Post Classifieds

PSU Puckers Up for “Stage Kiss”

By Sarah Liebowitz; A&E Editor
On November 17, 2016

Valerie Umbro and Jakob Stone (foreground) and Calysta Jacobs, Carolyn Hart
and Myles Parsons (background), in rehearsal for "Stage Kiss."

When two actors kiss each other 288 times, is it still an actor kissing an actor, or does it become a person kissing a person? In Sarah Ruhl’s “Stage Kiss,” the characters aren't sure anymore.

“Stage Kiss," directed by Holly Erin McCarthy (‘06), is showing this weekend at PSU’s Silver Center for the Arts through Nov. 20.

The show follows two actors who fall back in “love” after playing the romantic leads in a 1930s melodrama.

“I think it’s really tricky, for actors in particular, to separate their life in rehearsal and onstage from their everyday real life,” said McCarthy, “because in order to be convincing onstage, that needs to be real too. That’s sort of what this play is about.”

McCarthy describes playwright Sarah Ruhl as a modern voice. “Her stuff can be a little odd and a little absurd in some ways. It’s an interesting combination between this very real, contemporary dialogue, this very natural way of speaking, but then these very strange and unnatural situations.”

The show combines semi-realistic scenes with dream sequence and exaggerated comedy. Even the humor adds an element of truth. “There’s a lot of comedy in the show, and there’s a lot of comedy in real life,” said McCarthy. “Sometimes you have to laugh at the most horrible things.”

Jakob Stone and Valerie Umbro dance in a scene from "Stage Kiss."

The show also gives audiences a unique look into the performing world. Audiences get a glimpse of the theatermaking process all the way through: from the auditions and rehearsals, to backstage on opening night and the actor’s lives offstage.

This gives the student actors a unique challenge. “Being an actor who's playing an actor has been especially difficult because I have to remember, as an actor, that it’s not myself,” said Jakob Stone, who plays the character “He.”

Overall, the show is about relationships. “It’s about these relationships that you will have over the course of your life, that can be so filled with love, and yet, so really bad for you,” said McCarthy, “and sometimes it’s hard to get out of those. And you can get trapped in them. I think it’s valuable for anyone to see these characters who are able to escape from this bad relationship.”

The show’s portrayal of relationships is relatable to a wide audience. Audiences will see the show, and think “I’ve been in that situation before, or I’ve done this with the person I love,” said Stone.

Valerie Umbro and Leo Curran practice kissing in "Stage Kiss."

But the play has a special meaning for artists, actors and theatermakers. It portrays the challenges of living in reality, for an artist who is constantly in a world of skewed reality and make-believe.

“We artists, we actors, have to go to these extreme highs and lows onstage that we don’t necessarily get to in real life, sometimes ever, which can sometimes make the real world feel rather dull for artists, I think,” said McCarthy. “They try to seek out this drama and this passion, be it positive or negative, in their lives, and sometimes it ends up that they’re often in very volatile relationships in their real lives because of that, because they’re always kind of looking for drama that isn’t there in the real world, that they have onstage.”

“We as actors are always searching for that special romance that you only really get when you’re in a play,” said Valerie Umbro, who plays the character “She.” “[The play] shows how actors want to chase that special romance when they’re offstage. And I think it’s a really cool thing for people who aren't in theater to see, and see to why we do what we do.”

The director, Holly Erin McCarthy, graduated from PSU in 2006. “She’s an alumni, so it’s been really cool for us as actors to work with somebody who’s not that far from our age, and really gets it,” said Umbro.

McCarthy said that it feels strange to be back at PSU. “It feels like I’ve never left, but it also feels like it has been a really long time since I was here.” McCarthy recalled an icebreaker early in the rehearsal process, where everyone went around the table and shared stories of their first kiss. “My first kiss, I had to use a payphone to call my mom to pick me up afterwards, when I was 12,” said McCarthy.

Ethan Fifield looks on while Valerie Umbro and Myles Parsons perform a scene.

One actor shared a story about texting the person before they kissed. “I thought that was very funny, because it made me realize how much older I am,” said McCarthy.

People going to the show should expect a lot of laughs. “It’s such a great time. It’s hilarious, it’s relatable, but it’s also very heartfelt and real,” said actor Jakob Stone.

“How often do you get to see directors kiss their actors?” said Umbro. “There’s so many cool elements to the show, and I think it’s going to take people on a wild ride, and I think it’s a really good escape from your normal life.”

If for no other reason, people can attend the show to see the kissing. “There’s a lot of kissing,” said McCarthy, “which is fun to watch onstage.”

“Stage Kiss” will run Nov. 17-19 at 7 p.m., and Nov. 19-20 at 1 p.m., in the Studio Theater at Plymouth State’s Silver Center for the Arts. Tickets can be purchased at the box office in the Silver Center, or online at http:// www. plymouth.edu/silver-center. 

CLOCK PHOTOS/JOHN SULLIVAN

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