The Business of Show Biz: Are "Showmances" Unprofessional?
Friday, February 5, 2016
By Velina Brown
Q: I believe in love and romance. I believe if two people love each other they should be together. However, I don’t think it’s a good idea for an actor to get involved with a director or with a fellow actor during the production process. It can create awkwardness within a cast at best; at worst, it can be disastrous if the relationship goes up in flames while the production is still going. I guess this is a controversial opinion, but I think “showmances” are unprofessional. What’s your opinion?
|Actor and career consultant Velina Brown.
A: I believe in love too, and I love this question. I don’t think I’ve ever been asked about this before. I don’t think I would paint all relationships that begin during a production unprofessional, simply because many relationships that have begun under such circumstances have created no harm to the productions and have gone on to become long-term relationships. Many married theatre couples met while working together on a show. After all, who are theatre artists going to be interacting with the most? Fellow theatre artists. Therefore, it makes sense that the theatre would be the pond we would fish in for partners.
However, like you, I have also witnessed relationships start off sweet and lovely, then “go up in flames,” making the rest of the production miserable for pretty much everyone involved. Oy. Working very closely, six to eight shows a week, with your freshly minted ex is, as Lady M would say, “fresh hell”—but not just for the torn-asunder couple, but also for the rest of the trapped-in-a-sinking-ship cast and crew.
Therefore, I’ll join you in making controversial statements: when a person is not really considering the ramifications of serial showmance behavior, and they just leave a trail of disaster in their wake everywhere they go, I think that is unprofessional. I also think it’s mean. But I don’t know that this can be controlled or legislated. I guess it’s just up to everyone else to resist the serial showmancer’s charms.
Those of you who feel that showmances are part of what makes being a theatre artist so much fun won’t be interested in what I’ll say next. But for those of you who would prefer not to be caught up in a series of showmances, and are more interested in a relationship that lasts longer than a given show, the rest of this piece is for you.
Here’s the thing: there are confusing biochemical occurrences when you spend a bunch of time staring into someone’s eyes, or wrapped in someone’s arms. Our profession is full of very attractive, charismatic people. It’s practically part of the job description, right? Therefore, if your love scene partner doesn’t repulse you, you may end up biochemically bonding because of all the oxytocin (a.k.a. “the cuddle hormone”) that gets released in your bloodstream when you have to get all snuggly with them in a scene.
It can feel very real because, hormonally, it is real. However, it is something that typically fades once the show is over and you’ve had some time apart. This is particularly important if you are, say, married with children...but you suddenly feel like you’ve fallen in love with your castmate. Listen to me. Do not blow up your family just because the pituitary gland in your brain started squirting “love juice” in a scene of a show that will be closed in a few weeks!
If you feel like you are at risk of making bad oxytocin-induced choices, and/or are interested in a romance rather than a short-term “showmance,” consider setting some ground rules for yourself. For example, decide not to become sexually involved with a coworker of a show during the production. If a coworker in whom you’re interested asks you out, you can let them know that you are interested—and that you, as a rule, do not begin dating a coworker while the show is still in production, but would love to get together once the show closes. And I don’t mean at the closing night party after too much champagne! I mean at least two weeks after closing, in daylight, at, say, a coffee shop with no alcohol involved. If the person of interest basically says, “Baby, it’s now or never,” consider yourself having dodged an awkward showmance that was likely not going to last anyway. However, if said person agrees to a “sober sunshine meeting” at Peet’s Coffee and the sparks are still there…well, now we’re talkin’.
Is this the more professional approach? I don’t know. But it I just might help you save the drama for the stage.
Velina Brown is an actor and career consultant. Send her your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.