No matter how they feel about each other after those three whirlwind days, O'Connor says they have to portray love when they're onstage this week, July 24-27.
"With Ariel and Ren, there is only so much acting that can go into that," she said. If the audience doesn't believe Ariel and Ren love each other by the end of the show, the whole show falls apart."
Footloose is the culmination of the seven-week Young Adult program at the Civic Theatre, which aims to help students gain the skills needed to succeed in the world of musical theatre including character development, vocal coaching and advanced dance technique.
It's also part of the theater's centennial celebration, and the first time in lead roles for stage veterans O'Connor and Jacobs. Jacobs has been acting for eight years, starting with his fourth grade choir production. O'Connor's first role was in middle school as a member of the ensemble in Thoroughly Modern Millie Jr.
Jacobs said he knows the stakes will be raised in Footloose.
"If I have a high energy, it's easier for the rest of the ensemble to have a high energy," he said. "If I am tired or not in a good mood, I can't let my energy on stage suffer, because the show is centered around Ren."
O'Connor said the differences between ensemble roles and acting roles have been a shock.
"With ensembles, you'd be in a couple scenes and figure out your blocks and you could zone out," she said. "Having lines and being more involved with the show, you can't zone out at any time or you'll miss a line or you'll miss a cue or you'll not know what to say next."
O'Connor praised her directors, Ron Morgan and Kelly Smith, for helping her develop her abilities since rehearsals began on June 8.
"I have grown so much over the past two months as a performer," she said. "They have been so understanding, so willing to work with me and so open to ideas. (Smith) has really helped me with my singing and Ron has been so understanding about how much of a learning experience this is. He has really brought acting technique out of me that I never would've thought I could have ever accomplished."
O'Connor said despite their prom date, she and Jacobs are just friends. So they've worked onstage and off to develop a sense of comfort with each other.
"We were told to get touchy with each other," Jacobs said. "Then it wouldn't be awkward or uncomfortable is she put her hand on my shoulder or we went in for a hug on the show. It was natural for us."
Show times for Footloose are 7 p.m. July 24-26 and 2 p.m. July 27 at the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre,3 Center Green, Suite 200, Carmel, IN 46032. Tickets are available here or the box office, (317) 843-3800.