Rapture, Blister, Burn – Get to Know Anya Kremenetsky

20% Theatre Company is thrilled to present Rapture, Blister, Burn by Gina Gionfriddo at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage April 26 – May 10, 2014. Over the past few weeks, we have given you the chance to learn a little bit about the artists involved in this production. In this final interview for Rapture, meet our show director, Anya Kremenetsky!


Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background? How/when/why did you get into theatre?  

Theater is something that’s always been part of my life…I remember my parents taking me to shows at The Children’s Theater…I was completely enchanted and wanted to be up there doing what they were doing.  I think I was in my first play at the age of six.  I started out as an actor, and became interested in directing once I realized that I had a hard time focusing only on the role I was playing.  I  wanted to be involved in all the elements of the production from start to finish, and in the creation and shaping of the show as a whole.  I studied at George Washington University in DC and the Atlantic Theater Company in NYC, and have been working in the Twin Cities as a freelance director/teaching artist since I settled back home in 2007.  Last summer I joined the History Theatre staff as Artistic Associate.

Have you worked with 20% Theatre Twin Cities in the past? How and in what capacity?

I’ve been a company member of 20% since 2008, and have worked on three productions as assistant director: Standards of Care, Perfect Pie, and Where We’re Born.

Tell us what originally drew you to the Rapture, Blister, Burn script. Why did you want to direct it?

I was drawn in right away by Gionfriddo’s dry wit…it’s my kind of humor…and if a play has me laughing in the first few pages, I’m hooked.  As I kept reading, I had this eerie feeling that she had broken into my apartment and read my journals…the characters in her play articulate things that I’ve been thinking and writing about in recent years…

I can relate very much to what they are experiencing…i.e. Catherine realizing that she’s devoted her entire life to her career, and now, facing the possibility of losing her mother…wondering if there’s some “wisdom in the natural order” – creating a new family to replace the one you lose.

These women are finding that the theories and ideals they’ve long held about how to structure their lives and build relationships don’t always work in practice.  They need to find ways to be realistic while NOT losing sight of their ideals.  I have not yet reached a point in my life where I can look back and lament the roads not taken.  I’m grateful to be in a place where I’m forging those roads and have the freedom to build the kind of life I want to live.  Sometimes that freedom can be terrifying and the pressure to make all these decisions paralyzing!  But I’m not complaining, as I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What do you hope the audience will walk away from this production knowing, feeling, thinking, etc.?

Gionfriddo crams a LOT of food for thought into this play.  It’s very dense material, which is why it’s been fascinating to dig into throughout the rehearsal process.  Every audience member will walk away with something different – moments that pop, lines that strike a nerve, kernels of wisdom they might apply to their current experience… I don’t believe this play has any set message to instill into the audience…  for me, it’s a play about questions – not answers.  I hope the audience leaves the theater with much to think about and much to laugh about.

Rapture, Blister, Burn is often called “a feminist play.” How would you describe the play? How do you feel about feminism and what it signifies today?

I don’t know what “feminist play” really means (I suppose it could mean different things to different people) and it seems like too simple a term to describe Rapture, Blister, Burn.  This is a play that explores a number of issues and choices women face in different realms:  career, relationships, family, sexuality, etc.  Gionfriddo examines these issues in the context of the feminist movement, and how it has evolved over the decades.

This play is not only about the experience of women, though – it touches on a number of universal themes:  “The grass is always greener on the other side,” what drives our life choices, how we find our unique way to happiness and fulfillment, the search for rules & theories to make all these decisions easier…   The one male character in the play experiences these things as thoroughly as the female characters do.

How do I feel about feminism? 

Interestingly, that’s something I’ve never really thought much about before starting work on this play.  Third-wave feminist writers Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards said it best:  “The presence of feminism in our lives is taken for granted. For our generation, feminism is like fluoride. We scarcely notice we have it – it’s simply in the water.”

Though I’ve taken feminism for granted, I’ve never questioned whether I am a feminist.   I was having dinner with my dad and my grandma the other day, and I was telling them about this play…they asked me if I define myself as a feminist.  I said, “I don’t see how I could have the career I have right now and NOT be a feminist.”

I’ve heard negative perceptions of feminism expressed in the news recently, with prominent women declaring themselves not to be feminists because being a feminist is “too extreme.”  I’ve never seen feminism as a negative or extreme thing – I’ve found it to be a self-evident thing.  I believe the backlash is due to a misunderstanding of what feminism is.

It’s not about putting men down or pushing men away.  There’s nothing in feminism that’s inherently anti-male.  Pro-female does not mean anti-male.

Merriam-Webster defines feminism as:  “The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.”

That’s it.  Maybe some people would feel more comfortable re-naming that belief  to some word that sounds more gender-neutral.  Continuing to refer to it as feminism, however, serves as an acknowledgement of how things used to be, an appreciation of the progress that’s been made, and a reminder of how much work there is still to be done toward women’s rights.

What else do you do in the world, outside of theatre and/or working on this production?

My entire work life is wrapped up in theater in one way or another (and this I’m grateful for.)  Sometimes it feels like theater IS my life – especially in the non-summer months…and I have to remember to find balance and not get burned out.  Once the warm weather rolls around, though – I try to be outside as much as possible.  I’ve avoided committing to fringe shows and other summer productions for that very reason.  In the summer, I want to spend my time hiking, paddleboarding, camping, rollerblading, you name it – as long as it involves fresh air.