter of technique, without being overwhelmed by it. Just as we can a well constructed fight scene.

And if you do enjoy a kiss, it is not problematic, unless you do allow it to affect the scene you are in. But truly, I feel that such moments, where kissing another actor envelopes you in joy because it is so well done, happen only in the movies.

(Do you think this may also be part of why you are so guilty...fear that you may enjoy a kiss? )

Please let me know how it all goes. Of all the comments on this post nobody has ever written back to let me know how the show went. I would very much like to know.

flaming_chaos said...

My show went well! :D everyone wanted to know if it was real, and if the slap was real too :D haha it was good

Anonymous said...

Hello again from the most recent Anonymous! I can't believe how quickly you replied to this, Ty, thank you so much! Your comments are so helpful, truly. I don't know why I'm so surprised to see I'm not the only one weirded out by this topic. So helpful!

The truth is, he is a good kisser. I can't believe I just said that out loud. And alot of the guilt is the "enjoyable-ness" (that's totally not a word). It was/is fear, and then boom, we do the kiss, and although it's not passionate or drawn out, it is still a good kiss.

It's not that I'm worried I'll get swept up in the moment; he's the same, brotherly guy to me, I dig my husband, etc. It's just the pure fact of it being a good kiss. On the other hand, that enjoyment of a good kiss is something I'm conveying to the audience is that my character liked it. This is one of the more crucial scenes where I really must embody who I am, why I'm there, and what I want. And I think your advice to acknowledge its construction and truth as part of the scene really IS the way for me to process that one.

You're also right about the insecurity. I'm REALLY insecure about the kiss. I'm not the pretty leading lady type that gets stage kisses. I'm the big oafy best friend, the goofy, lovable nutjob where shoes don't even have kisses. So, to be cast in a role that requires believable kissing?! Never crossed my mind. And now that it's here, I'm terribly insecure, playing alot of catch up, and just trying not to look as insecure as I feel. I should be able to do that; I am, after all, an actor, right? I admit, the rehearsals were easier today. I will try to relax more, as you said, too.

My show's in a couple weeks. I will definitely check back and let you know how the actual perforamnce went. With my husband in the audience. And my parents! Who have no idea this is happening.

Enjoying your blog and have bookmarked it for more than just first stage kiss advice, too! Again, thank you so much.

-- Elizabeth

ps - Maybe it's time to for me to get a google account ...

Ty Unglebower said...

Elizabeth...

Thank you for writing back and keeping me posted on how you are feeling. I am glad what I said helped out a bit.

And it is good for you to admit the man is a good kisser, and that there is pleasure there. There is no shame in doing so. Again I liken it to stage fighting...even non-violent people feel a visceral pleasure in doing a combat scene. There is just something about it that is innately exciting in most people. Being kissed well is a similar chemical response, I dare say.

The actor can use both, without becoming them. You are well on your way to conquering the insecurity and the guilt if you continue to be as open about it as you have been with your comments this evening.

Thank you for agreeing to keep my posted on this. I also spoke a bit on the subject on the front page of the blog, which I hope you will visit, and continue to visit, as you said, for non-kiss related posts.

Anonymous said...

I have a stage kiss coming up soon because I play the mother. And I have a feeling it's going to be pretty awkward because my "husband" is quite experienced, and I--am not. At all, if you know what I mean. Any tips? -LG

Ty Unglebower said...

LG..

Thanks for stopping by the blog, and I think I understand what you mean. It can be worrisome. But try to relax. Here is what I suggest...

If your stage husband is more experienced as you say, there is no need to panic or be embarrassed over the issue. Get together with him in private before a rehearsal, and discuss the situation. How it makes you feel, and what you may be concerned about. We must always trust our cast mates, but those who enact an intimate scene, even if just a kiss, must trust each other to an even higher degree. That trust will build the more open you are with one another.

And certainly, talk to you director about your concerns, but by yourself and together with the "husband". In the end, it is merely another stage direction that with time and faith in your abilities you will be able to master.

Let me know how it goes, unlike most of the people who have commented on this subject. =)

Anonymous said...

In a lot of productions of "Once Upon A Mattress", there is a stage kiss between Lady Larken and Sir Harry. If there are people in the play as young as 11, would they still include the kiss? It's not written in the script, but at the end of one of their songs, many directors choose to do that.

Ty Unglebower said...

I would say it depends on who is directing, but for my money, I would not include it. There is so much going on in the emotional world of an 11 year old of either gender, that to complicate things with a stage kiss just seems unwise, and a bit unfair to me. Despite the character's they are playing, the average 11 year old is simply not developed enough to keep the proper perspective on something such as a kiss. Much confusion and anxiety can result.

If the choice were mine, I would not have 11 year olds kiss, whether it was in the script, or not.

Lorelia said...

Hi, I'm in an upcoming production of Romeo and Juliet and I'm not an important character, but I might have to do a stage kiss with Mercutio during the party scene. We're both in high school and I honestly don't mind but he doesn't want to because I have a boyfriend. We're trying to find a way to "make out" behind a bridge and make it look real, any tips?

Lorelia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ty Unglebower said...

Lorelia...

Honestly, my first advice would honestly be for "Mercutio" to commit to the scene fully, and work through his insecurities about kissing you. The essence of acting is create a world and a situation that an audience can believe is real, which has nothing to do with the real lives of the actors. If he cannot learn this, he will have a harder time getting roles in the future, should he want to continue acting on any level. And even if he gets roles, his insecurities in this area will translate into awkwardness to the audience.

Still, if he doesn't feel he can commit to a scene with an actress who is attached in real life to someone, I would next suggest that if the director will allow it, eliminating the idea of your two characters making out during the scene, and water it down to maybe talking and hand holding. Maybe a caress of the hair hear, a rest of a head upon the other's shoulder there. That suggests intimacy without reproducing it. (or get rid of that little bit of background action altogether.)

If however, "Mercutio" is not willing to commit, and the director will not adjust the scene and insists on making it look like the two of you are making out heavily, there are many different ways to mask a kiss, some of which have been mentioned here in the comment thread for this post. But It is difficult to be much more specific, as I have not seen your set, or the nature of the other blocking involved in the scene.

Have him with his back mostly to the audience, and downstage of you. Have him burying his face in your upper neck, and moving his head around as though he were kissing that pretty passionately. This is an erotic thing to do, as I am sure you know, and nobody has to know he isn't really doing it if the angles are correct. His lips won't even have to touch your neck.

It will then be your job, since you will be upstage of him and facing the audience, to make it even more convincing by your reactions. How turned on either of you should be will be up to the director, but it will be your facial expressions that have to sell it in this method.

Also if his arms are around you, he can move as though he is feeling you up with his hands, which are of course unseen behind your back. If he is nervous with this to, he make sure only his wrists are touching your back, while his hands are open, and away from you. That way when he moves his arms it can appear he is caressing your back, (or butt, or whatever) but is in fact only rubbing you with the inside of his wrists, which I imagine would seem more mechanical than erotic, and hence hopefully more comfortable.

But again, you and you responses will have to see it. If this seen is to be, you will not be a minor character for those few minutes. You'll be a major contributor to making this make-out session work.

I hope that helps. Nobody EVER comes back to tell me how the show went, but it would be nice if for a change, you came back and let me know what you decide.

