Stop Kiss actors lying in a bed on set.Clayton Koff

Staff Writer

Valentine’s Day is approaching, and ISU’s theatre department is celebrating with a love story.

Performances of “Stop Kiss,” a play written by contemporary playwright Diana Son, will span two weekends at the Stephens Performing Arts Center this month. The play centers around two young women in New York City who fall in love, share a first kiss on a public street and suffer an assault afterward.

“It tests their understanding of what love is, what it means to love and how it changes people,” said director Stefan Espinosa. “In one sentence, it’s a play about love.”

While the play’s leads are two women in love who undergo trauma because of their sexuality, Espinosa said the play focuses more on their relationship than on the politics of their assault. The play’s non-chronological format allows the audience to follow the protagonists’ shared journey through love and tragedy.

“What makes it special is it a series of scenes in different points in their relationship,” he said. “The use of these time skips allow the play to not be about hate crime, but to showcase their relationship.”

Despite the heavier themes explored in “Stop Kiss,” audiences can expect a lighthearted experience, Espinosa said.

“It’s a funny play,” he said. “There are some humorous moments and some tragic ones, but, overall, it’s a play about hope with a lot of humor in it.”

Navigating the emotional tension of the play presented a challenge for the theatre department’s actors, as did the non-linear plot structure, but stage director Kylie Cosgrove emphasized how the play complements the department’s strengths.

“One of the main reasons we want to do ‘Stop Kiss’ is our department is full of very strong women,” she said. “This play allows us to really showcase our department.”

Cosgrove and Espinosa expressed strong feelings towards the characters in “Stop Kiss,” who they said feel like real people.

“There are no heroes or villains in this play, just people,” Espinosa said. “There will be times where you identify with one part of one character and other times you’ll identify with a different one and say, ‘That’s what I would do in that situation.’”

Though the play was written in the ‘90s, “Stop Kiss” audiences may still find the play’s themes topical and timely. Espinosa said its focus on love will resonate with viewers.

“What I love about this play,” he said, “is it takes a subject about hate crime and makes it a story about love and hope—how love make us better, and not how hate tears us apart.”

“Stop Kiss” opens this Friday, Feb. 9 and will run Feb. 10, 15, 16 and 17. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets cost $7 dollars for students, $10 for faculty and staff and $15 for the public.

“I hope that people walk away with at least a sense of their own place in this world,” Espinosa said. “It’s not about choosing sides or agreeing or disagreeing or political agendas, but walking away with an idea of self examination.”

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