As many of you know, I am currently in rehearsals for Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing." (I have to plug in the Bardster before the title, I've discovered, because when I just say the name of the play by itself, I get nothing but blank, staring eyes. It never ceases to amaze and horrify me at the same time.) At one recent rehearsal, us girls in the play were backstage swapping stage kiss stories. You know, girl talk. As someone who has kissed more guys on-stage than in real life, I have plenty of stories and I got to thinking about the more, er, memorable stage kisses I've had and so I thought I'd record them for your horror and enjoyment.
The One that came First:
Meaning, my first kiss on stage, off-stage, anywhere! It was my first kiss, period. I was sixteen going on seventeen, a junior. He was a FRESHMAN. In my ward. And he had a serious girlfriend. We were doing "Oklahoma!" The show was double-cast and Jimmy and I watched as the director screamed at the other Curly and Laurey for their crappy kissing. We decided to practice. His mom had the idea to take us out to lunch to let us get "comfortable" with each other. It sounds so much more awkward than it was. Wait a minute, no, it was that awkward. We sat next to each other and held hands and pretended we were in love. Afterwards, we went to my house and did the kissing scene. I found myself standing in my backyard getting pointers from a fourteen-year old as my little sisters and brother ogled and giggled. It was somewhat humiliating. However, I suppose the happy ending would be that we didn't get yelled at by our director, so I guess it was worth it. What was kind of wierd is that Jimmy's girlfriend played Ado Annie and they made out a lot backstage, then he'd come on and kiss me. We were just one big happy saliva-swapping family.
I don't know if any of you have experienced the "Big Fish in a Small Pond becoming the Plankton on the Ocean Floor" phenomenon that occurs when you leave high school and enter college, but I certainly have, and it isn't pretty. You become desperate and do crazy things. Like audition for every single stinking BYU Mask Club (a student-directed one-act) that comes along, no matter what the piece. I was a sophomore and one of, oh, hundreds of wannabe actresses in the department. I got cast in a Mask Club production of "Lovers and Other Strangers" as Brenda. It was about a guy and a girl who have just met and go up to the guy's apartment. They both try to play it cool, but what they really want to do is get it on. And they make out a lot. So pretty much I played an easy chick. As for the guy playing opposite me, I have to give him credit for being a decent actor but he sort of looked like the love child of Jack Skellington and Count Dracula. Oh, and he dressed up as Jack the Ripper on Halloween. Nice. He was also about thirty and I'm not going to lie about the fact that I was nineteen and in my prime. I will spare you any further details about the unpleasant rehearsals we had, but I will tell you that the Mask Club class was so offended by the sexual implications in the script that they pulled it off the schedule one week before it was supposed to go up. The director had to do something, so we ended up doing Chekhov's A Marriage Proposal, which is just so similar to skanky singles. In many ways, I am so very grateful that my peers did not get to witness my degradation. At the same time, I think they would have surely given me some sort of acting award for making them believe I wanted to throw myself at that guy. Over all, not one of my shining moments, but thinking back on that crazy time I can remember that feeling of desperation so strongly I can almost taste it. And it's nasty.
The One on Film:
This was my one and only "close-up film kiss." The film was "Funkytown," a film noir musical. (What else?) We were in my character's apartment, red lights were hung everywhere to set the "mood." I was Sydney, the seductress. Doug Heder was my victim. (Yes, he's his older brother.) I had to be very close to him and the camera was very close to us. So were the rest of the thirty people crowded around. Doug seemed nervous and kept spraying Binaca in his mouth. I was amazingly calm, cool, and collected. (I guess it was MY apartment...) I was supposed to say "You've got a dangerous lip on you, boy," then kiss him. On the first take, Doug kissed me, which was a no-no, so we did two more takes. No fuss, no sweat. What did make me sweat was when Ben and I went to see the film. I had told him it was one little peck, nothing more. Well, thanks to the magic of editing, what had been one two-second kiss became like this ten-second close-up extravaganza. Complete with noises that my director had added by kissing his own hand. Thank you, Matt Janzen!
The One that Bit:
My best friend at BYU in the acting program was Ary. The foundation of our relationship was insecurity. It was a great friendship. Ary and I were cast opposite each other as Lord and Lady Chiltern in "An Ideal Husband" for our senior project. Ary loved gloating to Ben about kissing me in the play, so much that Ben wanted to punch him. (Note to men kissing married women: you might want to downplay that fact to their husbands.) Well, at the very end of the play, I said something like "You are ideal!" (Spoiler, I know.) Then we kissed and the lights went out. Well, one night, for whatever reason, Ary went in to kiss me and sort of bit/sucked my upper lip in a way that was much more Sam Shephard than Oscar Wilde. The black-out came and I whisper-screamed to Ary in the darkness "What the heck was that?" The best part was that my dad was in the third row or so. I was willing to just let it go and hope that he hadn't noticed. But not Ary. He walked right up to my dad after the show, shook his hand, and said, "Hi Mr. Jones, I'm so sorry I sucked on your daughter's face!" Oh, Ary...
The One that Bled:
I was Sarah in "Guys and Dolls" at a local community theater. (This was towards the end of my "desperate phase.") There was this one long scene at the beginning of the show that begins with fighting and culminates in kissing, with singing in between--every musical has at least one. Well, Sky Masterson walked onstage for this scene one night and I looked up to see only panic in his eyes. It soon became clear that he had a bloody nose and it was not stopping. Jerry Elison, who played my grandfather, casually left the stage and came back with Kleenex. We kept talking and began singing and soon, I realized that the kiss was coming. Since the show must go on, I closed my eyes and waited for the worst. I didn't have to wait long. As Sky pulled away and I re-opened my eyes, I stared at him in horror (but loving horror-I'm that good) as he reached up and rubbed my cheek with his finger. He had, in fact, bled on my face! My favorite reaction to this story was Ben's. He observed, "If this was a sporting event, they would have stopped everything! You don't know what that guy could have!" I reassured him that a returned missionary, fresh off the boat from Australia, was most likely not carrying any questionable diseases. Then again, I've never been to Australia. (I've decided not to mention Mr. Nosebleed's name because he's pretty famous in the Mormon arts these days and I wouldn' t want you to think of his bloody nose and laugh at him when you were watching him as Hyrum in the new Church movie...)
The One Kiss to Rule Them All:
Ha, ha! Just kidding! We're not going to talk about any good stage kisses. That would completely defeat the purpose of this blog, which is to ultimately convince my husband that stage kisses are no day at the beach.
Oh, and by the way, I have practiced many "stage kisses" with Ben, and he's a pretty dang good actor. I totally believe his performance.
Finally, please feel free to share your own kissing experiences, on or off-stage. I could always use a laugh!