Thanks for stopping by.

Lorelia said...

Thanks! The show isn't for a couple weeks but I'll be sure to tell you how it went!

Lorelia said...

Everything worked out on the end. Our show went FANTASTICALLY! We made people cry and it was probably one of our best shows ever.

Ty Unglebower said...

Very glad to hear that, Lorelia. Nice job!

Ty Unglebower said...

What did you end up doing to solve your problem with Mercutio?

Lorelia said...

We just ended up not doing anything, I had to go out halfway during the scene (they added this part for me) and come back out so it was a little awkward.

Emma said...

I'm the Baker's wife in our school's production of Into the Woods and I have to kiss the prince numerous times. Its a double cast so I am playing it two nights and another girl is playing it the other nights. She doesn't feel comfortable kissing him but I'm going to do it. In my family we kiss each other on the mouth as a way of greeting so I'm not concerned. Besides, I've had instances where I've had to be "intimate" with a costar and we put off actually doing anything till our actual performance. That was a disaster so I know better this time.

It looks like the prince and I are actually going to kiss each other starting next rehearsal so heres hoping it works out!

(I'm also hoping the other girl will change her mind when she sees us doing it. Wish us luck!)

Ty Unglebower said...

Good luck to you , Emma. Check back with us periodically and let us know how your intimate scene is going!

holdonmyheart said...

Oh goodness. My first stage kiss rehearsal will be tomorrow. I'm Tracy in Hairspray for a summer show at a high school. This has helped calm my nerves a bit... (:

Ty Unglebower said...

I am glad to hear this post calmed your nerves a bit. Check back in and let me know how it went, and if you need any further advice, please feel free to check back here, or email me. I'll do what i can. =)

tythewriter@gmx.com

Anonymous said...

I am 15 and am playing a romantic lead for the first time. I have never had a boyfriend and am always known as 'the innocent one'. I have to kiss my stage partner and I am a bit nervous and worried about being bad at it. And I am concerned about what he will think of me, because I don't want people to judge me on how good a kisser I am. What should I do?

Ty Unglebower said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ty Unglebower said...

To begin with, you must try not to be nervous about what he will think of you. It won't be you giving the kiss anyway. It will be the character you are playing. If your scene partner is at all worth anything both as a person and as a performer, he is not going to judge you based on the nature of your stage kiss. And even if he does, again, that is not your fault. It's his. You have a job to do as performer, and you are going to do it the best that you can.

One truth to remember is that the kissing is only a part of your performance. It is just one thing your character does. It is not the whole play. People who matter will look at you based on everything you have done in character, not just a single kiss.

Second, it is natural to be a little nervous about it, no matter who you are. But it can be even more nerve wracking if you have never had a boyfriend. But again, just remember that this is a performance. That is one of the hardest things to remember sometimes when it comes to a kiss, but in the end, you have too dig deep, and remind yourself that it will be just another action top commit to. Just like your lines, or your blocking.

It's not so much a matter of presenting the best stage kiss ever. All that matter is that you, and the person you have to kiss are comfortable, because being comfortable will always lead to a better performance. Always.

I don't know how well you know the other actor, but talk to them about the kiss. A lot. Talk to them about how you feel, ask how they feel. If you can, hang out before rehearsal on the set where the kiss will take place while you talk. Take away the uniqueness of it all. The more you talk about it, ask questions about it and bring it up, the less awkward it will start to feel.

Your director should also be involved in this. You and your partner should go to your director today or tomorrow...as soon as possible, and share how all of this is making you feel, and what your worries are. It is nothing to be ashamed of. It is just something to work through. (And hopefully you can start practicing that scene just the two of you and the director for a few days, to get used to it.)

Just remember that your performance is much more than the kiss. Get to really know your character, and you co-star, and don't make it a bigger deal than it is. That will ease you into things. (And who knows? Maybe the director can find a way to fake it?)

Thanks for writing, and come back and let us all know how it's going for you.

Anonymous said...

My girlfriend is acting in a play that calls for a wedding scene kiss. I've never been involved in theatre and the thought of her having to do romantic scenes did not bother me until she was actually cast in one. I understand that it is a portrayal of her character's emotions and not her own. She is very trustworthy and I know she doesn't have feelings for the other guy. I'm just having a hard time with the fact that it is still a real kiss, and I can't help but feel like I am sharing her with someone else. This probably sounds lame to experienced actors, but I have never dealt with this kind of thing before and I just haven't been able to feel secure about it. She plans to pursue acting as a career and I plan on staying with her, so I need to figure it out somehow, since there will probably be more intense romance roles in the future. I am sure this is a problem with many actors' dating partners/spouses who are not in theatre.
If you have any advice I would really appreciate it, maybe you know an actor with a partner who has gotten over issues with this. Her play opens in two days and I'm kind of freaking out about how I will react. I'm doing alright knowing she is kissing in rehearsals but I don't know what to expect when I actually see it happen. This is the best role she has ever gotten and I need to be supportive.

Ty Unglebower said...

Most recent "Anonymous"...

I have read your comments about being supportive of your girlfriend. I want to answer you in a seperate post here on the blog. I hope to post a response tomorrow, so if you please, check the front page of this blog either tomorrow or no later than Wednesday, and I will address your concerns. Thanks for stopping by, and make sure3 to check back for the post.

Anonymous said...

I am currently working on a stage kiss and my partner has the most horrible breath. I don't know what to do anymore. I've offered breath mints, and even gargled mouthwash in front of him. But he refuses the breath mints, etc. I don't know what else to do... I want the performance to be great and this is a very important scene. I've had to perform other stage kisses in the past and we always were constantly popping breath mints in the green room up until the kissing scene.
-Jayne

Ty Unglebower said...

The breath issue can be quite the problem. And it sounds to me you have done just about all you should do, short of telling you co-star directly that you would appreciate it if they were to gargle mouthwash or something before your scene. It may come to that, though I understand that is a difficult position to be in.

It isn't as though you would have to come out and tell them they have unpleasant breath. You could simply make the request that, for health reasons you are requesting that they gargle, just as you do, before the scene. That way you have given them a reason to freshen up, without pointing directly to the problem.

If you still feel uncomfortable with mentioning it in this fashion, (and many people would be), I believe it is time to talk to your director. This can be an issue that highly effects your performance, as well as an issue that deals with the unity and smoothness of any given scene, and therefore is the sort of thing a director is expected to deal with. (If they are of any value as a director.)

They might make a general announcement that everyone gargle before the show, for health reason, or may discreetly approach the other person you mention, and request it. In either case, the director should be involved, as it seems you have tried mostly everything.

Anonymous said...

I am in an improv show and my part calls for random kissing whenever the moment demands it. Most advice I've received has said to treat it as a stage fight and plan everything out, but that wont work for us because it will all depend on how things play out. So far in rehearsal my costar and I have our characters down, but when it comes to the kissing I always feel awkward. It doesn't feel as if we are in character anymore (big no no for an improv show) any tips on how to improv stuff like this? Thanks! -A

Ty Unglebower said...

A, you are in an interesting set up no doubt about it, and I see what you mean about not being able to plan everything out early.

But even with improv there is a sense of character, as you said. A character you must never leave while on stage. If kissing is doing this, you must fix it of course.

