Stop Kiss is a powerful play by Diana Son that tells the story of how a hate crime attack affects a lesbian couple in New York. It opens on Wednesday 6 November at Above The Stag in Vauxhall. Dave Cross spoke to producer Kylie Vilcins to find out more.
Hi Kylie, what’s the basic story for Stop Kiss?
Stop Kiss is essentially a love story. Written by Diana Son and first performed in 1998 it follows two women who live in New York, Callie and Sara, who meet and unexpectedly fall in love. After they share their first kiss they are the victims of a horrific crime which transforms both their lives in a way they could never have imagined. Stop Kiss explores relationships; the depth of human interactions and emotions and I love this quote from Diana Son: “I am consistently interested in the conflict between how other people identify you and the more complex way in which you know yourself. I am quite aware of the contrast between how you assume things are one moment, and how they can utterly, irrevocably change in the next.”
Can you tell us about the structure of the play?
Stop Kiss is written as a non-linear play – apparently this narrative is often used to mimic the structure and recall of human memory which sits perfectly here. With this, Diana Son creates dramatic irony and seamlessly moves the story back and forth in time, between scenes and different scenarios so beautifully. I read an article where Diana Son described the process toward her ‘interesting changes in chronological time’ and said she ‘wrote the scenes she thought would be in the play… then filled in the rest’. Apparently, the order of the first 12 scenes were rearranged in previews!
What can you tell us about the two characters and cast?
Without giving too much away … Carrie (Suzanne Boreel) lives in New York and works as a traffic reporter, a job she does not like or find fulfilling and Sara (Kara Taylor Alberts) is new to New York after leaving her ex-boyfriend and family behind in St Louis to begin a teaching job she is extremely passionate about. They meet through a friend of a friend and slowly begin to fall in love. We spend a lot of the play, as we watch Callie and Sara growing ever closer, thinking will they, won’t they, are they going to, when will they, oh go onnnn .. just kiss? It is a very innocent and exploratory relationship at first, with both of them trying to re-evaluate and find some happiness. However, this innocence is destroyed when they share their first kiss.
How did you come to be producing this play?
Stop Kiss is a play I have long wanted to produce and right now, unfortunately in light of the recently publicised homophobic attacks on women, feels like an extremely relevant and pertinent time to do so. It’s a gorgeous and very poignant play, albeit based on a violent hate crime but its heart is the beautiful queer female love story between Callie and Sara.
Can you tell us about the director Rafaella?
Rafaella’s work as a director focuses on new writing and bringing to the stage marginalised voices, especially women. She was the Associate Director on Emilia by Morgan Lloyd Malcom in its transfer to the West End. I’m so happy Raf agreed to direct Stop Kiss as within a few minutes of meeting her I knew she was the perfect strong female voice I’d been hoping for to narrate this story. I can’t wait to see her vision for Stop Kiss and how she and our outstanding cast bring these characters to life at Above The Stag.
Hate crime attacks on LGBT+ people are increasing and there was recently an attack on a lesbian couple on a bus in London, how has all this affected this production?
Many people are under the impression it was a new play and had been written in direct response to that very attack. Whilst there has been some progress since it was written in 1998 it’s a travesty that we’re still having the same conversations and these hate crimes are still as relevant and prolific as ever – goes to show we still, unfortunately, have a bloody long way to go.
What made you want to work with Andrew and the team at Above The Stag?
I’ve known Andrew for years and when they moved to the current venue in Vauxhall we discussed collaborating as they really wanted to be more inclusive to fully embrace the ethos of the venue. I am beyond chuffed that Stop Kiss is the first piece of programming from Andrew as the new Artistic Director. I hope that along with ATS’s longstanding and ever loyal patrons we can also entice a new and diverse audience to visit ATS allowing more people the opportunity to experience all this brilliant LGBTQ+ venue in London has to offer.