You and me could write a Stage Romance... (Except that's a BAD IDEA!)
May 19, 2013 6:00 PM   Subscribe

I have a crush on my stage partner. I know how bad an idea this is, but how do I keep it under control when I'm draped lovingly over him for half the show? Help me do my job without the temptation to, ahem, take work home with me?

After 20 years in theater watching others fall victim to stage crushes, it's happened to me. I noticed this guy in the first rehearsal - he's the only other person of my culture in the cast, for one - and I thought I'd like to get to know him as a friend. As rehearsals progressed and the cast members all spent time chatting with each other, that's developed into a full-on crush. He seeks me out to talk to, so hopefully I will have a new friend at the end of the show, at least.

Then we were paired off by the director and things got kinda hopeless.

I've seen stage crushes and romances over the years. I know they're fairly common. It's easy to buy into the act you're trying to convey. I've seen people leave their spouses & kids for their stage partners, let alone single people hooking up. Occasionally the relationships last, but more often they crash and burn - and usually soon enough that the people involved then have to finish out the production run cozying up to their ex every night on stage. Unpleasant for the stage-couple, awkward for everyone around them. I worked out this was a Bad Idea years ago!

I determined early on that I'd do everything I could to avoid it happening to me. And so far that's worked. I have successfully resisted feeling any flicker of interest before now, despite the many gorgeous and lovely people I've been partnered with on stage over the years and the compliments I've received about my convincing stage rapport with my partners. This one, though... Oy vey!

I have butterflies in my stomach writing this question. I'm dreaming about him. I've got it bad. Worse than almost any time before - the last person I felt this strongly about was my husband when we met 15 years ago. So I'm just not used to dealing with this.

Husband and I have an open relationship, so in theory I could ask this guy out when we're not working together. I am NOT letting anything happen until the show is over, though. I don't even want to know if he's available or interested until then because I'm doing my best to view him as off-limits. It's easier to keep the "Not An Option" label on him if I don't know he's single, for example.

But we're dancing cheek to cheek and snuggling up for half our stage time. The director wants me on the prowl in the crowd scene, picking him and then all over him. And while part of me loves that, it's not helping when he pulls me close and smiles into my eyes and I'm thinking "I could take you backstage and jump you right now, my dear..." At least it's making the acting convincing?

Most of the advice I've seen for getting over crushes involves staying away from the object of affection, but that's not an option here. Our job is to convince the audience we're wild about each other. We've got well over a month until the production's over.

The other advice I've usually seen is "picture him doing something really gross" but I worked in healthcare for years and biology just doesn't repulse me. (Things like vile bigotry do, but we've talked enough I know that's not an issue.)

So how do I keep the feelings under control while I'm supposed to be conveying them on stage every night? Help me get over it so I can do my damn job - which is acting like I adore him?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Not only is it awkward when romances fizzle halfway through the run, it's a problem before that -- you can always tell when the onstage partners have gone ahead and given in in real life, because it totally messes with the dynamic of their onstage chemistry.

First things first, you're right, get through the show without jumping into bed with him. Just remember that you can assess whether you really like him, and to what degree, after closing night. One onstage romantic partner and I pretty much ran on anticipation and adrenaline on stage, had a brief (but very fun) fling after the show closed, and that were just happily friends after that.
posted by desuetude at 8:18 PM on May 19, 2013

You're instinct is right - do not let anything happen until the run is over. You need to maintain professionalism, for all kinds of reasons.

Your answer is right there in the question. You're an actor and you've got the best way of dealing with this. You focus everything into your performance. You get to feel that, to play that, to explore that. Go for it - but in the context of in rehearsal and onstage. Let your feelings for him help deepen your performance. Let that be you expressing your love. Just in the world of the show.

And then after the run is done, if you still want to jump him, well, then you can explore that. But for now, be grateful that theatre allows you to at least safely express some of your affection.
posted by miles1972 at 8:44 PM on May 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Increase frequency of tango time with your husband.
posted by Kruger5 at 5:09 AM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

One of the rules we state at the outset of all our shows is:
Dating Policy: Dating amongst cast and/or crew is strongly discouraged. We will not tolerate any dislike you cultivate for one another off-stage, and this is not a speed-dating event.
Do whatever you like after the show. During the show, your professionalism will be appreciated by everyone else. I think you already know this. If it seems like something is mutually imminent, you just need to tell him that it's your personal policy to wait until after the show is over because you've seen this type of engagement go all wrong too much in the past, both for the engagees and everyone else around them. That's totally an honest statement, and if you wait, and it works out? Great. If you wait and it doesn't -- look at all the trouble you've saved everyone concerned.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:31 AM on May 20, 2013

This is maybe goofily meta, but can you add another layer of acting? Imagine you're the star of a play about an actor who's crushing on her co-star -- so you're not in crush, your character is (as well as your character's character). Maybe trying to think about the situation as if you're in role would help you get a little bit of mental distance, at least?
posted by EvaDestruction at 11:18 AM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I subscribe to the school of thought that you can't control your feelings, only your choices and actions. You've made it clear that you're resolved not to act on these feelings, so honestly I'm not sure how much more can be done.

There's a trick I've used when dealing with the opposite problem, though, that might be handy? I do a fair bit of musical theatre, and I've occasionally been partnered with people who I don't get along with. I've used the character to step away from my own feelings and take on the ones the script says I need. So the guy playing Marius to my Eponine may be a racist/sexist arse, but Eponine is crazy about Marius. That means when I'm on-stage I'm seeing him as Marius, from the perspective of the girl who loves him.

Even in chorus work, it helps me to give my character a name and personality, and then immerse myself in that to find the connection with my on-stage partner (and to experience things "for the first time" every time we run the scene in rehearsal or performance, for that matter).

Perhaps you can use that same act of stepping into character as a wall against these feelings? The exhilarating moments on-stage are happening between your characters, not between you and the man you're playing opposite? Use the crush to inform your character's reactions if you can, but you-the-actor are there to shunt your real feelings aside and do your job, while you-the-character is the one who gets to feel like that.

Or even approach it from the perspective that HIM-the-character is the one these feelings are for - and that once the show is over you can see whether you-the-actor and him-the actor have potential?

I guess this is probably obvious, since it's pretty much what acting's all about. But sometimes the reminder helps.
posted by Someone Else's Story at 2:53 PM on May 20, 2013

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