The good news is, even in the midst of improv, the kissing need not be viewed very differently. It still takes trust, comfort, confidence, and a willingness to let go of hang-ups and other cutesy stuff. This you can achieve by practice, just as with any thing on stage.

I strongly advocate rehearsing kisses. I realize in your situation you will never be exactly sure how things will bring that about within an improvised scene. But I bet you could think of TYPES of scenarios that would come up. Which means that types of kisses would suit the action. Lustful, playful, reluctant, long awaited, bored. Any number of other adjectives could describe a kiss. I say practice as many different types of kisses as you can with your scene partner(s) when you have the chance.

By doing this, you still become more and more comfortable with it each time you do it. And once the comfort sets it, the improv will be easier even when it involves kissing. You may not know the exact details, but you can practice the "scariest" parts of what worries you.

Awkwardness breeds on avoidance. Confront what is making you awkward by making it see the light of day everyday, and it will get better for you.

Miles Renfield said...

So, I know this is an older entry, but I found it on Google and had some questions.

I am an actress in my local children's theatre (I'm only 13) but most of the kids in the theater are a bit older than me. I know this article applies to mostly adults having to do a stage kiss, but it happens in children's theatres too.

Last February, we did a modern day comical version of Romeo and Juliet (Romeo and Juliet: Together (And Alive!) at Last, I think it was called.) and my friend Sarah was playing the Juliet character. She was only in 8th grade, but the boy they cast as Romeo was a junior in high school, and they had to do a stage kiss.
I was wondering what you're opinions are in regards to the age differences of actors who have to stage kiss, in children's theatre OR regular theatre performances.

(Sorry if this is a bit rant-y, I can get off topic fast)

Ty Unglebower said...

Thanks for stopping by, Miles, and for your comments.

It's an interesting question, but a fair one.

An age difference should be considered when a director casts roles that requires a kiss. In my opinion there can in fact be a difference in age between two people that is too large, if the oldest is below a certain age.

In other words, if both are over 18, I think the age difference between two performers stage kissing means less. But with both being under 18, one should think carefully before casting. The younger the actors, the more significant the age difference can be.

As a judgement call, I am going to say that pairing an 8th grader with a junior is right there on that line. I think it CAN work, with a highly sensitive director, and two extremely professional performers, as three years is not a huge difference. But given how different 8th grade tends to be from a junior year, those three years are a bigger gap than say, age 18 to 21.

I will put it this way; if I were directing, I'd not cast an 8th grader in a kiss with a junior. Especially when there are so many ways to get around such an issue.

So is your example wrong? Not quite. Was it poor planning and unwise? I'd say so, yes.

I hope that answers your question. Ask more if you like, and feel free to email me or Twitter me if you'd like to learn more of my theatre views. ---Ty

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this. I took some of the advice you gave in the article itself as well as in the comments, and my "first stage kiss" really did go quite smoothly. My "fiancee" and I started out our first-ever conversation (yeah...) by agreeing not to make it a big deal. That we'd make it part of our technique, and that people in love wouldn't feel awkward together. We ran our scene together many times, so that we weren't feeling like complete strangers. If you're nervous now, it really will get better, I promise.

Ty Unglebower said...

Excellent! I am glad the scene went well for you, and that the conversation here was of some help in getting you and your scene partner where you needed to be.

Madison Mays said...

OK. So I realize this blog is a little old, but maybe you can help me. I was cast into a play 2 weeks ago and I have to do a stage kiss... I know the guy, and we are friends. The fun part is he's gay (I am a straight girl by the way). This is making it sort of awkward... Any tips?

Madison Mays said...

OK. So I realize this blog is a little old, but maybe you can help me. I was cast into a play 2 weeks ago and I have to do a stage kiss... I know the guy, and we are friends. The fun part is he's gay (I am a straight girl by the way). This is making it sort of awkward... Any tips?

Ty Unglebower said...

Madison...

Neither his being your friend, nor his being gay needs to be awkward if you don't allow it to be.

I don't know if either one of you have ever kissed anyone before or not. But if you have, just treat the stage kiss as any other kiss. I know that sounds totally against your instincts, but it is the first step. The two of your must create a believable scene, and that is your first task.

As I said in the post, remember that the lead up to the kiss, and the moments after are just as important as the kiss itself.

In a way you are actually quite lucky that the two of your are friends. A stage kiss requires trust, and friend, (hopefully) have built in trust with one another. Be open and honest with your friend about how you both feel about this kiss. Then talk about exactly what you are going to do, and how you are going to do it.

Forget the jokes some people might make, and practice just the realistic kiss at some point. Somewhere that is private, but comfortable. Where nobody has to gawk at either of you.

I don't know the play, but since it is a play, ask yourself why the two characters are kissing. (Love? Lust?), Then begin discussing with him ways you might show this in the kiss.

Believe me, your greatest weapon in this short awkward stage is that the two of your are friends. Talk it out, a lot. Ask each other questions, and see how your feel. You can only feel better the more you plan it out, and talk it out.

If you need more, feel free to ask, and I will try to help with more specifics. If not, best of luck to you, and let me know how things progress.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I don't know if you remember me, I was the girl who had the improv kisses.... the show fell through unfortunately, although I did have to rehearse the stage kiss. Your advice certainly helped me, but there was lack of communication, both between me and my partner and the director. She made us rehearse the stage kiss in front of everyone without warning after the scene had ended and everyone was out of character. It went horribly wrong. I took the approach that I would just get it over with, got back into character and gave my partner the go ahead. He nodded in agreement, but then as I stepped forward he stepped back!!! It looked absolutely ridiculous by the time he actually decided to give it a go, but then he wouldn't touch me at all, just stood as still as a statue with his hands at his sides while I did all of the work. Which looked rather awkward considering I'm short and only come up to about his shoulder.... talk about disaster. I can only pray that if I ever have to do another stage kiss, that my partner is willing to meet me half way... literally!

Ty Unglebower said...

Wow. That is quite unfortunate. And not at all fair to you, really.

I have not met your director of course, and I don't mean to judge them as a person, but as a director, that was not a very professional thing to do. Though sort of things deserve some discretion, and none was showed. I am sorry you had to go through that.

But perhaps a good thing came out of it...at least the next time you have to stage kiss it would be difficult for it to be worse than this experience! Best of luck to you, future kisses and otherwise!

Chorusgirl said...

Hi Ty! You seem to be quite the expert on stage kissing and I learned a lot reading your blog and everyone's comments.

I have a concern about stage kissing and figured I might put it on here and see what happens.

I got the role of Maria in The Sound of Music here in Albany. It's a dream role, though I do feel quite young to be playing it (I'm 17). The man who will be playing Captain von Trapp is about 55.

The age difference is wide, but he's very nice and we get along well, even if we don't talk much. The thing that concerns me is the height difference. I'm about 5'4, he's about 6'3...I'm really afraid the kiss will be awkward.

Another thing that concerns me is that my understudy also gets some shows during the run..she's slightly older, taller and more experienced and I'm afraid he'll enjoy kissing her more.

I'm just nervous about a bunch of things haha..it's my very first stage kiss.

Ty Unglebower said...

