The F-Word and the Happy Life
Rapture, Blister, Burn lays out all the options
Did feminism really change anything? Do we even want it to? Over 50 years after Betty Friedan helped spark a second wave with The Feminine Mystique, we're still arguing about the morality of birth control and telling young women to “spend far more time planning for your husband than for your career.” (Gag.) As it happens, a fiercely funny, Pulitzer-nominated play is onstage right now in Albuquerque, tackling questions like these without resorting to flimsy stereotypes or strident manifestos. Rapture, Blister, Burn at the Aux Dog Theatre isn't just clever—it's nuanced, thoughtful and uproarious. I asked Aux Dog's producing artistic director Victoria Liberatori about the play, whose run comes to a close this weekend.
Let's start off with a biggie: The Aux Dog website asks, "Are you afraid of the F word?" and insists this "is not a 'feminist' play." Why shouldn't audiences be afraid of the lady-problems in Rapture, Blister, Burn, and how soul-crushingly sad is it that you even have to explain that?
Victoria Liberatori: Feminism has always gotten a bad rep as a man-hating, humorless, strident political movement for unfulfilled upper-class women. Was any movement for civil rights a laugh riot? However untrue, that label has stuck and, if anything, Rapture, Blister, Burn seeks to dispel those misperceptions and succeeds in debunking the dreary women's libber image. The show is funny, sexy and not at all preachy. Yes, it's sad that the image was falsely created and promoted by anti-feminist forces in the media, government and business. It's also shocking that we're still fighting the same battles today for equal pay, for access to abortion and for equal representation in our government, on corporate boards and in the media.
The New York Times says Rapture, Blister, Burn contains "a joke about pornography and Google maps — believe it or not — that’s worth the ticket price alone." What do you think is the key to the humor in this play?
VL: Unflinching honesty in the eye of hypocrisy and the fact that the real wisdom comes from the mouth of the youngest character in the play, Avery, a 21-year-old. The playwright, Gina Gionfriddo, has brilliantly interwoven the perspectives of three generations of women and that of the sole man in the play. When these points-of-view clash there are great comedic explosions!
Tell me a little about what your actors bring to their roles in the Aux Dog rendition of Rapture, Blister, Burn. What would you most like Albuquerque audiences to take away?
VL: The actors all do an amazing job of inhabiting these funny, neurotic, complex characters, yet they bring their own unique personal qualities to the roles. Our Catherine, played by Sheridan Johnson, is a high-strung academic rock star; Gwen, played by Jessica Osbourne, is a dreamy stay-at-home mom who feels she deserves more; Don, played by Ryan Montenery, is an attractive, charming slacker who settles for being a dean at a fourth-rate college; Avery, played by Sara Rosenthal, is a 21-year-old prophet of sorts who wants to be a reality TV star; and Alice, played by Gail Spidle, is Catherine's mother who just wants her daughter to be happy no matter how much must be compromised. The characters in this play are so rich in nuance and depth. What a joy to work with our director, Kristine Holtvedt, on them.
The take-away, I suppose, although I hope the play touches each audience member in a way that resonates for them, is that the grass is not always greener in someone else's garden and that we simply cannot reclaim the past no matter how much we want it. Creating a life that's happy isn't easy, but we must try.
And finally, what are you most excited about on Aux Dog's horizon?
VL: Launching our new Shakespeare classes with Jerry Ferraccio and our new acting classes with Jessica Osbourne in our new space, the AUX BOX next door to the Aux Dog. Solidifying our Aux Dog Theatre Company of actors, designers and production personnel, and building on the incredible success we had in 2013! Expanding our audience base and taking on new, challenging projects that excite us and our audiences is always a goal.