“Do you mind genuinely kissing each other on stage? Because we could do fake stage kisses if you want, but it just wouldn’t be the same.”
It’s the early summer of 1998. My junior year of high school was just about over. I had just found out that I had won the male lead in the fall musical. The drama teacher had gathered me together with Female Lead to have a discussion about what that means.
Apparently, that means kissing.
After some glances back and forth, we told the director that, well, sure. Kissing is fine. Whatever, I mean, you know. It’s not like it’s that big of a deal.
No big deal at all. I mean, I was 17. I had kissed lots of girls before then – there was the one time in pre-school when I got in trouble for kissing a girl a couple of times, and then my first real kiss when I was 15. That’s, like, 3 times total. So I was practically an expert.
Plus, I mean, it’s not like I daydreamed endlessly about Female Lead since, say, the sixth grade, because of how much I liked her. Good thing there wasn’t that.
Like I said: no big deal at all.
“Justin!” The drama teacher was seated out in the back of the auditorium. She could be loud when she wanted to be.
“Yeah?” We were in rehearsal, several months later. I had just finished delivering what I felt to be a key monologue for establishing my character’s behavioral trajectory and for creating, in the audience’s mind, a more tightly-drawn tension through my character’s delayed maturation process to the final Independence he shows from societal definitions of both family and profession, which, ultimately, allows him to pursue the family and profession that he truly loves. I think my exact line was, “I am a man!” delivered to Female Lead.
“I want you to kiss her right now.”
“Okay.” I made a note of it in my script, then continued with my lines.
“I meant, right now. As in, you need to kiss her now.”
“Wait, for real?” I say. There is a pause. Some chorus girls giggle. Guys shift awkwardly. “I mean, right now?” I turn to look at her. Then I look back at the drama teacher. “Are you sure?”
Okay. I can do this.
I looked back at Female Lead, who looked up at me. I ignored the stage lights, all fifty other cast members who were extras in the scene, and the assorted stage crew looking on from auditorium seats. I tried to think like my character, who had been dating Female Lead’s character for eight years, but was only now discovering who he truly was and how much he truly loved her. I stepped closer. I bent my head down towards hers slowly, then slower still.
Then I stepped away, turned to the drama teacher, and shouted:
“Where does my nose go?”