First off, Chorusgirl, congratulations on getting your dream role! It can be an exciting and scary experience. Particularly with a role so well knows as Maria.

To begin with, the height difference can be awkward but by no means does it have to be. I am sure you director will keep it in mind when those scenes come up, and will stage it in such a way that it will not be so bad.

For your own part, just remember what I have said to many previous readers...just keep your character and the scene in mind. Your motivation and your goals for the kiss should be foremost in your mind.

Just as in life, where a height difference doesn't matter between two people in love, nor should it matter to your characters, to the actors, or to the audience. Portray being in love more than playing a kiss, and I feel the awkwardness will vanish.

Talk to you director more about this being your first stage kiss, and talk to the Captain as well. You say you don't talk to him much, but try to about this, because this issue is not social chatting. It is important for the comfort and success of the scene. If either of them is dedicated to the theatre, they will be willing to talk to you about this.

As for your understudy concerns. The first thing to keep in mind is that they are in fact your understudy. That is to say of course the part was awarded to you, and not to them. There is a reason for that...you provide more of the what the director wants for the role, regardless of your experience level. You won the role, never forget that.

As for the Captain, none of this should be about "enjoying" the stage kiss. Neither he, nor your understudy should be worried about how fun the kiss is between them as actors. They should only be focused on performing the scene and being true to the characters. If they are at all professional, that is how they will feel.

So don't concern yourself with who is more enjoyable to kiss. Hold on to the fact that this is your role. You earned it, even if the understudy gets a few performances.

I hope it all goes well for you, and please, once it is all over, come back here and check in to let us know how it went. Or if you have any further questions I can help with!

Chorusgirl said...

Thank you so much Ty! This really helped! You rock! I'll definetly keep you posted.

Eleanor said...

Hi, I know this post was a loooong time ago, but I need help! I'm 15 years old and I've just been cast in my school's acting company production as Hermia in the the, the only, A Midsummer Night's Dream. Our original cut down and edited scene did not have a kiss in it, but my director realized some crucial scenes were cut out, so now he's adding stuff back! I'm so scared that he's going to add the kiss back!

I'm 15, I'm a sophomore, and my Lysander is a senior and "veteran" in our stage company. I've only had one real boyfriend and we only kissed once and it was a really awkward kiss and oh that was about 3 YEARS AGO. I already feel very awkward as this is my first lead role in a show, let alone one with a love interest.

PLEASE HELP!

Ty Unglebower said...

Hello Eleanor. Thanks for stopping by.

I imagine this may be quite nerve wracking for you. It's a bit unfortunate your director wasn't a bit more organized so you could have been ready for this moment sooner. But that cannot be helped now, so here are a few things to remember:

I played Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet once. He of course is a Catholic, and I am not. But i felt no worries about playing him, and doing priestly things, because I was able to separate who I am, with the character I am bringing to life. I did not have to be a priest first before taking on the role. I just did what the role required.

I mention this because though most actors and actresses know this is true about a role, it all tends to fly out of the window when it comes to a kiss. But just as I don't have to have priest experience to play a priest well, you do not need to have much experience at kissing or having a boyfriend in order to kiss well on stage.

It's hard to remember, I know. Kissing, when we are really doing it, is a very intimate thing. But when we are in a play that has a kiss in it, we have to try to remember that it is just another part of our blocking. Stage direction. As always ask your director for exactly what he wants, and ask him to choreograph the kiss between you and Lysander at some point in time when nobody else is watching. If you can, practice those few moments with just you two actors, and your director.

If that is not possible, still hold on to the fact that it's not really that different than a stage fight. Yes of course the action is different, but think about this: If during a stage fight people only thought about, "oh my! I'm holding a sword, I'm swinging a sword! Someone's swinging a sword at me!", people are going to get hurt, and it won't look real. Stage fighters must concentrate on their blocking, and their scene, nothing else. The same can be true for this kiss.

Pay no attention to the fact that your partner has more experience on the stage. It doesn't matter. You earned this part yourself, so for this show, you and he are on equal footing. You can talk with Lysander about your concerns, which may be a bit awkward now, but will make the actually kissing far less awkward! He may even feel the same way. (A little secret here is that men tend to get a bit more nervous about doing this than women do, in my experience.)

You are blessed to be performing Shakespeare, the greatest of all playwrights. Not to mention one of his most beloved plays. Keep that in mind as you go along, and really feel what it is to be Hermia at that moment. If you do this, remember to always relax, and treat the kiss more like a dance than like an act of romance for you, it will take care of itself.

You can do this, Eleanor. In the end, it's just part of your mouth touching part of someone elses mouth, with a slight pressure applied by both parties. (Sounds actually quite lame when described in those terms, right? =) )

The awkward won't vanish 100% right away. But if you let the emotions of your role and the fun of being in Shakespeare carry you through, having to kiss this actor will eventually become further down on your list of worries.

I hope this helps. If not, feel free to ask more, or you can even email me if you like. And please, come back when it's over, and let us all know how you did. Read the comments above...many performers in this thread have been where you are now. They all got through it. You are not alone in this.

Alice Sycamore said...

Hello
I have been cast as Alice Sycamore in my high school's production of "You Can’t Take It with You”. I have fallen deeply in love with this play, and it grows more and more every day. It is for this admiration that I feel I must voice my concerns. I want to do every justice to this script. My plan is to go into acting professionally and my hope is to do so successfully. Reading your previous posts and advice has given me a lot of assurance in my impending kiss with Tony. However, I am still unsure how to approach him. I am 18, and have never had a boyfriend or been kissed. The actor playing Tony is 17 and has a girlfriend. I wish to be respectful, but I also want to portray the connection and relationship between Alice and Tony. I have studied the script and believe I know how to convey my character. However, though still early in rehearsals, Tony and I have not been rehearsing the kiss, or other things such as holding hands, touching each other’s faces, etc. Tony, 17, himself is a phenomenal actor and I know he wants to be just as good as everyone wants him to be. However, last year, he did an absolutely awful job as the romantic lead; he openly would state that he did not want to kiss his partner almost with hostility and it showed in his performance. Every show. Whatever his reasons, I've known him since the 7th grade and those closer to him tell me that he's more comfortable with me. I know I'm probably expecting miracles by wanting professionalism here in high school, but I don’t know to what degree I should talk to Tony about this. I think he's grown up a bit since last year; I don’t really expect what happened last year to happen this year. How do I go about approaching him about how to do our scenes? How soon should I? I want to do what I believe the script and story calls for, but I feel so awkward about bringing this up to him. We have a good amount of stage chemistry that could probably get us through this, but I want to do more to make the show better. I don't want this to fall under the stereotype of crappy high school productions. Do I just gradually add in things during rehearsals? What about when I believe he should be touching me? I want to stay true to our characters' love and be as convincing and authentic as possible.
What do I do?
Help!
Thank you sincerely for your time,
Alice

Ty Unglebower said...

Alice...

To begin with, it is not a miracle to expect professionalism at any level of theatre. Professionalism is not about having flawless productions or Broadway caliber performances. Professionalism is about doing exactly what you are doing; losing yourself in the script, and wanting more than anything to bring it to life in the way it deserves. Wanting to give everything to what you are doing is professionalism, and you have plenty of it.

