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Casting Advice

Sex Behind the Scenes

Sex Behind the Scenes

It isn't one's love for the latest stage hit that has developed a cult-following accompanied by a marketing campaign that includes relentless merchandising of the show on T-shirts and towels. But it's similar to what happens between two emotionally and romantically charged people involved in a show who are attracted and then collide. And sometimes even an airbag or condom can't provide safety.

First of all, in full disclosure, I must admit that I am not unblemished when it comes to my past sex life (no comment on the present). So no morality play here. No holier-than-thou-evangelical-Prop 8-bedroom-interference. My last showmance was over 20 years ago. It has continued ever since with my partner who I met during a national tour of "Annie" (o.k. ... stop the giggles).

Sex: It's the entertainment of nearly anyone involved in entertainment. It's our hobby. If you haven't dabbled in the backstage intrigue that is showmance, you're either smart, a reticent recluse, or harboring halitosis that steers colleagues a good 10 feet away from your path.

Now why, you may be pondering, am I writing here about a sometimes salacious subject when this column is about acting and casting? Because relationships -- especially intimate, when mingled with business -- matter. There's great importance of image integrity needed over intimacy when engaging in, maintaining or separating from a showmance. Your career can be greatly affected.

There's an anecdotal punchline that's runs rampant and rings true in our business of show: "There are only six people working in this business." Our community, while large in hopefuls, is very small when it comes to actual participants. Rumor and "adjusted facts" are spread in our club of creatives with as much ferocity as tabloids that target a celebrity for something salacious.

You have got to be mindful of how your romantic endeavors -- either sincere or temporary -- are seen by others with whom you work. As I've written in my book, this industry is all about image, image, and image. That goes for participants on both sides of the curtain.

And it's not only image that one must be mindful of when courting a fellow company member. Take in account how your relationship will affect the project and your peers. I worked at one summer stock company where each season the less-than-reputable producer routinely chose a chorus girl to be his behind-the-scenes playmate. One of which he married and soon thereafter divorced. Others became pregnant out of wedlock. With each fling that was flung, the company focused on generating rumors about the relationship(s). Eventually the producer's attention of amore was ostracized. Company cohesiveness exited stage right and never came back for a curtain call.

I'm not advocating for or against following the heart or libido while you work. That's your path to follow or ignore. Just know that outside influences (co-workers and employers) can cause action that will inhibit your new partnering and, more importantly, the design of original intent: work.

Showmance Caveats

1. Gossip

Apart from politics and tabloids, nowhere else other than in entertainment is rumor ravaging of others a joyful pursuit for those who have little substance in their own lives. If you begin any relationship, sexual or romantic (and yes there are differences between the two), you and your partner(s) would do best to keep the relationship out of sight from others. As a director, casting director and former actor, I have seen many, many companies become divided because of intercast/staff romances. Jealousies and alliances form. Be discrete for the success of both the relationship (or tryst) and the project.

2. Producers

Some producers, particularly among the non-union theaters, have an unspoken "morality meter" they mentally mind for their employees. They prefer that the people in their hire not utilize the workplace provided as a supermarket for sex. Keep your intimate relations far from producers. At least until a wedding or commitment ceremony; then hit them with your registry list. Producers tend to have more money than you and your out-of-suitcase peers.

Even if you believe your mating manners in a company are not excessive or are above honor, still keep it from producers and creatives who hire. At least those who are not close friends of yours. If the intimate mingling is with a producer or creative, then you really want to keep your relationship quiet. At least until you have to invite guests to the wedding/commitment ceremony. We can be jealous, bitter bitches when snubbed.

3. The Heart

For the newbies to the business and the veteran idealists (both of which I was long ago), ground yourself. Sex does not equal love. Love does not equal sex.

What intimate relations that may develop in the heightened emotional state of collaboration may not have happened elsewhere. The atmosphere of working and/or living close under stresses and adrenalin may spur attractions and situations that you would not normally follow in the "real world."

From long ago I recall sitting in the living room of Shawnee Playhouse's cast house as two infatuates of each other were snuggling on a couch across from me. The young lady was very much enthralled with her new beau. Then came the cold water statement from him to her: "Don't get too cozy, honey. I'm not here for long." Ouch. That romantically reticent actor later got his own TV series and several Spielberg films. The actress? A lost casualty of the business.

Sometimes show romances live beyond the show. Often they're just that: show romances. Either way, go with some common sense, respect for others, and discretion. Enjoy discoveries. Carry condoms. (Lesbians have on-hand assorted-sized engagement rings.)

Paul Russell's career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned nearly thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. He is the author of "ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor.
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