Originally produced Off-Broadway in 1998, Diana Son’s play “Stop Kiss” tackled important LGBTQ themes that were as relevant in the late 1990s as they are today. Now, from Feb. 19-21, a completely student-run production of the play will be performed in Studio Theater.
“At its core, ‘Stop Kiss’ is a love story. Sara and Callie [the play’s central characters] have to jump through the same hoops that anyone falling in love has to … it just gets a little more complicated by the fact that they’re women [who] had previously identified as straight,” said senior Kathleen Gullion, the director of “Stop Kiss.”
“‘Stop Kiss’ to me is about the way that women fall in love with each other; the way that women experience sexuality [and] the weight of the word ‘lesbian.’”
The play examines the budding romance between Sara (played by freshman Abbey Kruse) and Callie (played by senior Sam Auch). Late on a fateful night, a romantic kiss the two women share in New York City’s West Village leads to dissension and antagonism in their community.
“I just love the story. I think that Callie and Sara are three-dimensional, relatable, real women, real female characters, and so often in plays, you don’t really get really fleshed-out, really three-dimensional female characters in plays,” explained Gullion. “That was one of the things that drew me to [the play] for sure.”
“Stop Kiss” is Gullion’s Honors project. When asked about her directorial choice, she expressed the personal impact the play had on her.
“I remember reading this play as part of a class that I took a year ago,” said Gullion. “It was a class on gay theater, and I remember thinking that I related to this play more than I had ever related to a play ever.”
Even while studying the play in a classroom setting, she applauded Son’s depictions of female sexuality and its complexities. “Part of the reason that it hit so close to home to me was that it shows that female sexuality is fluid. It isn’t necessarily this static thing … [female sexual fluidity] is not something you really see in theater.”
Gullion feels that the conscientiousness and tenderness with which Son develops her characters is central to the play’s honesty. “I really liked that even though it’s about two women falling in love with each other, [the play] is less about themselves. … It’s not about their identity or about [labels], it’s just about each other. … it’s just a simple love story.”
Although Gullion has directorial experience, directing “Stop Kiss” presented its own series of challenges she inevitably had to face.
“I never really directed a realistic show before. I’ve done other projects at Knox that have been kind of weird … postmodern [shows], really not realistic [shows]. That’s more of what I’m used to, so I knew that directing this play would be a challenge. I knew that this text was so relatable. I really wanted to make the performance as real as possible.”