Being able to tell meaningful stories onstage through your love of art is a pretty wonderful gift. But sometimes those stories can get intense and passionate, and a firm line between what’s fictional and what’s reality needs to be drawn. This is especially true for couples involved in the performance world.
There may come a time when a significant other is asked to play a role in which the character falls in love, shows physical signs of affection, or is comfortable with outward shows of sexuality. This is delicate territory and, if treated carelessly, can result in people getting hurt. But by following the pieces of advice below, you ought to be able to come out the other side relatively unscathed.
Before you start, talk about boundaries.
Before rehearsals start, before either of you accepts the role, before auditions, have a talk with your partner about your boundaries and concerns. Talk about what makes you nervous about the role. Be vulnerable. Be open. Talk about the physical demands of the role. Talk about whether or not emotional attachment is what concerns you. Listen to each other, hear each other. If this conversation is too hard, the next few months are going to be a gong show, to say the least.
Part of this process is going to render you extremely vulnerable to your partner, on both sides. Don’t respond to that vulnerability with disbelief and disrespect. Dig deep and muster up all the empathy you are capable of feeling and do your best to understand what your partner is asking of you and where they’re coming from. It can really hurt to share your intimate feelings with someone you care about, only to be told there is no validity to them.
Make a game plan.
Make those boundaries and do your best to stick to them. Make a plan for addressing something a director wants you to do that you don’t feel comfortable with. Introduce the non-acting significant others to the actors. Decide to have check-ins every week or so to talk about how rehearsals are progressing. Whatever works for you, make a plan ahead of time so there’s as little on the fly decision making as possible.
To your partner and to yourself. If you want your real-life relationship to survive this show, don’t hide anything because it will come out one way or another. If something about the love scene has changed, let your partner know. If your feelings on the love scene have changed, let your partner know. If you know something beyond the rehearsal process is happening, don’t shy away from it – examine what’s going on as objectively as possible.
Separate fiction and reality.
Get to know your acting partner as a human being that already has their own life. Keep in touch with your real-life partner. Ask why your character falls in love with your acting partner’s character – not why you fall in love with your acting partner. Vocabulary can go a long way to trick your brain. One of the most important skills to have as a performer (regardless of what kind of role you’re in) is being able to recognize when the line between fiction and reality is starting to blur. All of this applies to the non-acting partner also.
Ask for advice.
Sometimes it’s worth it to ask for an outside opinion. Sometimes it’s good to ask a mutual friend to call you out. Be careful not to just rant, though – that only brews negative feelings when what you really want is to solve a problem. Just as you should try to be open and listen carefully to your partner, be open to your friends’ advice, even if it’s not what you want to hear.
Get real with yourself.
This is for the actors. If there is any growing “friendship” outside of rehearsal with your acting partner, ask yourself, “If we were just two people who weren’t putting on a show and didn’t have any rehearsals to provide context for all of our other social interactions, would our relationship be okay?”
This stuff gets really sticky, and it can ruin relationships. It’s really important for both parties to be aware of each other’s feelings, and to update each other if those feelings have changed. The best course of action is to be professional in your performance role (and as a non-acting significant other), and to be honest in your relationship.
Any other tips out there?
Have a great week!