By Diana Son
Directed by Claire Breger-Belsky
Lights by Jamie Tippett
Set by Annie Kao
Costumes by Griffin Somaratne
Photos by Frank Chen
[wit]: a gender-conscious theater company
Nitery Studio Theater, Stanford, CA
ABOUT THE PLAY:
Sara and Callie are walking through New York City's West Village very late at night, when they share their first kisses. This leads to a vicious attack by an angry bystander, in which Sara is horribly injured. She falls into a coma, which becomes one of the major subjects of the play. George, Callie's good friend, tries to help with the situation, but there is little he can do. Peter, Sara's ex-boyfriend from St. Louis, comes to help nurse her back to health. Throughout Stop Kiss, relationships are explored, formed, and even ended. Diana Son elaborates on the depths of human emotion and compassion in this play.
THE DESIGN PROCESS:
I initially signed on to Stop Kiss as the lighting designer. Having worked as an assistant lighting designer and spent a lot of time as a lighting technician, I wanted to try my hand at lighting design. At the time I joined the project, there was not a sound designer attached. As the process went on, it became increasingly less likely that they would be able to find a sound designer, so I took on the position, with set designer Annie Kao as my associate designer. Though the design process was abbreviated, it was helped by both my familiarity with the production and my close relationship with the director.
Stop Kiss consists of 23 short scenes, alternating between scenes before and after the attack. Because of this, transitions, both logistical and emotional, were essential to the flow of the play. For this play, I composed around 25 snippets of loopable, transitional music and worked with the director to match each piece of music to the appropriate transition, editing and creating new pieces where necessary. Since we didn't know exact transition times prior to tech (and we planned for transitions to get faster), nearly all of the transitions consisted of loopable music. I opted to use around 3-4 synthesizer to create all of them, creating a unified tone that contrasted with the overall warmth of the show.
Beyond these transitions, there were few other sounds that were called for in the script, primarily doorbells and phones, localized with speakers behind the set. The set was in an L-shaped configuration, so the system was designed with 2 inner and 2 outer channels to ensure all audience members had a true stereo from the main system. These were supplemented by a single overhead speaker, used for the sound of a neighbor clomping around, as well as for ambiences of New York City.
The primary challenge for the show was one of time. The show was designed on an abbreviated schedule, and while I was also the lighting designer. Though I had nearly every sound ready for the start of tech, it was still very time-consuming to have the same person making decisions for both of these departments. As a sound designer, I was unable to employ my usual method of taking advantage of lighting's holds to work ahead. Since the show was not very long, and the director and I had a good shorthand for discussing design, this did not hinder us too much in the initial tech process.
Where I personally struggled was in the refinement of design, both for lighting and for sound. I simply didn't have enough time between tech and opening to get all of the work done, especially on top of classes. This made me have to choose my battles and, ultimately, with the consent of the director, I chose to focus more on lighting since that was my initial goal with the project. Even with that shifted focus, I was ultimately satisfied with the design, especially since it pushed me firmly into the realm of composition for the first time.