By Michelle Lampariello
Nation & World Editor
Students, faculty and staff have recently been confronted with a question: “Do you know me? Do you know who I am?”
This line from All College Theatre’s production of “Stop Kiss” graced promotional posters throughout campus, and people gathered in the Don Evans Black Box Theater every night from Wednesday, March 1, to Saturday, March 4, to try to learn the answer.
At first, this question seemed to be in reference to the play’s theme of identity. However, viewers learned that this line actually comes from a scene in which Callie, the main character, is begging for Sara, her love interest, to wake up from a coma and recognize her.
Set in fall 1998 in New York City, “Stop Kiss” appears to be a love story between two women, but becomes complicated once a stranger attacks them after seeing them share their first kiss on a park bench.
The director, assistant director and cast members made it clear during the talks following Wednesday’s and Thursday’s performances that “Stop Kiss” carries much more meaning than the average love story.
“Stop Kiss” encouraged viewers to see Callie and Sara not as outsiders, but as average human beings.
“This show is just so human,” said Haley Witko, a senior interactive multimedia major who played Callie.
The humanization of characters is an important element of reducing prejudice that many members of the LGBTQ+ community face.
“When a group dehumanizes another group, that’s where we have an issue,” said Julien Blanchard, a sophomore English major who played Peter, Sara’s ex-boyfriend.
Director Janet Quartarone hoped “Stop Kiss” would encourage dialogue between students about tolerance.
“Theater has the power to send people out thinking,” Quartarone said.
Quartarone commented on the gray area that many LGBTQ+ individuals find themselves in regarding their identity.
“We didn’t play some of these characters in black and white,” Quartarone said.
“Stop Kiss” included several emotional scenes, many of which had to do with the attack on Sara and Callie that left Sara in a coma.
“It’s hard to be in (Callie’s and Sara’s) shoes,” Witko said. “I think we all took a bit of a journey with this show.”
The attacker was not cast in the play and did not appear in the production. However, Witko was encouraged to envision the attack in her mind in order to relate better to her character.
“As a director, it’s hard to ask an actor that I really like to go on an unpleasant journey,” Quartarone said.
During the attack, only one woman, Mrs. Winsley, intervened. Winsley was played by Molly Knapp, a sophomore women, gender and sexuality studies major.
“It’s so easy to go the other way,” Knapp said of her character’s life-saving intervention.
Knapp encouraged the audience to think about “what you can do to be that active bystander” like Winsley.
Despite some of the darkness and violence, love was the overwhelming theme of “Stop Kiss.”
“One of the most important aspects of this show is, frankly, about finding love. … The world needs love,” said Kelly Colleran, a sophomore history and secondary education dual major who played Sara.
Colleran later elaborated on the show’s theme of love with respect to the LGBTQ+ community, saying, “Love: Seek it, celebrate it, find it with whomever the hell you want to.”