In my 30+ years in theatre (250+ productions), I have never considered, never done, never seen done, a “stage kiss.” What a seemingly ridiculous concept: a fake kiss in a situation where we are trying to be realistic. That’s what acting is all about: making the fake seem realistic. After all, isn’t that the whole kit and caboodle behind “willing suspension of disbelief?” (and after all, isn’t this one of the fringe benefits of all the hard work and long hours– the possibility of kissing pretty girls?? Ahh, but I digress….)
When my younger son, now a sophomore in high school, came home last year and told me his acting class covered Stage Kisses– I told him what I mentioned above. I gave the teacher the benefit of the doubt (I know him, he’s a very good guy and a VERY good drama teacher) and told him that perhaps they just want him to know about it, kind of like covering Shakespeare– he’ll probably never actually DO a tale from the Bard, but it’s good to know what iambic pentameter is if only for a Trivial Pursuit game.
Then last week, that same son, who just got cast as Will in “Oklahoma!”, came home from a rehearsal and told me (not to “tattle” — I had asked him how rehearsal went) that they blocked the Oklahoma Hello scene, and it is a “stage kiss.” He paused after he said that because he knew I would have some… interesting… response.
Thankfully, the Good Dad in me stressed that the director had a reason for directing the scene that way (as opposed to the Bad Old Actor going off on the audacity of the situation). I told him that I assumed it was to alleviate shyness. Luckily, Nicholas is experienced enough to know not to ever change a director’s direction.
I ran into the director at our local convenience store one morning. We exchanged small talk then I asked him about the stage kiss. It was as I thought. The girl playing Ado Annie is very shy. The director felt he was lucky to get her to accept the part (she has a wonderful belt voice), he thought having to kiss a boy in front of 500 people might be a deal-killer.
I learned a lesson. I guess one that I really knew– but forget all too often. There’s always a reason– and it’s usually a good reason, we just may not know all the details involved. This holds true in Theatre, in church, while driving, and at home, too.
If a director tells you to do a stage kiss– do it. It’s perfectly okay to approach him/her in private and ask why– but realize your job is to follow the director’s instructions. There may be shyness issues, there may be financial issues, there may be administrative issues– lots of things that you have absolutely no idea are going on. Respect your director and follow directions– or don’t audition.