There is no reason why other in the play can't have it, either. If they are not interested in giving as much to their role as you are, they shouldn't be in the play, in my view.

As for Tony, I don't mean to belittle him, since I don't know him. But in the end, if he ends up refusing to kiss you on stage, he doesn't deserve the role, period. I know that seems harsh, but kissing is part of that particular role, and one doesn't get to pick and choose such things. If he is as good an actor as you seem to think he is, he needs to show it, and quite soon, by getting over the kissing obstacle, or giving the role to someone else.

My advice to you, as to others, is to not be gradual about this with him. Talk to him, about everything you are thinking, and everything that concerns you about the kiss, and the other intimate moments in the play between your two characters. You may not get everything 100% how you want it, but your thoughts need to be out there early and often about something as delicate as a stage kiss can sometimes be.

Respectfully tell Tony how important having such a conversation is. Appeal first to your desire to make the play go well. If he is as good an actor as you say, that should convince him. Then appeal to your friendship. He should have enough respect for you to have this conversation.

If he still won't have the conversation, or won't budge on the kissing, you need to go to your director, and tell him/her everything that is going on. What you need from Tony, how you feel about the scenes, and how stubborn he is being. (If he ends up being stubborn.) This is no small matter. Quite simply, he will make the two of you look rather foolish on stage if he wants to play a romantic part and skip on the kissing. You don't want that, and neither should your director.

The hard truth is that the kiss must start, and soon. I don't know when you open, but I do know each day that goes by means the kiss will be more difficult to make convincing for opening night. So if you feel you can, I'd bring this up at the very next rehearsal. First to Tony, and then, if that fails, to your director.

You know what you want, and you obviously have the drive. It may be up to you to be the most professional of the whole cast and get this ball rolling. It may be up to you to remind him, and everyone, that kissing is just another stage action, like blocking, and that the play will suffer if it is done poorly.

I wish you the best of luck on this, and please visit here again to let me know how you progress.

Rachel Red Riding Hood said...

I don't know if you are still commenting back and such but here goes:

This year my school in doing Anything Goes and I'm playing Hope Harcourt. This past week we choreographed Delovely, where at the end I am supposed to kiss the guy playing Billy Crocker. As an inexperienced actress I kind if followed his lead but it ended up being more than a traditional stage kiss. Today the director adressed the kiss after another run through and we're apparently doing too much. He described it ass "looking like you were sucking each others faces off." But now I feel all embarrassed about it. All my friends saw the scene cause they're in the show too and I'm generally regarded as the innocent one. How can I avoid feeling embarrassed about this? Also, do you have any suggestions in how to make it not quite as "passionate" and yet still believable?

Ty Unglebower said...

Rachel...

Thanks for stopping by.

First I will mention about the kiss itself. It seems the two of you are making it too "heavy" for everyone's tastes. (Namely, the director.) You can still show passion in the kiss in any number of ways.

First, don't do so much of the work with your actual lips. See if you can maybe you can hold your leg up when you kiss him, or maybe put your hand through his hair. A playful gesture of some kind that will still show two people in love, without the worry about it being too "steamy".

Also, you could consider making the kiss last less time. Kiss for a moment, and then pull out of it and smile, perhaps. A lot will depend on what sort of blocking your director will allow, of course, but as you know DeLovely is an upbeat sort of number, and should allow for various different kinds of bigger than life moments during the kiss which don't involve the kiss itself.

Now, for the embarrassed part. Don't be. I know, that's easy for me to say, but as the comments and experiences of others in this thread have shown, it's a role, like any other. Awkward at first, but you can play this as a part like anything else, being an actress.

Being the "innocent" one has little to do with it, and if people think that, that is there problem. Does anyone ask how "innocent" the actor playing Moonface Martin is? The character is a crook, but the actor is not. Sometimes when a decent guy plays a part there are fewer questions than when a decent woman does.

But it is no different. Your innocence is not more affected by playing this part, and performing this kiss, than is "Moonface" when he does all of his gambling and scheming.

And of course, as always, talk to your director a lot about these things. Work with them. See if there are new ideas that would work, so that everyone is more comfortable. In the end, you are playing the part and you have to be comfortable with what you're doing.

I hope this helps a bit. Please check back in here and there, and let me know how it is going!

Rachel Red Riding Hood said...

Thank you for your help!

Yeah, it was a bit heavy but I was just following his lead. Since I posted the director has changed the kiss altogether so now it's just one long hold instead of what the choreographer said when he taught us in Delovely. I'm totally using your idea about lifting my leg though! I never thought of that!

It wasn't that the performance was affecting my reputation but that the performance is out of character for me and my friends thought it was funny. Incongruity Theory and all that. But I think my friends are done with the teasing by now and I've been talking with the guy playing Billy about this whole thing more so now I can just focus on nailing that acting!

Ty Unglebower said...

Excellemt, Rachel. Everything seems to be working out for the better for you! I'm happy you got at least some good ideas from my response! I hope the actual show goes well.

Intrigued actress said...

Hi,

I don't know if you still read these, but I just had a quick question. I've wanted to be an actress for a very long time now, but never followed by dream. Can someone become a successful actress, possibly getting lead roles without kissing scenes?

Any advice would be great!

Thanks.

Ty Unglebower said...

Intrigued Actress...

I would say that although you probably make it more of a climb, it is certainly not impossible. With enough determination, luck, and good marketing in the right place, (plus talent) you can establish a career.

Refusing certain roles is more difficult than others. Nude scenes, for example, are a common type of acting many people refuse to do. Kissing can be another. Like I said it may slow you down a bit at first but not stop you.

Just be open about it right from the start. On your resumes and at all of your auditions make sure you mention you don't kiss on stage.

Also be prepared to lose roles or auditions when people hear you won't do the kissing on stage. But with enough time and persistence, you'll find roles, I'd think.

Good luck to you.

Intrigued said...

Thanks for your quick reply! Gave me some hope.

Hopefully there will be some good roles out there for me.

Thanks again.

Julie Silverman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ty Unglebower said...

Jules,

Thanks for your comment, and yes, I do still check in on this popular thread.

To begin with, the blocking you mention about the husband being held up by two others sounds awkward to me, but of course I'm not there and can't see what it looks like. Obviously, however, it feels awkward to you, and that's what matters. If you find this blocking prevents you from being as authentic to the scene as you would like to be, all you can do is what you've been doing-share your concerns about it with your director, and stress that you feel really odd about the way it's currently set up. The director may not change their mind about it, (though a good one should consider it), so you might not be able to to anything about that. But be persistent but polite, and continue to plead your case, at least until the final week of rehearsal.

Now, as for the kiss itself...again the director, as I have told others here on the thread, should be willing to work with you and the husband character as soon as possible, and alone, to make this scene work. If kisses need to be in a scene, they need to be rehearsed many times over to look natural, just like any other stage action. If you're rehearsing the rest of that scene by now, you should be rehearsing the kiss as well. Again, I would suggest that to the director, and let them know just how nervous you are about it...that you want it to go as well as possible, but can't manage that if he doesn't want to help you out separately with the kiss.

As with the blocking, if your director refuses to work on the kiss, and you have no other choice, I would in fact contact your stage-husband and set aside time to work on the kissing part of the scene alone. It's not ideal, but it is far better than not getting used to the kiss until it's too late.

