Oh my goodness. Some of the most intense personal relationships you will ever have will be during shows. They are valuable and memorable, so I would never advise you not to get into a relationship during rehearsals for a show. There are a few things I want to let you know about, though, to minimize the pain involved and to help you get the most out of these flings, also known as showmances.
First, you must understand the circumstances under which you may become involved with someone like this. You are in a commitment together, which proves up front that you have common interests. You have pre-scheduled time together on a regular basis where neither of you has any other plans for that time. This keeps things very predictable for you both in terms of “when will I see you again” and when that time is over. You are in an environment of heightened emotions and personal revelation, so you get to know each other kind of intimately, pretty quickly, in a safe place with lots of company.
Your emotions are closer to the surface than they would be outside of rehearsal, so you may let someone know how you feel about them more easily (and sooner) than you would outside. As you are being encouraged by the director to accept direction and follow instincts, and to try new things you may be afraid of, you subconsciously (or even consciously) become more open to trying a relationship that is offered to you where you normally may not give that person a second glance. In this profession, about 98% of us are rejected in one way or another about 75-80% of the time. It can be very flattering and comforting to be “chosen” by someone who thinks you are talented and special. All this is normal, healthy, and necessary.
Showmances are a little different than regular ones, mainly because of the circumstances I’ve outlined. They have many pitfalls as well, for the same reasons. I want to make sure you are aware of them, and the possible situations you may encounter because of them.
The most common thing to go wrong in a coupling of this sort is that when the show is over, so is the relationship. It’s painful, but it makes sense. The circumstances under which you have maintained this relationship for the last several weeks no longer exists. In any way. You are left in your own world with your own emotions, which are no longer being structured in any way. You are no longer meeting on common ground on a regular basis. Your time commitments have changed, and you both now have a choice as to whether to spend time with each other or with a thousand other things, and now that you see and know each other as “regular people”, sometimes you’d rather do something else. Or the other person feels that way. You can often times maintain a relationship for a few weeks or more beyond the show, but it usually ends there. You can only watch the video of the play and talk about the other cast members just so long.
There is a way to try a relationship to see if it may survive the show closing. It’s tough to do, because the bulk of your time is already taken up with school and the show, but if this is someone you think you’d really like to be close with for a long time, try to find the time. You need to try to date outside of rehearsals. Here’s how to do that:
- Not going out after a rehearsal or meeting before one, but pick a day that you don’t have a rehearsal at all and plan a date.
- Agree at the outset not to talk about the show for the whole date. Basically, eliminate the show from your relationship for a few hours, and see what you have. Do this as often as you can, or until you have an idea of what you’d like to do after the show is over.
You may decide that this will only last for the run, in which case that needs to be made clear to both people. You will find that, rather than being a pessimistic view that is a bummer to you both, this decision can be a relief. The uncertainty is gone, and you are free to enjoy each other in your structured environment for a predetermined length of time. No strings attached, and no promises for afterwards. This also can leave the door open for a good and lasting friendship after the relationship, when neither of you has to take responsibility for a break-up.
Another thing that can really mess you up about a showmance is the horrible possibility of breaking up while you are both still in the show. This is really the worst. You got together under certain circumstances, and under the same circumstances you have come apart. Under still the same circumstance, you must continue to be with each other in the same way as you were when you liked each other, except that now you don’t. Ish. Whether you are chorus together, lead to chorus, or (the ultimate yuck) playing opposite each other, this is beyond no fun. And THEN, besides all the nasty feelings between the two of you, you have 10, 20, 30 or more witnesses to the whole entire business, all with their own opinions and whispering capabilities. Double ish.
One way to avoid the in-show breakup syndrome is not to get together. Since that is probably unrealistic, let’s go with door #2. Behind door #2 is the Drama Monitor. While you are maintaining your relationship, practice keeping a realistic eye on the emotional and reactive levels in your conversations. Again, since you are in a place where you are using bigger-than-life emotions and crazier-than-real situations during the main amount of your time together, it is understandable that you would automatically jump to those levels when having a “normal” discussion. This can be incredibly exciting or terribly destructive. Whatever it is, it is most likely larger than it needs to be, one way or another. What I am going to say next is absolutely one of the most crucial thing that you must remember if you choose to embark on this adventure. So listen.
You CANNOT do anything about how your partner behaves or reacts. You CAN monitor your own behavior or reactions.
If you feel a dramatic monologue coming on during an argument or discussion, let the Drama Monitor stop you. Resist the urge to launch into whatever is rising inside you. If you feel a great need to be dramatic, you can serve both purposes by leaving the room for a time until you can sort out what’s real and relevant and what’s not. If you feel like sweeping out, then sweep away. Storming out, fine, just be sure to apologize when you come back. Especially if there is door-slamming involved.
If your partner launches into a Dramatic Monologue, listen carefully. You can even make a game out of it, like the find-the-word puzzles. Try to figure out what they’re really trying to say to you. Sometimes, it’s just plain nothing. The ignore it while appearing to listen, and change the subject when you can. Do remember that this is still a person with feelings, feelings that are closer to their skin now than at other times, and it is your responsibility as a human person not to hurt or humiliate them, no matter how much you think they deserve it. One of the most cutting things that can be said to a performer when they are upset (and I’m sure your parents have said it to you, so you know what I mean) is, “oh, stop being so dramatic!” Please, please don’t go there. If they’re getting on your nerves like crazy, and you are not in immediate physical danger, try to ride it out until the show closes. For your own sakes, the sake of the performance, the other cast members, and the director’s sanity (yes, they actually do notice when showmances are going on), commit to at least a lukewarm version of the original attraction for those few weeks. You then have the added bonus of a built-in excuse to break up.
There are many other traps and surprises along this path, and I’m just going to let you find them. On your journey together, though, just know that during a show, everything is bigger, better, louder, worse, more horrible, and sexier than outside of a show. As long as you both know this going into it, you can have a lot of fun and try out some great argument techniques, creative kissing, and get to know some very special people in a very unique way, many of whom will continue to be important to you throughout the rest of your personal and professional life. There is just one last thing that you must absolutely avoid during a show.
DO NOT become sexually involved with ANYONE. This can be a great temptation, where it normally would never cross your mind. I don’t care how sure you are, how sexy she is, how safe he makes you feel, whatever has been promised in return is most definitely not worth it. You are worth the wait. No one EVER comes out of a show saying, “Boy, I wish I’d slept with so-and-so. I’d be happier today if I had.” Just the opposite, too, too often. I’m begging you and warning you. Don’t do it.