Students explore tale of queer love in Lab Series production ‘Stop Kiss’

“It’s a very honest and innocent love story, [and] I don’t feel the LGBTQ community gets that very often,” student director Rachel Gold said about the tale of love between two women. 


Austin Patterson, The Exponent

Seniors Bennie Bender and Emily Polcyn in rehearsal for “Stop Kiss.”

Baldwin Wallace students explore different kinds of love and relationships in “Stop Kiss,” a student-mounted production set to premiere on Feb. 9 in Loomis Hall Room 177.  

Senior Rachel Gold, a BFA acting major, directs Diana Son’s 1998 play, a budding love story between two women living in New York City during the late 1990s, a point in history filled with much animosity toward the LGBTQ community.  

“It’s a very honest and innocent love story, [and] I don’t feel the LGBTQ community gets that very often,” Gold said. “I think that this particular love story is one that’s not represented in media as much as it should be, and you’re also going to see the cost of being who you are.”  

“Stop Kiss” uses a non-linear story structure in which Callie and Sarah’s journey of love is interwoven with a horrific gay bashing that leaves Sarah in a coma. However, Gold said that this hate crime is not shown during the play because the focus of the play is not on queer trauma.  

Senior BFA acting student Bennie Bender, who plays Callie, said, “You sort of have this split scene that interweaves together, where you see first the love story evolve, but then it’s interspersed with the scenes of after what happens.”  

This production of “Stop Kiss” is a part of the Lab Series, in which students have no budget and must find their own props, costumes and supplies. In addition to this, the Loomis Acting Studio, room 177, is a small space to fit both actors and an audience.  

Junior Taylor Lang, who is the stage manager, said that the intimate space provides the challenge of putting the entire world of a play into a small space. However, it is an opportunity for the actors to deliver a nuanced performance to an audience that is right in front of them.  

“It’s just people on a stage speaking their truth, and it’s really exciting to see that, especially with such a deep and thoughtful show,” Lang said.  

“Stop Kiss” explores many different types of people and the relationships between them, and Gold said it is her job to try and find the good in all the characters in order to understand them.  

“It gives me a better world understanding [of] how different people think because, you know, we all think we’re right in every aspect of our life, so fictional characters wouldn’t be any different,” Gold said. “And as the director, I have to know why they’re right.”  

Junior acting major Jason Diers plays Detective Cole, a character he said is considered by most to be the villain in the show. The environment in the rehearsal room is one without judgment, which Diers said is helpful when exploring his character.  

“The biggest challenge is playing a man who just doesn’t understand and is so insensitive,” Diers said. “Detective Cole uses empathy as a tactic to do this job … eventually you see him just snap and [he] doesn’t care about anyone’s situation or feelings.”  

Gold said: “I love talking about the relationships between characters. We talk about the scene, and we talk about the emotional states that everyone is in and their objectives in the scenes and the relationship that they have with their scene partner.”   

Lang said that working with a student director is fun because she gets to see the director’s ideas when they are “most fresh and new,” and it is interesting to hear other students’ stories when discussing the events of the play.  

“I like being able to work with a small group of people,” Lang said. “It’s really nice to be able to be free about our thoughts … especially with the subject matter. I think a lot of students can relate to it.”  

Bender said that it is nice to perform a play that will speak to an audience of people who “respect and understand” the characters and their story.  

“As a queer person, more specifically as a lesbian, it’s … not as common to see queer stories up on the stage,” Bender said. “I think [“Stop Kiss”] centers around love and how liberating it is to finally find your person.”  

Because “Stop Kiss” is set in a post-AIDS epidemic New York City, it provides insight into the challenges facing an LGBTQ person during that time, an experience that many continue to face today.   

“It will be both heartwarming and heart wrenching,” Diers said. “I’ve gotten a glimpse into what it’s like to not be accepted. … It’s very eye opening, and I learn a new thing every time.”  

Bender said: “The show is all about relationships, and it’s all about how we find each other and what we do to keep each other happy and safe, … so I really think audiences can look forward to just seeing those connections and seeing that love throughout everything.” 

 “Stop Kiss” will run Feb. 9-12 in Loomis Hall room 177. Tickets are free and can be reserved here.