‘Stop Kiss’ and ‘Yellow Face’ Challenge Homophobia and Racism

Photo by Carolyn Brown '16 | “Stop Kiss” centers around a love story between protagonists Callie and Sara.

Photo by Carolyn Brown ’16 | “Stop Kiss” centers around a love story between protagonists Callie and Sara.

 

Eliza Going ’18
Staff Writer

This weekend, the Smith College Department of Theater is sponsoring two studio productions: “Stop Kiss” and “Yellow Face,” both of which deal with the controversial topics of homophobia and racism.

Diana Son’s play “Stop Kiss” follows the love story between Callie, a radio traffic reporter in Manhattan, and Sara, a brand-new teacher at a public school in the Bronx. When they share a first kiss on a walk very late at night, Sara is the victim of a brutal anti-gay hate crime, leaving her in a coma.

Although the story is centered around this act of violence, at its core it is a love story. Part of the reason director Jennifer Sturley ’17J chose this play is because it reminisces about falling in love.

The representation of a same-sex relationship with complexity and humanity is not common enough in theater. Callie and Sara’s relationship arc goes beyond the easy label of a “lesbian relationship,” which makes it an important play for anyone to see, regardless of their sexual identity.

Aside from its focus on same-sex relationships, “Stop Kiss” is particularly intriguing due to its non-chronological presentation, weaving together scenes from before and after the attack. The frequent switch between pre- and post-trauma is “a really difficult thing to do for an actor,” notes Sturley. Sara stands out as a dedicated portrayal of someone who has suffered an intense trauma spurred by hate and homophobia.

“Stop Kiss” also draws attention to serious anti-gay violence that happens outside what many consider Smith’s “rainbow bubble.”

Also bringing social issues to the forefront, David Henry Hwang’s play “Yellow Face” tackles the under- and misrepresentation of Asian Americans in theater. The semi-autobiographical play follows Henry Hwang in his outrage against a white actor being cast as an Asian character in a play and given bronze makeup dubbed “yellow face.”

Although the play follows laughable characters, it deals with real issues surrounding Asian Americans in theater. The comedic tone of the play arises from discomfort in racially-charged situations and jokes, forcing viewers to think to themselves, “Why am I laughing at this?” Director Megumi Lee ’17 says, “If people laugh, I hope it’s because they recognize something [problematic] in their or someone else’s behavior.”

Lee also mentioned uncertainty about her own prospects in pursuing theater as part of her reason for picking this play as a theater studio production. She said it “hits the nail on the head about so many things about being an Asian American, or an ‘other’ in America.” She also said she hopes this play “can start a conversation about the role of Asian Americans in this country, not just in theater but also general society and politics.”

Elizabeth Haas ’17, who plays several roles in the play, appreciates the incredible Asian talent “not just onstage, but put into production.” This representation is so important to encourage Asian actors, directors and producers to pursue careers in theater.

“Stop Kiss” and “Yellow Face” are honest, relatable and socially aware, as well as enjoyable.

Both of the plays will be performed at 7:30 in Acting Studio 1, also known as the TV Studio. “Stop Kiss” will be performed on Thursday, Dec.10, and Saturday, Dec.12. “Yellow Face” will be performed on Friday, Dec.11, and Sunday, Dec.13. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.

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