The Free Press, Mankato, MN

January 30, 2014

MSU actor inhabits complex role in dark musical

'Kiss of the Spider Woman' debuts today

By Tanner Kent
tkent@mankatofreepress.com

---- — In "Kiss of the Spider Woman," the evocative musical that opens today at Minnesota State University, Sam Stoll has to push his performance boundaries.

Playing the role of Molina, an unabashed homosexual serving time in a Latin American prison alongside hardened revolutionary Valentin, Stoll's character harbors elaborate fantasies that help him escape the barbarities of incarceration. His most recurring fantasy is of an actress, the Spider Woman, who kills with a kiss. Though at first Valentin is loathe to listen to his cellmate and his fantasies, Valentin gradually submits to a sort of romance with Molina that is shattered when political forces intervene.

The role demands wide range from the part of Molina, whose role is juxtaposed between the prisoner surrounded by violence and brutality and the dreamer whose fantasies provide the fodder for the musical's "Hollywood-esque" dance numbers (as director and MSU theatre instructor Paul Hustoles put it).

But as a senior musical theatre student and veteran stage performer — Stoll was, for instance, the only sophomore cast in a main role for the 2011 production of "Rent" — he said he is certainly open to the challenge.

The Free Press caught up with Stoll before final rehearsals to get a few thoughts. The following is an edited and condensed transcript of the conversation:

The Free Press: What drew you to "Kiss of the Spider Woman" and the role of Molina?

Sam Stoll: I was intrigued because it's so bizarre and so different. ... For me, Molina fits me vocally. But I also went for him as a character because it's such a good acting role.

TFP: Is it difficult to swing between the extremes of getting tortured in one scene, and then performing a musical number in the next?

SS: It's not very difficult, but it's different — so it takes some getting used to. One moment you're in this fantasy and the next you're in a prison hearing male screams. For me, I have to be on my toes because there are so many roles to play.

TFP: Do you have to prepare any differently for portraying a homosexual romance, rather than heterosexual one?

SS: Before I started, I thought it would be more difficult. You have to communicate and you have to be on the same page. In the end, it's just mechanics. During "Legally Blonde," I had to kiss (fellow MSU theatre student) Callie Syverson every night and she's one of my best friends. So, you just have to communicate.

"Kiss of the Spider Woman," which contains mature language and themes, opens at 7:30 p.m. today in the Andreas Theatre. Additional showtimes include 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 5-8, and 2 p.m. on Sunday as well as Feb. 8 and 9. Tickets ($22 regular, $19 for seniors and youth) are available at MSUTheatre.com or the box office, located in the lobby of the Earley Center for Performing Arts. For info, call 507-389-6661.