Finally, as to your real husband, I'll say here what i've said to several others who visit this thread, (feel free to read some of the other comments above), he has not reason, and dare I say, no right to be angry about this. If he at all supports your enjoyment of the play, he will support your character kissing another character. I don't want to assume anything about the man's personal feelings or securities, but if he believes in your and your marriage, this shouldn't bother him anymore than watching you commit a fake-murder on stage would bother him. A stage kiss is an action that tells a story. Forgive me for my bluntness, but truly something like this isn't 100% his business. It isn't you kissing someone else secretly; it's your character kissing another character as part of a script.

I hope some of this helps you in your experience, Jules. Feel free to write in again if you'd like more advice, and certainly check back in and let me know how the show went when it's all done!

--Ty

Julie Silverman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Drama Girl said...

Hi! I'm 16 and this year I finally got the lead in my school play! It's a modern version of Cinderella based on the movie "A Cinderella Story" and I got the role of Sam Montgomery (Cinderella). Anyways, as for the guy plying the prince figure, he's a year older, and the "popular drama kid" of the school. I've known him since elementary school, but we've never really talked. Then at the end of one scene we have to kiss until the black out. I'm freaking out because I've never had a real kiss or boyfriend. I don't care about my "first" kiss not being a "real" kiss, but I just don't know what to do! I have no idea how to approach it. I know that talking with the guy will make things even more awkward, but I also know that we'll probably do it several times before the play. Do you have any suggestions on how to go about the whole thing, like eyes closed or open, etc. anything really.
Thanks! I appreciate it so much!

Ty Unglebower said...

Dear Drama Girl,

Thanks for the comments.

Guess what? As of this moment you are on equal footing with Mr.Popular Drama Kid. You got the part, you're playing opposite him, which means you, believe it or not, are currently drama royalty just like he is there within your drama program. First, get yourself to believe that.

As for the talking being awkward...you are absolutely right; it will be. but no where near as awkward as trying to hurry up and get into the kiss late in the game without having warmed up to one another. By your excitement, I can tell you want to do well with this role, and doing well with this roll means being comfortable as soon as possible as you rehearse. That moment won't come until you start to talk to him about it.

Again, you're equal with him today, and you have every right to approach the subject. If he is the true drama kid you say he is, he will be willing to face the awkward for a while for the sake of making a better performance. But if you are still worried, bring your director into the conversation with your Leading Man. Your director should want to be a part of this, anyway. Just be honest with everyone involved. Acting is truth, right away, every way.

Now, as for what to do when you kiss, that really is a conversation that has to happen with your director. I wouldn't feel right giving you advice about how to stand or what to do with your eyes. I'd need to see you, the stage, the set, and such. But again, let the character live within you, and see what happens. See what feels natural, and ask your director if you can do that.

This can be a very exciting time for you in your acting adventure. Even with the possible for discomfort now, you and your Leading Man can choose to take the professional approach and talk this through until it feels perfect, just like any other scene you would rehearse. You can both make the scene memorable for anybody who sees it. I know you can.

And as you proceed, don't forget to come back here and let me know how it went for you. (Or if you have more questions.)

Good luck to you, and thanks for stopping by!

Drama Girl said...

Thank you so much for the prompt reply! I will try this out and see how it goes. My play isn't until May, so we still have a long ways to go. I'll try to come back and give an update!
Drama Girl :)

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm 17 years old and I've been professionally acting since I was 5 but I've never had to do a stage kiss as I've always had child roles. However I've just got the lead female in the school play this year and that means I'm going to have to kiss the lead male. I have had a boyfriend for 3 years and he has always been fine with the idea of me kissing someone else in acting because he knows I am very serious about it and wish to pursue it as a career. Since I have got the role he has said he will find it difficult to start with but will get used to it in time. I am willing to do a stage kiss because I know I will have to do it at some point in my career but my main problem is that I'm feeling very guilty. I do feel guilty about things in general quite easily so I am not surprised that I am feeling like this but I am unsure as to how to deal with it. I have tried convincing myself that it doesn't matter because it's only a peck on the lips and it doesn't mean anything but I just can't help feeling guilty. I am starting to think that it may cause problems between me and my boyfriend and this worries me. I know this post is nearly ten years old but I would really appreciate any advice you could give.
Thank you

Ty Unglebower said...

Thanks for stopping by.

It may help, to begin with, to ask yourself what makes you feel guilty? Guilt comes from doing something you should not be doing. And though you realize on some level that you are doing nothing wrong by being in this play, a part of you, as you said, still feels guilty about at least this scene.

It seems like your guilt comes from a fear that it will ruin your relationship with your boyfriend. Yet he says he is all right with it. Just as he must be willing to trust you in playing this part, you must remember to trust him if he says he is all right with your stage kiss.

The discomfort won't go 100% away. Someone in your position, doing this sort of scene for the first time is bound to have all kinds of emotions swirling around about it. Just be honest with yourself about how you are feeling, talk to your boyfriend about it a lot, and of course put your mind on what you are doing in the scene.

We all have important things to do sometimes that make us a bit uncomfortable, and we are able to work through them. Being in this play is just like that...it will have it's problems and worries, but pat of the job of the actress is to give the best performance possible, despite being guilty/nervous/afraid and so on.

Rehearse early, talk to your scene partner and your director about how you feel, and keep your acting career in mind as you build this foundation. It will get easier the next time you do it, and the next time after that, and so on. You don't have to be overjoyed about it for now. You just have to push on through your worries, and on the other side all will be well.

Do let us know how it is progressing when you can!

Honor said...

Hi,

My fiance is playing Dracula at the moment. I have never seen him do a stage play as he's just getting back into acting after a good 8 years. I'm hoping somebody has some advice. I went to see the play and while I was so impressed and proud of him, I cried during the sexual scenes and am now incredibly depressed. Sleeping is an issue, intimacy with him is an issue. Maybe that's the curse of him being a good actor, he made the kiss absolutely believable. And now I'm constantly taunted by images of them sleeping together and doing other sex acts. Please, if anyone have advice (and please don't be rude and just tell me I'm irrational). I feel absolutely insane and it's really affecting every aspect of our relationship.

Thank you

Ty Unglebower said...

Honor,

Thanks for stopping by. As you can see, the subject of kissing on stage and off is a sensitive topic to many others in similar situations to yours.

Obviously, you cannot simply be talked out of something like this. There are varying degrees of how bothered one can be about a significant other sharing stage kisses. It is clear that you have been very upset by seeing it, even though you did not forbid it from happening.

All of the advice that I, or anyone else could give you would likely not be able to help alleviate the pain that your persistent thoughts and images are presenting to you. Based on what you have shared here, it would seem that viewing your fiance's performance has given you some difficulty in performing every-day tasks, and as you know, that is not a good place to be.

I can repeat what has been said on this thread, that one needs to trust one's partner, and believe in their career on stage. Yet I understand that such simple advise is not likely to extinguish what you are going through, given what you have described.

Keep that advice in mind, certainly, but you may need to extend your efforts beyond it. Have you perhaps considered sharing your difficulties with a marriage and or sex counselor? There is no shame in doing so, and it is in fact their job to help couples work through sometimes unexpected blocks and worries like the one that you find yourself overcome by.

