Self-identity, love and humanity: Students return to the campus stage, perform ‘Stop Kiss’

By Olivia Cohen, Staff Reporter

Colleen Hogan

The lights dimmed and anticipation grew as the first actor in the production “Stop Kiss” danced her way onto the stage.

Stop Kiss,” written by Diana Son, is a play about love, longing and humanity, through the eyes of a woman in New York City trying to find herself.

Sylvie Staiger, a senior theatre directing major and director of the production, said she was drawn to this play because of the portrayal of “indefinite love and fragility.”

“The play is not only about homophobia and violence and hate crimes, [but] it’s mainly about self-identity and love and humanity,” Staiger said. “The play is about finding your true self, what you believe in and what your love is to another person.”

One of the biggest obstacles for Staiger was reinventing the play to relate to a different generation, because the play was published in 1999. One of the ways Staiger did this was through her music choices.

“We picked songs from the ’80s to the ’90s to today that definitely relates to what scene [the audience] just saw,” Staiger said. “I wanted to share what I take love to be. I see love a lot in music. … I want the audience to hear that in their ears.”

In addition to music choices, Staiger said lighting played an important role in the show, as many scenes incorporated pink lighting, glowing brighter throughout the play as the two main characters grew closer together.

Sonya Robinson, a senior acting major and lead actor in the play, has loved “Stop Kiss” for years — long before rehearsals began.

“I read this play for the first time in seventh grade, and I loved it so much,” Robinson said. “This is a really cool, kind of wish fulfillment, weird, full-circle kind of moment to be able to do this and do this play that I’ve known and loved for almost a decade.”

In the play, Robinson plays the role of Callie, who finds her identity through her first relationship with a woman, Sara, played by Isabella La Bove, a senior musical theatre major.

Despite the play addressing the difficult topic of homophobia and the characters dealing with the aftermath of a hate crime, there are elements of humor incorporated throughout.

The play ran from Tuesday, Oct. 26 through Thursday, Oct. 28 in Columbia’s Black Box Theatre, 62 E. 11th St.

Columbia’s COVID-19 precautions stayed in effect during the play, as all audience members were required to keep their masks on throughout the show. Although the actors performed on stage without masks, the performers and crew members wore masks when off-stage and after the show.

For many of the performers and crew members, “Stop Kiss” was the first production they were able to work on in-person since the beginning of the pandemic.

“It’s really difficult [adjusting to performing on stage]. … There’s a lot of really fundamental building blocks that you kind of have to relearn,” Robinson said. “It’s a harder transition back into some of those really basic, fundamental theatre things that you think you intrinsically know, but you really have to teach yourself again.”

Amid the pandemic, Robinson is excited to work on this production during her last year at Columbia, despite another nontraditional year, before she spends her last semester of college studying abroad in England.

“I am so thrilled that we get to do [‘Stop Kiss’] in-person, that we get to do it unmasked. It’s a privilege,” Robinson said. “I feel very lucky, and the whole cast has been so great. I can’t think of other people I would rather be doing it with. … It’s very nice that things have kind of fallen into place.”