In fairytales, true love’s kiss usually ends a story by giving the audience a sense of happily ever after, but in Diana Son’s award-winning 1998 play entitled “Stop, Kiss!” not only is it how she begins the show, it is also anything but happy. The New Paltz Theater Department has decided to take on the challenge of performing such a hard-hitting, serious play for their last show of the semester, running from Dec. 3 to 5 at the Mckenna Theater.
The show begins with two heroines, Callie, a NYC native who works as a traffic reporter, and Sara, who just moved to town from St. Louis, Missouri to teach at an elementary school in the Bronx, becoming friends and galavanting around the city together. With undeniable sexual tension from the very first interaction, the two women can’t stand it any longer and embrace in a passionate kiss on a street in the West Village, which should be the beginning of their love story, but instead provokes a tragic act of homophobic violence that puts Sara in a coma.
“I think it’s a beautiful piece. This story does deal with a same sex couple, and in New Paltz, it’s wonderful that we can put on a show like this, and the community will embrace it,” says fourth-year student director, Emma Reifschneider. “I think it’s really important because sometimes we live in a bubble in New Paltz and here, those ideals line up with everybody else’s. So I think it’s important to keep reminding everyone that there’s still work to be done to ensure equal rights for everyone.”
Reifschneider, who’s debuting her directing career with “Stop, Kiss!” chose the piece for the Praxis series here at New Paltz, where theater majors are allowed to submit proposals that advocate for a play of their choosing to be produced, and the top two winners get to direct. Through months of research and hard work, which began in the winter of 2021, Reifschneider’s was able to stand out from her peers, securing her spot as one of the two chosen student directors.
With a cast of eight, and practices having only begun in the beginning of the month, the troupe has been extremely dedicated and working tirelessly to get the show ready for opening night. “We rehearse Monday through Saturday. Monday through Friday, we’re in rehearsals from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. And Saturdays, we’re in rehearsal from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. That’s a lot of work hours,” says Reifsncheider. Though nerves are definitely prominent, Reifschneider has ensured us that she and her team are fully prepared and in tip-top shape for Dec. 3.
Diana Son was awarded with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Media Award for Best New York Production, was put on the Los Angeles Times “Best of 2014” list, and has also won the Berilla Kerr Award for playwriting. According to her, “Stop Kiss” is a play about the civil rights of gays and lesbians in America and despite the play being described as a love story.
Being a theater major with a concentration in performance, Reifschneider sees directing as an exciting new challenge. “I’ve always been acting. Now I’m on the other side of the table. And there’s just so much more that happens that I had no idea about, like sound and lighting which has been a challenge because it’s so new,” says Reifscheider. “So that has certainly been a challenge, but really amazing to be in on those conversations.” With someone as talented and knowledgeable as her directing our wonderful New Paltz thespians, you can bet that everyone leaving the theater on Dec. 3 will be awe-inspired and amazed! Reserve your seats before they sell out!