Love, sexuality and bigotry are themes displayed in Clark’s newest theater production, “Stop Kiss,” which opened May 12.
The upcoming drama, written by Diana Son, tells the story of Callie and Sara who meet and unexpectedly fall in love with each other. When their first kiss results in a random bystander brutally assaulting one of them, the pair find that their lives will never be the same again.
Gene Biby, drama professor and producer, selected the play last year when planning for the 2016-17 productions.
“I read it several years ago and I really really liked it,” Biby said. “It explores people’s perception of us and how we kind of rail against that.”
Biby believes the play has become more relevant since its debut in 1998.
“Given the time period we’re at in America with acceptance, the issues are still relevant,” he said.
Biby also said that he hopes people leave the play with the feeling of “that’s not right.”
“I want people to walk away going ‘That’s not acceptable’ and ‘This type of behavior isn’t acceptable,’” he said.
Micah Lowery, who plays Sara, also believes the play’s themes of sexuality and love are relevant today.
“I don’t want somebody to see it and be like ‘Oh, it’s just a play about two lesbians,’” she said.
Lowery described how the characters of Callie and Sara both exclusively dated men before, so the feelings they have for each other are new. “The writing is very realistic,” she said. “It’s very relatable and meaningful.”
Ted Gold, stage technician and director, had previously worked on the “Stop Kiss” technical crew while attending Pacific University.
“I really fell in love with the show,” Gold said. “I thought it was very poignant.”
Actor Derek Sytsma, who plays George, the former boyfriend of Callie, agrees with Gold.
“I think with Gene and Ted there is definitely a method to their madness when it comes to picking our plays,” Sytsma said. “It is a beautifully written script.”
This is Gold’s first play as a director at Clark, and first time since college.
Sytsma admires how Gold directs in a “give and take” relationship.
“What I love most about Ted is that he directs, but he lets us be our characters,” he said. “He lets us discover who we are.”
Along with directing, Gold works as a set builder, a hat he has worn for Clark before. Mark Owsley, who directed the fall production of “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” designed the set. “I basically said to Ted, ‘I can make this as hard a set as you want to build it,’” Owsley said. “He said, ‘Bring it on.’”
The difficulty of the set design allows “Stop Kiss” to quickly transition between scenes. Rather than telling the story chronologically, the play uses flashbacks and scenes from the future to transition between before and after the attack.
“I wanted it to be quick,” Gold said about scene changes. “So we created this system where platforms roll on and roll off already set.”
Gold said the primary settings of “Stop Kiss” are an apartment building and a hospital room. When a scene ends, the platform rolls behind a curtain and the next set rolls out.
“That can be a little intimidating,” Lowery said about acting on moving platforms. “But you gotta do what you gotta do.”
Although the set may look difficult it’s not a terrifically hard set, Owsley said.
Additionally, “Stop Kiss” lacks an intermission, setting it apart from previous productions.
The one-act format immerses audience members into the story, Biby said. The downside of this, however, is that it takes away from the “community” aspect of theater that an intermission provides.
“[An intermission] gives audience members a chance to talk amongst themselves and assess how they feel,” he said. “So I don’t like it because of that.”
Overall, Owsley hopes the play will give audience members a “better understanding of what people different than us go through in life.”
Gold also hopes students take away a positive message from the show.
“I hope that they see that even in tragedy there are positive things to take away,” Gold said. “That love is obtainable no matter how difficult.”