And this is a couple's problem. This is not just you facing an issue that has nothing to do with him. When one feels this way, their partner is also, or at least should also be concerned and in pain about it as well. Continue to be as open with your fiance about how you are feeling and what is happening since you saw the play, and ask him what he thinks of the counseling idea.

If he does not approve of the idea, even after he knows how upset this is all making you, consider going to one by yourself, and explaining the situation to them. Sometimes having an outside voice can help with such matter,. And while I hope that what i say here helps you as well, I will not pretend that I can calm your fears and anxieties to the point that you deserve to have them calmed.

But you are not crazy, and this situation is not impossible. Just be willing to try to move beyond it, in the ways I have mentioned, and one day, I feel you will be able to enjoy both your fiance's career and be free of the images in your mind that you have told us about.

Feel free to keep us updated on how things are going, and best of luck to you in this difficult situation you are facing.

Honor said...

Thank you for your response Ty. I have been trying to work through it on my own which obviously doesn't really work since this is, as you said, a couple's problem. My issue is that intimacy on stage but it's also a lack of understanding on his part, an inability on his part to put me and my feelings first at least sometimes, an inability to show me intimacy as a way of validating and reassuring me. It makes me feel so hurt that he can go on stage and be so intimate with and lustful for another woman and he comes home and doesn't even ask me how I'm doing, doesn't even give me a kiss.

Thursday evening he had a show, and then decided he'd go have a "quick drink" with a guy from the cast. The show ends at 10pm-ish, it's 45 minutes away, and he got home around 2am. I woke up and said hello to him and he said hey, and I never got a kiss. The closest he got to me was to get the remote of my bedside table. So I started to cry and then he got mad at me for being upset that he didn't give me a kiss when he got home and then he went to sleep! How can someone just go to sleep when their partner is so visibly upset! So I cried for a while, did some journal writing, and finally fell asleep again. The next day (Friday) I kicked him out of the house and told him not to contact me until Sunday at least. The show ends tonight, Saturday, and he has a cast party. So last night and now tonight, I have and will be so uncomfortable thinking about what he's doing on stage and thinking of all the things that he could do afterwards and it's driving me nuts. And now tonight he has that cast party and he's going to be hanging out with her, and she's going to seem so great compared to me right now since I've been in such a bad state. In any case, I'm ranting and I could definitely go on...

I would very much like to see a couple's therapist but we can't afford it at the moment, so I'm resorting to things like blogs and my own journal writing.

I just feel like an actor who has a gig where he has to be intimate with another woman also has the responsibility of being extra affectionate with his partner and extra supportive, caring, etc. He has done none of those things and I feel like I've taken the back seat in his life, that this cast he's known for two months is more important than me, and taht he doesn't even want to take the time to just be sweet to me for ten minutes.

I will be having a conversation with him tomorrow, Sunday, about all of this. I was thinking of reading him some of my journal writing. Any advice on how to approach this conversation, what to say to make him understand, and how not to make him angry and shut down?

Thank you so much.
Honor

E S W said...

Hi, I'm playing an understudy for Kim in a youth production of Miss Saigon. I'm 15 and have not got that much experience in kissing and I think I may have to kiss the leading man in our next rehearsal. I have gleaned a lot from your blog, but the only thing it didn't cover was if the leading man has been giving hints that he likes you!! He has been messaging me about looking forward to our rehearsal, and I'm not quite sure how to feel about it. The other problem is that the leading lady (who I'm under studying) is 19 and is -for want of a better phrase- quite up herself. She is lovely when she is not acting but she can be quite rude to me and co stars when they are trying things out. I'm worried that she may make fun of me when it comes to the kissing scene as she is far more experienced and has gone for it every time they have had to kiss!!!! So many problems and I'm sure I'm over thinking but it would be nice to get a second opinion!! Thanks so much, E

Ty Unglebower said...

Dear, ESW,

Thanks for the question.

It will happen of course that sometimes your leading man or lady might have feelings for you off stage, as well as the other way around. Like any two people who work closely together for a time, attraction and affection will sometimes build. What I suggest you do first of all, is find out if you can if he has interests outside of the rehearsal. However you would normally choose to find out if someone likes you, (and that's different for anybody.) Being in a play doesn't change any of that.

Also, talk to him about the possibility of kissing him for the show, and ask him how he feels about it. And be honest with him about how you feel about it. Whether there is attraction or not, the very best thing to do is not to allow it to get in the way of the scene/play for now. All plays end, and then, if two people wish, they can get into how they feel it closes. But for now, but honest with him, and try to focus on the job at hand.

And of course, if you are the understudy, it may not come to that, but you should still be ready for it. (That is the point of an understudy after all!)

As for the stuck up leading lady...sadly there seems to be someone like that in every cast. There is no "cure" for it. All you can do is avoid her when you can, and not take what she says seriously. You and your performance answer to your director, your audience, and yourself, not her. So what if she is more experienced? That doesn't give her the authority to judge the attempts of other people. And she may be like that because she doesn't have the confidence she appears to have after all.

As is usually the case, honesty and staying focused on your task should help see you through the awkward or worrisome times with something like this. It's no sure thing, but it's a great place to start.

I hope it all works out for you!

sincerely, Ty

musicaltheatregirl said...

Hi I'm not sure if you're responding to this still, but I've read through all your comments and you seem to give people great advice. I've just recently got the lead in Little Women and I'm having a lot of trouble with one of the kisses. I've already kissed both and one is just so awkward and weird. When I kiss the first person I'm not worried at all, it's so easy and I can really stay in character. When I kiss the second it's so awkward since I have to kiss him 3 times and one of those times I'm basically making out with him. I've known the guy for a while and never thought of him as anything more then a friend, so it kind of grosses me out when I kiss him. I try to hard to stay in character and really try to make it seem that I'm in love with this guys, but it's so hard and all I can think of is how weird it is. I don't know what to do and could really use your advice!

Thank you

Ty Unglebower said...

musicaltheatregirl-

It can be tricky when feelings, or in your case a "lack" of feelings gets in the way. There is no instant solution to the awkwardness you are feeling about kissing this guy.

But it is good to remember that awkwardness isn't fatal. It's not a disaster. The entire show won't collapse because you feel a bit awkward right now. It certainly isn't the most pleasant thing, but unlike a lot of things, it can shrink over time.

And sometimes, time is the best thing for something like this. Try not to beat yourself up over how you feel. Try not to feel guilt about it, or worry too much about the fact that you feel so awkward. That will just make you tense when it comes times to kiss this guy, and that will only make everything feel even more awkward.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you almost certainly don't LOOK as awkward in your performance of those scenes as you FEEL inside your head. Yes, it's far better to not feel awkward at all, but even if you do, it doesn't mean your scene is suffering. You might even be able to use the awkward you are feeling to create a scene that for the audience appears quite realistic. It may never go away in your mind 100%, but if you let the feeling of being awkward just sort of wash over you, like a shower thats a bit too cold, instead of slapping into you like an ocean wave, you may just find that it helps you become more a part of the scene and not less.

I hope this has given you something to think about in your difficult situation, and I hope as time goes on, you become more and more at ease with it...and that you will forgive yourself if the awkward never goes away totally. You're only human, after all, even when you're on stage!

sincerely, Ty

Grace J said...

