When Gina Gionfriddo’s Rapture, Blister, Burn opens in May 2013, three years will have passed since her Becky Shaw appeared on the Huntington stage. After directing Becky Shaw’s premiere, New York, and Huntington productions, Peter DuBois mounted Becky Shaw in London where it was hailed as a comedic bridge between the United States and the United Kingdom. Invoking Neil LaBute and Jane Austen in praise of Gionfriddo’s “cultivated panache,” theGuardian called the play, “astute, acerbic and richly funny.”
Supported by a Playwrights Horizons Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust commission, Gionfriddo began developing a new work in which a feminist scholar voiced misgivings about the corrosive effects of pornography. However, wary that drama might veer into lecture, she expanded Rapture, Blister, Burn to include a generational cross-section of women negotiating the pitfalls of academia and relationships in modern America.
Seth Fisher & Keira Naughton in Becky Shaw. Photo: T. Charles Erickson
In her January 2012 New York Times op-ed, Gionfriddo recounts that following a preview performance of Rapture, Wendy Wasserstein’s former assistant Jenny Lyn Bader told her that she wished Wendy had been able to see the new play, “taking up where The Heidi Chronicles left off.” The Heidi Chronicles, Wasserstein’s 1988 Pulitzer Prize winner, depicts a woman’s journey towards self-assertion as a feminist and single mother. Though Gionfriddo did not set out to respond to Wasserstein’s work, Rapture inevitably came to confront many of the same hopes and fears.
Yet the link between the plays also has a personal dimension. In October 2011, Gionfriddo gave birth to a daughter, Ava. “I did not write a homage to The Heidi Chronicles, and I do not endorse that play’s ending,” she wrote in the Times, challenging that play’s paradigm of empowerment through motherhood. “But I have a play and a baby that suggest otherwise.” The ongoing search for gender equality must go beyond the prescriptive or the reductive — as the intricacies of both Gionfriddo’s work and experience suggest.
Gina Gionfriddo's biting new comedy Rapture, Blister, Burn plays May 24 — June 30, 2013 at the South End / Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA. Learn more at huntingtontheatre.org/raptureblisterburn.