From now until Jan. 11, Acme Theatre Company will be presenting its winter production of Stop Kiss at Veteran’s Memorial Center. The play, which is directed by company member Betsy Raymond, shares similarities with a homophobic hate crime against a Davis resident nearly two years ago.
Written by American playwright Diana Son, Stop Kiss tells the love story of two women, Callie Pax and Sara, and how their relationship develops after being victim to a homophobic attack. The play, which debuted Off-Broadway in 1998, is told out of chronological order and alternates between moments before and after the attack.
Along with addressing themes of homophobia and love, Raymond says the play is also adamant in depicting themes of young adulthood.
“I was drawn to this play because I think it really personalizes an issue that has been made really impersonal in our national dialogue,” Raymond said. “The play doesn’t really make any effort to send a broad message, but I think just by connecting into this personal story people can extrapolate a broader message for themselves.”
Although the play is primarily set in the women’s New York apartment, Raymond said she’s putting her own artistic twist on it by including elements of other New York areas and spaces. The production will also hold post-show discussions in order for audience members to discuss the deep themes the play touches on.
The play shares similarities with the alleged homophobic hate crime in Davis against Lawrence “Mikey” Partida in March 2013. Partida, a Davis resident, was brutally assaulted physically and verbally near his home in Old East Davis. Although Raymond acknowledges that there are parallels between the attack and the play, she was clear that the incident was not the reason she chose this production. She notes that she is aware of the play’s context in the Davis community and chose to include post-show discussions for this reason.
“I don’t know if [the attack] changes our interpretation of [Stop Kiss], but I think it does enrich our experience of producing this play and our sense of what kind of dialogue we want to bring to the community,” Raymond said.
Danielle Schlenker, who plays Callie, finds that this story is dear to her heart because she has aunts who have been married since Schlenker was a child. She also praises the story for simply focusing on the love between Callie and Sara as opposed to depicting Callie’s sexuality as a crisis of which gender she is attracted to more.
“For me the idea of people being discriminated against in the LGBT community is ridiculous because I grew up with [non-heteronormative relationships] as completely normal,” Schlenker said. “It’s also a story about love and not a story about how love is different for people who are lesbian or gay or anything in [the LGBTQIA] community.”
Although the story touches on serious topics, Eden Tomich, who plays Sara, says that the play is also funny and includes several humorous moments that are enjoyable for the audience. Tomich also thinks this story is important because it shines light that hate crimes even occur in safer communities such as Davis.
“There are sad parts and it’s very serious and it’s colorful, but it’s also, at its heart, a very funny, touching love story between women who against all odds manage to find each other,” Tomich said.
Tina Simpson plays the role of Mrs. Winsley, who serves as a witness to the attack. Simpson encourages people to attend the play for humanization of victims of hate.
“I think it talks about the effects on an individual of a crime like this instead of just talking about it as just a statistic,” Simpson said. “It talks about the human impact.”
Acme Theatre Company’s production of Stop Kiss will continue at Veteran’s Memorial Center on select dates until Jan. 11. Tickets are $10 general, $8 student/senior, and can be purchased at the door or online at brownpapertickets.com/event/923065.