Some of life's biggest moments are portrayed onstage from birth to death. For the average person, the idea of a make out session with someone you've just met in front of a large group of strangers seems really daunting, but for an actor, it's all in a day's work. These onstage experiences are something we actors often forget are not a part of a non-actor's life. As an actor, I often find myself pushing the boundaries of normal behavior because my embarrassment threshold is very low when it comes to being the center of attention.
For example, I am currently in a directing class intended for English majors who may need to run theatre programs for youth when they become teachers. In the class, some of us serve as directors while the rest make up the actors, which of course rotates per exercise. Since we are performing about one-minute scenes, not very many crazy out there things can happen, but I was surprised to find some fellow students timid to read lines from the script with the intended emotion.
For many of them, this is their first real theatre class, so of course, shyness is expected, but after spending two years in the theatre department, I forgot that not everyone is as comfortable as us with getting up there and baring our heart to the world.our heart to the world.baring our heart to the world.
While directing my classmates in scenes, I've found that opening them up to becoming comfortable while performing is a much larger part of the process than it is during my other acting classes, and it got me thinking about all the crazy things I've done and seen done onstage that most actors don't think twice about.
Beginning with kissing, I've personally kissed seven different people for onstage purposes, including some that were just for a scene in class, or during an understudy run. But they're all fake, you say! No, actually. I've only done a staged kiss with one of those seven people, because, on the whole, most actors, in my experience, prefer a real kiss because it looks more authentic and helps to establish the relationship in a more realistic way.
Is it awkward? Of course, it is the first few times! Especially if you're an understudy and you have to just go for it because it's your one shot at practice! But kissing is simple compared to some other things we are asked to do.
Marriage is another common occurrence in theatre. Everything is there from the dress to the witnesses to the ceremony itself. It kinda takes the magic out of waiting for your special day when you get "married" five times a week for nine weeks. And along with marriage comes children and that manifests itself in many forms onstage from pregnancy tests to labor.
Currently in "American Idiot," my character faces an unexpected pregnancy from the moment she finds out and has to tell her boyfriend, through the baby bump, all the way to carrying around two separate baby dolls around stage who are just as much my scene partners as my fellow actors. I have played characters who have had babies before, but this show marks my first time wearing a baby bump, and to be honest, it took some getting used to, but as with everything in theatre, your character overwhelms your own feelings and you become one with how your character feels about their situation.
On the topic of children, sex is another big moment shown on stage. With every passing year, more and more shows show nudity, stripping, and sex onstage, for example, "Heathers the Musical" where two characters have sex while singing a song and two other characters also strip onstage in the hopes of getting lucky themselves.
Which finally brings me to one of the most questionable onstage actions, rape. I have personally auditioned for a show where I had to say whether I was comfortable performing in a simulated rape onstage.
I wasn't in the show, but watching that scene was not easy. And it brings me to the ethical question of what you personally are comfortable with doing onstage from cussing to simulating rape. How far are you willing to go to tell the story?
At the end of the day, reflecting on all of the crazy things I've seen and done onstage it seems bizarre that people pay to watch actors live some of life's most personal moments. But I can't imagine my life any different because, at the end of the day, I love what I do, and what I do to tell my characters' story to the audience.