“Sara asks this question repeatedly throughout the show, and I think it is important to ask that now and again,” explains Liz Houck, senior Theatre and Psychology major at USC, who is directing Stop Kiss in USC’s Lab Theater. Stop Kiss is a play about love. Not just the romantic love between a man and a woman, or the romantic love between two women, or two men, but the kind of love that builds from friendships, and all the fluidity that can be found in between.
Stop Kiss, by Diana Son, is a play, set in New York, which centers around 2 women, Callie (Jasmine James) and Sara (Imani Hanley), and their blossoming relationship. One fateful night, when Callie and Sara share their first kiss, they are both assaulted in the park. Callie remains physically unharmed, but Sara is beaten into a coma. The play then continues to jump back and forth between two timelines: the time before the accident and the recovery process. The play explores Callie and Sara’s relationship, their relationships with others, and how many different ways there can be to love someone, whether romantically, platonically, or otherwise.
“Stop Kiss is such a poignant, powerful play that says so much about systemic oppression and broken systems,” Houck explains. She is hoping that will bring back the question of “What do you want?” to the forefront of the audience’s brain. But not only that, she is hoping it will be a catalyst for discussion. She states, “… It’s even more productive to ask more specific questions such as ‘What do you want to change in the world in order to help people like Callie and Sara exist without fear?’ and ‘What do you want to do about the current system?’”
Stop Kiss, despite being published 17 years ago, still remains extremely relevant. Freddie Powers (George) shares, “[The play] was an important message about violence against queer people when the play was published in 1998 and it's almost shocking how easily adaptable it is to 2015. We didn't have to make any changes in the script because nothing sounds out of place today; the message is still just as relevant.” Houck goes on to explain, “Considering the current social climate regarding race and sexuality especially, there is a call to action to be taken from the show, especially in a state where marriage equality happened in the same year as the Charleston Nine tragedy. How does that happen, and what does that say about us?
Houck also states that the production is going to use glitch art to address the issue of oppression visually. With the help of USC Media Arts MA alum OK Keyes, the cast was led in a workshop, took images from the media, and broke them in order to creat something new. Houck says, “We are using glitch art as a means to break the systems which oppress the charcaters in the world of the play, which mirrors the world in which we live. Glitch involves breaking the image: the actual code is bent or broken, which distorts the image.”
But in the end, it really all comes back to the idea of love. Everyone should be free to love, and let others love in whatever fashion they desire. Abi McNeely (Mrs. Winsley/Nurse) shares, “There are so many different types of love: romantic, sexual, friendly, combinations of all three... and nowadays, these different types are even more prominent, especially with young people. There will always be people against these different kinds of love, but people love anyway. And that's important. It doesn't matter; love anyway.”
Stop Kiss will be performed in the Booker T. Washington Theater (1400 Wheat St.) on October 15-18 at 8 pm each night. Tickets are $5 at the door. For more information about Stop Kiss or the theatre program at the University of South Carolina, contact Kevin Bush by phone at (803) 777-9353 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stop Kiss contains adult language and content that is not suitable for children.