Some tools and tips for choreographing and/or performing kisses for the stage or screen. Some actors may not need this much guidance, but it's helpful to have these tools if you're working with less experienced actors, or if you as an actor are wanting some stronger guidance in place.
In rehearsals, before kisses have been choreographed, use a "placeholder," which is any action or word to take the place of the kiss. Find something that doesn't disrupt the flow of blocking or lines. Suggestions include saying the word "kiss," bringing faces close together, or touching noses.
closed, supervised kissing rehearsals
It's usually best practice to not have actors block kissing scenes in front of the rest of the cast. Blocking rehearsals for kissing scenes should include the actors who are kissing, the director, the stage manager, and the intimacy director. (If you are in a setting working with minors, make sure there is a third party in the room aside from the adult and the minors who are stage kissing.) Do not send actors into another room to "figure it out themselves."
Provide actors with Listerine strips and chapstick, or remind them to bring their own. Listerine strips tend to work better for freshening breath, and can also possibly help reduce the transmission of germs. By having all actors use these products, we can make sure everyone is healthy and comfortable. (And we can avoid awkward conversations!)
OPTION: REMINDERS OF safety protocols
If you're using the word "button," remind everyone of those protocols. Otherwise, share any reminders about how actors can share their thoughts.
boundary CHECK-IN & Tap in
Using either the long version or the short version of boundary practice, actors can communicate with one another about their physical boundaries (where on their body they don't want to be touched) and any other boundaries necessary to do their best work (e.g. "I can only do this scene for 20 minutes at a time before I need a break"). This is also the time to have discussions about use of tongue, closed mouth kissing, etc.
Actors "tap in"
Dive into the script and discuss the kiss moment. A few things to ask include:
Is this a first kiss?
How long have these characters wanted to kiss?
How badly do they want to kiss? Or do they NOT want to kiss?
Who initiates the kiss?
Is there a question or hesitation before the kiss starts?
Why does this kiss happen now? What is it about this moment and/or these characters that lead to a kiss?
How long of a kiss is this? SPECIFY HOW MANY COUNTS/SECONDS.
Is there more than one kiss?
Is there a visible power shift during this kiss?
choreograph body placement
Are characters sitting or standing? How far apart are they? Is there movement that needs to happen for them to get close enough to kiss? This step includes choreographing everything except hand placement and lip placement.
choreograph HAND placement
Where are character's hands and what are they doing during the kiss? Are they static/staying in one place? Moving? If they're moving, how many counts does it take for them to get their hand from one place to another. What depth of pressure are hands using?
option: use "loops"
If actors need to be kissing for a long time (for example, if two characters are kissing in the background of a scene), create a "loop" of 3-5 moments that actors can just move through over and over again.
Hands on face, 3 count kiss on lips
Tuck hair behind ear, whisper into ear
Other actor whispers something back
Kisses on temple, cheekbone, jaw, neck
option: NOSES TOUCHING
Rehearse the scene, including the lines/moments leading up to the kiss and incorporating the body placement and hand placement you've choreographed, using the placeholder of actors touching noses. This allows them to get the feeling of the choreography and eases them into more intimate touch without lips actually touching yet.
Actors can check in with one another about if they're doing noses touching or lips touching.
Note that sometimes, first stage kisses are a little weird or awkward. That's fine! Give actors a chance to run it through a few times. Sometimes it's a lot to remember!
Create time and space at the end of rehearsal for actors to do closure exercises, to remind their bodies and minds that what happens in character is pretend. If you are not able to provide this time and space for any reason, make sure actors have tools they can use on their own.
Actors "tap out"