For his senior capstone project, theatre major Mark Christie ’18 is directing Stop Kiss, Diane Son’s 1998 drama about two young women whose first kiss changes their lives. The show runs March 30 and 31, in Tawes Theatre, beginning at 7:30 p.m.
The underlying story of “Stop Kiss” is a hate crime. Two women unexpectedly fall in love. Their first kiss provokes a violent attack, with one of them beaten into a coma. But the scenes that convey what happens before and after the attack, told out of sequence, convey a tenderly rendered love story with one of the characters rising to the challenge of the unknown
Mark Christie, a theatre major intent on a career in film, says he chose this play as his senior thesis production not only for its call for inclusivity, but because the protagonist has a message relatable to graduating seniors.
“As a black male, I can’t comprehend why people don’t like someone because of something they can’t control, so that was one factor. But the thing that made me really want to do this play was the main character. What we see throughout the play is Callie becoming a stronger and more confident person who makes her own decisions instead of letting others do it for her,” Christie says. “Initially, Callie was really passive. She was nervous to take that first step—just as many of us are as we’re about enter the ‘real world.’ That’s not a good way to live, and that’s what the other character, Sara, teaches her. Life is a huge risk, but once you make a choice, the world is like water. It will move around you. It will change for you. I think Will Smith said that.”
What Christie tells his actors, and what he would like to share with his classmates, is this: “You have two choices. Are you riding the bus or are you driving it? Are you sitting down and letting life control you? Or are you in charge?”
Christie is clearly behind the wheel. He has applied for several theatre apprenticeships and plans to take advantage of personal connections in Atlanta, where he hopes to land some auditions. With his mother’s support, he joined Backstage (a LinkedIn for theatre professionals), and sat for professional headshots. Once his show wraps up, he’ll record some monologues to bolster his portfolio.
“Hopefully someone will see some talent in me, because I know I see it! After that, I’ll get an agent and just start making moves.”
Christie loves to act and direct. But what appeals to him most about Washington College’s theatre department is the chance to collaborate with other artists. In his freshman year, he landed a role in Professor Dale Daigle’s show, Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.
“That was the show that made me want to do theater here,” Christie says. “It was a great show and so fun. The rehearsal process had such a good vibe. When the vibes are good, you get to see everyone at their best. It was awesome.”
This is when he also began to understand the importance of collaboration.
“It was an eye-opening experience,” he says. “It really opened me up to so many aspects of theatre that I had never thought about before. It’s not just about the actors. You can’t have a show without your set designer or your sound designer or your stage manager. Everyone works together to create something beautiful.”
Christie recognizes the risks inherent in pursuing a professional acting career. He’s all in. His mom—his “number one idol” along with Will Smith and Michael B. Jordan—took some convincing.
“At first, she was hesitant about me majoring in theatre but then she began to realize, as I do, that it’s not about the major you’re doing, it’s how bad you want it. How bad you want to be successful in life. And then she was all gung-ho.”
His theatre family is also behind him 100 percent.
“Mark is an extraordinarily smart and talented young artist,” says Dale Daigle, professor of theatre and director of the Gibson Center for the Arts. “It has been a joy to work with him for the last four years. In 10 years I suspect I will be saying to people, ‘Yes, Mark Christie went to school here.’”