On Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, University Theatre at N.C. State will present an encore presentation of Diana Son's Stop Kiss, directed by Terri L. Janney, to raise funds to underwrite the show's participation on Feb. 8 in Region IV of the American College Theatre Festival (http://www.kcactf4.org/) to be held Feb. 4-9 at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, GA. Before selecting Stop Kiss and six other productions to perform in Savannah, ACTF judges considered more than 40 productions from the southeast region, which includes 10 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
In addition, three N.C. State University students — Tracey Phillips, Collette Rutherford, and Kate Isley — will compete for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship. Organizers say it is unusual to have three students in that prestigious competition.
University Theatre first performed Diana Son's eye-opening play about two ostensibly straight women who fall in love, and are brutally assaulted as they share their first kiss, on March 7-17 as part of the university's Diversity Series.
Terri Janney says, "Stop Kiss… was first brought to my attention several years ago by Dana Marks, a former outstanding drama student of mine, who was home for the holidays from graduate school. Over a cup of coffee at Cup a Joe's, we were talking about the lack of women's plays and Dana recommended Stop Kiss, which she had just read. I wrote the title down with full intention of buying it.
"A year later, "[UT director of theater] John McIlwee asked me to direct the Diversity Series play and Stop Kiss immediately came to mind. I ordered the script and felt it would work wonderfully for the Diversity Series.
"I was so excited about the play," Janney says, "that I got the rights a year in advance. Somehow I had missed the Manbites Dog production. Never knew it happened. I was probably deeply involved in my own production at the time."
Janney says, "What I really liked best about the play was the enormous challenge to represent these women and their circumstances in a believable fashion with the difficult layout of the script by the author. She puts many obstacles in front of the director with the technical elements as well as the transition of the actors' emotions over time. The jumpcut series of scenes only add to those difficulties.
"As a lighting designer," Janney adds, "I immediately saw angles, high lights and shadows. The set was designed by the assistant technical director Curt Tomzyck (now a graduate student at N.C. School of the Arts). He brilliantly solved the puzzle of the many scene changes.
"It is worthy to note that N.C. State student Wil Kiser has altered the set slightly for touring and painted a new floor," Janney says. "The costumes designed by N.C. State student Lori Langdon facilitated the many changes of clothes by the actresses which has been an ongoing battle to do in such a short amount of time. Many of the costumes came from the actresses' and costumer's closet. As the lighting designer, I was able to bring all the components together to one visual composition."
Janney says, "The story of Stop Kiss is [the story of a] friendship between two women which deepens into a first-time physical attraction and the tragic consequences resulting from that attraction. What we see is the attraction leading up to a gaybashing, and the results of the gaybashing, intermixed in a series of 23 scenes. But as Diana Son says, 'love wins.'
"The play opens," Janney notes, "with the meeting of Callie and Sara (played by Tracey Phillips and Collette Rutherford) when Callie volunteers to take care of Sara's cat. The next scene jumps to a police detective questioning Callie about an attack on Sara in the Park. The play continues to jumpcut back and forth from the time previous to the attack to the time after the attack. At times, the criticism has been that it is too cinematic. However, I have come to believe that it really is just theatrical and wouldn't be as effective as if it had been linear. It makes the play unique."
Janney adds, "When [Stop Kiss was] first performed as part of the Diversity Series last March, it became apparent that the production would be an excellent choice to present at the state American College Theatre Festival [in Greensboro, NC]. With a mostly senior cast returning, it was simple to resurrect with a short rehearsal period of 10 days with only one casting change. Rehearsal took place in the Thompson Theatre work area sandwiched between two other rehearsing productions.
"[Stop Kiss] 'toured' to Stewart Theatre for a University Scholars performance the evening before the festival in Greensboro and played to approximately 300 students. At the festival on Nov. 8, we were given two hours to load in the set and refocus lights, which was a great feat considering the show depended greatly on lighting.
"[Stop Kiss] received a standing ovation from its peers," Janney says, "and received tremendous positive feedback from the Regional Adjudicators. Stop Kiss was immediately nominated to be considered for the Regional Showcase and was notified Dec. 9 that it had been selected — to our great delight.
She adds, "The performances at the Thompson Theatre Studio on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 at 8 p.m. are fundraising efforts to offset the cost of trip. We have received private donations as well as support from the Theatre Endowment Board as well.
"The true challenge I face as director at this point," Terri Janney says, "is to continue to improve the performance with deeper relationships between the characters, to keep the actors 'fresh,' to integrate Adjudicators' notes, and to not to screw up a good thing as it is. Fine tuning will be the key. I saw the performance rise to great heights in Greensboro. I expect further elevation in Savannah."
University Theatre at N.C. State presents Stop Kiss Friday-Saturday, Jan. 31-Feb. 1, at 8 p.m. in Thompson Theatre on the NCSU campus. $10 cash only. 919/515-2405. http://www.fis.ncsu.edu/University_Players/StopKiss.htm [inactive 9/03].