The Love Scene
Jon was a shy kid who was afraid of his own shadow but he discovered an escape that saved his social life when he was forced to act in the sixth grade school play. It was an awful production of an awful play and thankfully he only had one line but a funny thing happened when Jon stumbled onto the stage to nervously deliver the words without passing out or peeing in his pants: he got a laugh!
It was an instantaneous high that Jon never forgot and from that moment on he had the acting bug in his blood. Although like most kids he still had his bouts with self-conscious insecurity, his discovery of the magic of theater and the thrill of pretending he was someone else gave him joy and purpose.
Jon auditioned for every school play and he performed children's theater at the Hillsboro Playhouse as well. He was often cast as the comic relief, supporting player, or goofy sidekick and that was fine with him. Jon wasn't interested in stardom, the limelight, or the lead. He simply wanted to act and he happily took whatever role was offered him.
Jon tried out for the spring drama senior year, an independent piece written by a Hillsboro Alumni playwright who spent time in Iraq. It was a war drama romance and Ms. Swenson the English Teacher/Director wanted to do a challenging piece to recognize the alumni playwright. Jon wasn't sure if he could succeed at drama so he tried out for the best friend role which brought what little humor there was to the story but to his surprise Ms. Swenson cast Jon in the lead.
Not only was he playing his first lead character, but it was also his first serious role and Jon was nervous about the responsibility of carrying the show and being believable in a drama. Ms. Swenson cast Beth Freehan opposite Jon as the love interest. Jon knew Beth from school but not personally although they had been in Bye Bye Birdy together the previous year.
After the cast had been announced, Ms. Swenson pulled her two leads aside to make sure they understood the challenges of the play. She was a relatively young and progressive teacher who liked to expand horizons and push boundaries. She wore reading glasses most of the time and she was so focused with her work and art that she rarely paid much attention to her own appearance, wearing cheap clothes that often appeared wrinkled and too large for her. Her brown hair was usually up on the top of her head in a bun.
"You need to know that we're striving for a professional performance," Ms. Swenson warned. "There are some intensely serious scenes in this play."
The teacher/director was staring at her actors who were sitting in the auditorium seats in front of her. "This is a very mature play and I need to depend on serious and mature actors. Can I count on the two of you?"
Beth glanced at Jon who nodded in his head in affirmation and she did the same. Beth was aware of Jon from his previous acting roles (he was quite good) but she didn't know him as a person. He was good looking with longish brown hair and he seemed like a nice guy. She knew that Jon worked hard as an actor and that he was supportive of his fellow cast members. Beth also knew that she had to kiss him during the play and there was a scene that was supposed to look like they were making love. She was nervous about that but she knew this was the best role of her acting career.
Jon knew Beth was a cheerleader and one of the most popular girls in school. It never occurred to him that he'd get the lead and he was surprised when Ms. Swenson called his name for the part. He too was thinking about that awkward love scene and having to kiss Beth.
"There's going to be a lot of attention and controversy concerning this production," the teacher warned. "This is the first time the school board has approved a play that has overt sexual overtones. Now the love scene takes place under a blanket and it will be staged tastefully but it is still a big deal and there will be talk."
"I understand, Ms. Swenson," Beth replied.
Jon nodded his head in agreement
"Okay," Ms. Swenson smiled with satisfaction. "Now, as you know, in this play you two are a young couple in love so you must communicate that reality to the audience. You have to convince them that you know each other intimately." Mrs. Swenson realized the awkwardness of that word and she waved her hand. "You know what I mean. Anyway, you two need to spend a lot of time together in the next month. Get to know each other - share secrets - try to BE the soldier and his sweetheart."
Beth looked at Jon and Ms. Swenson looked at him hopefully. "Okay?" Beth asked.
"Sure," Jon replied.
"Remember, it's all pretend but it's also real so develop your character's background together, okay?" The teacher instructed.
The Director turned to address her attention to some of the other students involved in the production.
Jon looked at Beth. "Congratulations on getting the part."
"You too," she said warmly.
"I've never been a romantic lead before," he revealed.
"Oh, I've seen your work," Beth smiled. "You'll be fine. If you ask me, comedy is harder than drama anyway."
"I'm worried about coming across flat." he said worriedly. "I'm not very romantic in real life."
"Well, by the time we open I bet you'll be the character," Beth told him with encouragement. "That's what acting is all about, right?"
"Right," Jon smiled with relief.
They made plans to get together the next night to get to know each other better and to start going over lines and they both pretended they weren't nervous about what was being asked of them.