“Showmance”: Is Performing Intimacy Associated with Feelings of Intimacy?

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Saslove, Jennifer
Gormezano, Aki M.
Schudson, Zach C.
van Anders, Sari
Many actors report, anecdotally, a phenomenon known as a “showmance,” whereby actors develop romantic and/or sexual feelings for acting partners, often in the process of portraying romance onstage together. Because acting partners spend so much time together and may be engaging in several activities that facilitate emotional and physical closeness, it is possible that performing intimacy may influence feelings of actual intimacy. In this study, we aimed to understand the association between the type of onstage relationship that an actor portrays with their acting partner and the degree of intimacy—specifically nurturance and eroticism—that they feel toward this partner. We surveyed actors (amateur and professional) about their past theatrical experiences performing with a romantic acting partner (romantic/intimate), a non-romantic but still intimate partner (non-romantic/intimate; e.g., friendship, parent-child), and a non-romantic and non-intimate partner (non-romantic/non-intimate; e.g., strangers, colleagues). We found that actors reported significantly higher levels of nurturance when recalling romantic and non-romantic/intimate onstage roles, compared to non-romantic/non-intimate roles. We also found that actors reported significantly higher levels of eroticism when recalling romantic onstage roles compared to other roles. Finally, we found that actors reported having experienced a significantly greater proportion of romantic/sexual feelings across their acting careers toward romantic acting partners, compared to other acting partners. The findings of this study provide a better understanding of the bidirectional relationship between behaviour and affect, as well as the predictors of intimacy, through a theatrical lens.