20% Theatre Company is thrilled to present Rapture, Blister, Burn by Gina Gionfriddo at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage April 26 – May 10, 2014. Opening night is less than a week away! We are giving you the chance to learn a little bit about the artists involved in this production. Meet Christine Sweet in this interview!
Can you tell us a little but about yourself and your background? How/when/why did you get into theatre?
I was in an acting apprentice program in Boston many years ago. At age 25 I chose a different career path, radio broadcasting. I didn’t formally return to theater, i.e., auditioning, till a few years ago when I was cast in Freshwater Theatre Company’s Desperation Panties, directed by Claire Avitabile. Since then I’ve had roles in several Twin Cities theater productions, and it’s been like coming home. I am absolutely thrilled to be part of 20% Theatre’s production of Rapture, Blister, Burn.
Tell us a little about the character you will be playing in Rapture, Blister, Burn.
Alice is the 70-ish mother of the lead character, Catherine. She has recently had a heart attack but does not want to be fussed over. She is devoted to her daughter and only child, whom she gave birth to later in life, and her goal is Catherine’s happiness and comfort. Unlike her daughter she’s not highly educated nor career-driven, but she’s perceptive and independent and I don’t think she could have raised a child like Catherine without possessing those traits. She’s enjoyed being a mother and has accepted her traditional role, but some of her advice for Catherine is a little surprising nonetheless. I imagine that Alice had quite an independent life as a single woman before she married and became a mother.In what ways do you personally relate to this character?Alice is a character from my mother’s generation, or the generation between my mother’s and mine. I’m a Boomer who came of age during a time of tremendous social change, including the women’s movement this play references, and my goals were facilitated by the feminism of that time. My life has been very different from my mother’s. However, I’m quite familiar with a lot of the traditional expectations of women that Alice represents, because those influenced my childhood and early adolescence as well.
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?
Rather than a “feminist play”, I would call it a play about feminism. It’s also about anti-feminism. And the consequences of both – yes, there’s something for everyone here! And it’s not just for women! The play offers no pat conclusions but reflects back to us, through the views and experiences of three generations, the complexities of the places in which we continue to find ourselves. While it is a comedy, working on RBB has stimulated deep discussion among our cast and director, and I’m sure it will do so among audiences.
Personally, I owe some of my significant career opportunities in a male-dominated field to feminism. Regardless, it has not been an easy ride. There were few women in radio when I started, and it was uncharted territory. I could write a book. Maybe I will someday. I feel concerned when I hear some young women today wishing not to be identified as feminist, or with what they think the word means – I admit I’m not sure what it means to them. Feminism was and is about freedom and equal rights. It concerns me that we are still in danger of losing some of the rights gained by the women’s movement, even as we often take them for granted now. The sense of deja vu and “didn’t we already fight this battle?” is stunning and frequently discouraging. Like the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s, the struggle continues even while on the surface, so much progress has been made.
How do you personally balance the expectations of being female in our society with the concepts of feminism in your daily life?
Wow, I have so much to say about this, I couldn’t possibly cover it all here. The short version is, my life experiences have confirmed over and over that being true to myself is the most important thing to me. The point of feminism is having the freedom to do that, whatever it entails for me as a woman and whether or not all my desires coincide with feminist principles. Being told I can’t do something – a career, a sport, etc. – because I’m female was and is one of the most hurtful things I’ve ever heard in my life. But I never took it to heart, and feminism has helped me in that. Today in our society the opposite message is more prevalent, and I’m very glad of that.
What else do you do in the world, outside of theatre and/or working on this production?
I still work in radio, now as a producer after many years as an on-air host.
How did you get to Minneapolis? (Where did you grow up? Where are you from?)
I grew up in the Boston MA area and moved to Chicago in my late 20’s for a radio job. I’ve lived in the Twin Cities for over 30 years, having come here to work for MPR.