Interview with Stop Kiss Director: Brittany Coyne


Stop Kiss opens tonight (October 3rd) at 8 p.m. in the Henry Heymann Theatre. The show runs from October 2-12 Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Soundays 2 p.m. Get your tickets in advance at the Box Office located on the 16th floor of the Cathedral of Learning or buy them at the door.  Check out our interview with the director, Brittany Coyne!

Stages: What is the play about in your opinion?

Brittany Coyne: At its core,Stop Kiss is about love and commitment. In the pre-tragedy scenes, we see two people who are unsure if they are going to be friends, or more, but eventually decide to act on their feelings and express their love to each other. Its not an easy or glamorous journey for them, which is what makes their love story so real and accessible to everyone. In the post-tragedy scenes, we see Callie committing to Sara despite all of the hardships ahead physically and emotionally because she believes that love trumps all labels and hate, and is worth fighting for.

Stages: What initially drew you to Stop Kiss?

BC: My first introduction to the play was during a Women Playwrights session at a theatre conference last spring and I fell in love with the play. We only got to hear the first scene, but afterwards the room delved into a fruitful debate between whether the two women were just becoming friends or flirting because not knowing the plot of the play you couldn't tell. Obviously, right after the conference I read that whole piece and was floored. Diana Son's writing is so sincere, natural, and original; how could you not love or connect to it?

Stages: Why did you choose to direct Stop Kiss?

BC: I choose to direct this play because it is an important opportunity to take a hold of. This play is rarely produced, and the opportunity to present it to an audience on a college campus is incredible. Although the characters in the play are older than the students at the University, we are the generation that has the ability to stop events like this. This play also teaches so much about love, and that lesson matters. The love in this play juxtaposes all of the overly romantic dramas Hollywood these days and brings in reality and sacrifice, alongside awkwardness and acceptance, to create a real love story.

Stages: What was you conceptual process going into preproduction and how has it changed over time?

BC: During pre-production my main two thoughts were thus: update the play and figure out how to best effectively rehearse it. Updating the play was a continual process of striking answering machines and replacing them with cell phones and updating some cultural references that stuck out to us. The cast and production team worked together to make this play seem as current as possible (and not in its original 1998 setting), despite how often New York City, technology, and entertainment changes. The play is 23 scenes long and changes location and time during every scene change, which is one heck of a challenge. However, we best decided to tackle this by rehearsing the pre-tragedy scenes (we called it "Act 1") first in chronological order to build the relationship arc of Callie and Sara because it is vital to the entire show. Then we tackled all of the post-tragedy scenes ("Act 2") and worked them mostly by character because Act 2

Stages: Have there been any pleasant surprises along the way? Any unexpected challenges?

BC: A pleasant surprise was that the rehearsal style mentioned previously actually worked. Lucy and Leenie, who play Callie and Sara, respectively, reacted strongly to this method and developed their relationship very easily, therefore it was very easy (and extremely enjoyable for me) to continue to build throughout the process. Also, once we finally had the cast together after blocking sessions they bonded immediately and did an incredible job of supporting one another as their characters and as human beings. The only unexpected challenge was actually expected: transitions. They are the nature of the beast, and we knew that from the get go, yet they still threw us through a loop throughout the entire process. Tech week was a lot of transition and quick change rehearsal, but all of the actors and crew powered through bravely and got them down.

Stages: Have recent events, including the hate crime assault in Philadelphia, impacted your rehearsals or production?

BC: Events like Philadelphia justify our reasoning to update this piece. We wanted to create this play with the effect on the audience that this could happen whilst you were watching the play. And unfortunately, that happened. The assault that occurred mirrored Sara and Callie's far too well and I think that it kicked us all into a higher gear realizing that this is real. For us, we didn't have a real Sara and Callie to base the story off because its fiction, but now we did. Its a terrible tragedy that occurred and it taught us how important it is to tell this story now and until events like this stop happening.

Stages: What effect are you hoping to have on your audience?

BC: I would like the audience to leave realizing that crimes like this still happen and they are based solely on hate. Throughout this play there is no way you cannot fall in love with Callie and Sara as separate humans and as a couple, and you are routing for them. They are just two people who enjoy each other and want to experience life together, so they expressed it with a kiss. That's it. That is all they did. It is an act and feeling that I am sure almost every person in the audience can connect with not matter what sexuality you identify with.

Stages: Anything else you'd like to share about the process or production?

BC: This play is really hard. Its an emotional roller-coaster, its a technical whirlwind, and it deals with some extremely heavy topics. The actors are out there baring their souls (and for some of them, some of their body) every night whilst telling these stories, and I am just so honored to have worked with them. It takes a lot to put on this show, but we have a heck of a team who have been killing it for the past month and I believe we have done Diana Son and the department proud.