Hi, I'm in a production right now, and I was incredibly thrilled to get the female lead. A friend of mine got the male lead, and because we get along and work well together I figured that it would go without a hitch, though the amount of kissing did kind of unsettle me a bit at the beginning. Now, he has a serious girlfriend who I am really good friends with as well. Still, I didn't think it would be a problem. But, she got permission from the director and now sits in the audience every rehearsal watching us, and she does this little reaction every time we have to kiss or be close. It's causing both of us to feel kind of uncomfortable around each other on stage. Now we are both starting to get self conscious about it all, and it's effecting the performance. Do you have any advice? I really want the show to go well, but no matter what I do it still seems awkward.
Sincerely,
Grace

Ty Unglebower said...

Dear Grace,

Sometimes, there is no real kind way to say something. I'm afraid this is one of those times.

Both the girlfriend, (your friend) and the director are wrong about this. The director was worse in this regard, because it was incredibly unprofessional to allow someone not connected with the production to sit in on rehearsals like that. In my opinion, it never should have been allowed, at this girlfriend's behavior is a big reason why.

As for what to do, I'd talk with the girlfriend, along with your costar, and explain how what she is doing is ruining your scenes. If she really is a good friend, and a good girlfriend, she shouldn't have a problem with this. But she has to at least know how she is making you feel. She may not know.

If she stays anyway, I would certainly ask the director to send this girl away. Yes, he already said she could come, but obviously she is having a negative impact on the rehearsals, and a director's number one job is to protect the process. Tell your director exactly how you both feel about this girlfriend and her attitude.

If you already have, and your director refuses to do anything about it...all I can say is that makes the director even more unprofessional.

As an absolute emergency last resort, I might just refuse to rehearse the scene when it comes up, so long as the girlfriend is there watching. I almost never advise taking such a drastic step, but if both the girl and your director don't care enough to take the steps to make the two of you more comfortable, drastic measures may be the only way to get everyone's attention.

But ONLY if you've tried everything else.

I hope this was helpful to you, and I really hope the girlfriend backs off. Let us know how it goes, if you can.

sincerely, Ty

Nyum said...

Like a lot of the commenters previous, I have no idea how old this is or if it's still active, but either way I'm gonna comment and hopefully get my nervousness off my chest. I'm 19, and have never had any kind of kissing experience before aside from a peck on the lips in greeting. To make matters worse, I'm on the autism spectrum and touching of any kind is incredibly uncomfortable for me. Here's the kicker: I'm insanely passionate about acting and somehow I was good enough to land the role of Elaine in Arsenic and Old Lace. I love the play and the character, but I'm starting to panic a bit. This is only my second ever play, and tonight me and Mortimer (who is 13 years my senior) have our first stage kiss. Oh, and his girlfriend is the stage manager. I guess I'm just hoping that the director won't realize I have no kissing experience and make fun of me. In our earlier rehearsals when I have to kind of flirt and be somewhat seductive, he joked that I should go out clubbing and get more experience, which just made me feel worse. Mortimer is a nice enough guy, but I'm REALLY inexperienced and I honestly would never kiss anyone in real life if I didn't have to. Does anyone have any advice or friendly words? Sorry I'm rambling.

Ty Unglebower said...

Nyum,

Thanks for your comments here on this thread.

As you can see, if you've read through previous entries, you are far from alone with this kind of anxiety about the stage kiss. Despite there being no great reason to fear, anxiety is quite natural all the same, especially for someone with little experience in such matters.

First, I would advise you to sit down and think about the play you're in. A play in which, obviously, murders takes place. Obviously, nobody is actually committing murder; they are simply portraying people who are doing so. That is to say, they are just telling the story of murders. (In this case, in a dark comedy.)

Try to place the act of kissing in the same sort of position. You are not so much actually kissing someone, as portraying a kiss. Pretending to do so. But you are just telling the story of a kiss, just as the rest of the play is telling the story of crazy people killing others. Kissing perhaps only feels somehow more "serious" because our lips have nerve endings and such that are designed to cause certain sensations, physically. Our lips don't know we are pretending, but the good news is, our lips are not in charge when we act, our mind is, and we can put ourselves in a state of mind that is more comfortable, if we try.

In other words, there is nothing to panic about insofar as the kiss. Practice it if you can, (and if your director is any good at all, they will have had you practicing this by now.) I don't know who your director is, but if they would actually make fun of someone in their own cast because of the way the kiss on stage, without offering any help, than they are not only a poor director, but a rather lousy human being as well.

As for the stage manager, yes, that is a bit awkward, but not a disaster. You have a job to do with the actor playing Mortimer. That job involves pretending to kiss, and the stage manager's job is to make sure everyone is doing what it required to make the show work. If she is a decent stage manager, she won't express any issues with this situation. When you date an actor, these things are going to happen a lot, and she probably realizes this.

As for Mortimor's age...my personal belief is that among adults, age is just a number. Especially when you are two artists telling a story. Not everyone has the same amount of theatre experience, and respectable actors and directors understand that. Being younger, though, does not mean you are in any worse shape that someone who would be older playing Elaine.

This is all difficult to believe when you are in panic mode, I know. Which is why you must try not to panic, remember you have a job to do, and that really, how you go about doing it, and how you calm yourself in the process is nobody's business but your own.

We are trained our whole lives to believe that kissing someone is explosive, and powerful, and not to be taken lightly. Maybe, in real life, that is true, but in this case, it is just two people pressing their lips onto each others in order to create an illusion. Nothing more. If you can think of it in this way, you'll hopefully feel less panic.

I hope this has given you some food for thought, and made you feel better, at least a little bit. I hope you will come back to the thread here, and let us know how it went for you. --sincerely, Ty Unglebower

Nyum said...

Thank you so much for the reply!! I just got back from my rehearsal and you were totally right. I was incredibly nervous, but I made sure I brought up the fact that I had no prior kissing experience to the director, and while it was embarrassing at first, it made things a lot easier because he understood how to walk me through it. When we actually got down to the kissing, all I could think was "oh. So that's it?" And yeah I needed a ton of pointers not to look like a robot, but the director and the director's wife (who has been in many plays and was there to help with my posture and movement) were able to demonstrate some stuff and how I should be moving, not moving, etcetera. I can understand now what you mean about it all being an illusion. There was no emotional connection from me, just Elaine and Mortimer, and that was pretty cool. We still have five weeks of rehearsals to clean it up, and I feel a lot better having gotten it out of the way early. The stage manager wasn't present tonight, so that made it easier too. And, once I explained my situation to the director, he was really understanding and did a good job of breaking it down without judging me for being so clueless. So all in all... It went okay! I was incredibly panicked, and thought "hey, I'll vent to the Internet" so thank you so much for taking the time to respond to me. You gave some awesome advice that I'm gonna keep in mind for my future stage kisses to come. (And hopefully, now that I know I won't DIE, I'll be able to take more roles like these!) thank you, Ty!
-Sincerely, Samantha
(Sorry about the weird username, by the way, I was 14 when I made that)

Ty Unglebower said...

I am glad things worked out better than you feared, and that you feel more at ease now than you did before. I hope the entire show goes well for you and everyone!