If We Were Birds Interview: Director Lee Conrads

Through the lens of Greek tragedy, If We Were Birds presents an unflinching commentary on contemporary war and its devastating aftermath, particularly for the women who become its victims.

20% Theatre Company is excited to present this beautiful, shocking and brutal new play by Erin Shields at Nimbus Theater September 13-27, 2014.  Before and during the run of this show, we will be giving you the chance to learn a little bit more about some of the artists involved in our production. In this interview, meet director Lee Conrads.

Director - Lee Conrads

Director – Lee Conrads

 

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

I did theater all through high school, but primarily as a costume designer. My senior year I (accidentally? — I’m a little fuzzy on how it actually happened) volunteered to direct a project for my theater class. I had never thought about being a director, but it was the most fun I’d ever had. At the time I was in the throes of college application season and pretty stressed about having no clue what I wanted to do with my life. The idea that I could be a director as a profession started to percolate and I think my 17-year old self is still a little shocked that it’s actually happening.

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

My very first interview for a theater job when I moved to Minneapolis was with 20% Theatre –and I got the best “no” I’ve ever gotten. From my interview, I was ultimately offered an ASM-ing position for The Children’s Hour at the JCC. But then I directed two monologues for The Naked I: Insides Out last winter, and got to hang out with Rapture, Blister, Burn as the house manager last spring.  To be directing is an absolute dream-come-true!

Tell us what originally drew you to the If We Were Birds script. Why did you want to direct it?

When I first read If We Were Birds, it felt like a play I had been looking for for a long time. I am really interested in telling stories that ask us — as audiences and artists — to sit with difficult situations and complex problems to which there are no easy answers, with the hope that that exposure makes us gentler, more empathetic and compassionate humans. But I also have an almost evangelical interest in classical and historical theater. Too often when those plays get produced they are put on a pedestal of “how theater used to be;” I’m really excited about finding ways to resurrect ancient (or even just old–this is as applicable to Ibsen and Shakespeare as it is to Classical drama) stories such that they have the same effect on modern audiences as they had on the audiences they were written for, without compromising the forms of their essential Classical-ness. It is incredibly rare to find a play that does both of those things. If We Were Birds is very special.

If We Were Birds is staged through the lens of Greek tragedy. 20% Theatre Company does not generally produce classical work. What makes If We Were Birds an exception or more relevant 20%’s mission?

The most common reaction to this play from reviews I have read of other productions of this play is that it is a “contemporary take on a classical tragedy,” but I think it’s actually the opposite. One of the most classical elements of this play is the Chorus, which Shields has populated with characters whose stories are informed by the experiences of women who have been the survivors of sexual violence as a weapon of war in contemporary conflicts.  By weaving together past & present and fiction & reality, particular through the Chorus, Shields makes it impossible to write off this story as archaic. Two of the conflicts she draws on have happened within my lifetime, and likely all of them within the lifetimes of our audiences. To me this play is so clearly a classical take on a contemporary tragedy.

Did you have a specific vision for your cast during the audition process? What purpose does the chorus serve?

It was really important to me — and also really important to Shields — that the Chorus represents as broad a swath of womanhood as possible. So it was really important to me that we have as diverse a cast as possible in terms of age, race, body shape, various presentations & experiences of feminity and womanhood as possible. It was also really important to me that the cast as a whole have good chemistry and feel like a group of people who would be able to would be able to collaborate well.

20% Theatre Company produces plays with heavy subject material and/or controversial subject matter. Are there specific trigger warnings we should make audience members aware of?

Yes.

The worst case scenario is that this production causes any kind of harm; I think that is most likely in a situation in which someone comes to the production without knowing what they are getting themselves into and that experience is damaging to their mental health.

There is an enacted rape as well as graphic descriptions of violence–sexual and otherwise.

Shields never condones any of these acts–in fact, the play is really an 80-minute condemnation of them–but it is important to the storytelling that we look directly at the atrocities that are being discussed and face them head on. The production isn’t going to do anything to soften that, but I absolutely don’t want anyone to come to the experience unprepared.

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

One of the things I am really trying to let go as an artist is the idea that my art says something and my sucess lives or dies depending on whether the audience “got it.” There is a universe in which I am an insufferably didactic director and I don’t want to live there. So yes, there are some very specific things I am trying to say with this play (though some of it is also just me screaming into the void about injustice that I feel powerless to mitigate — there are ways in which this play is very cathartic) but it is far more important for me that the audience goes through the experience with us — with Philomela — and is forced to just sit with a terrible situation with no easy answers. And I hope that that experience makes all of us — audience & artists — more compassionate, more generous human beings.

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

Unfortunately, I am historically terrible at having a life outside of theater; I’m working on it. I do have a desk job as a “data-entry drone” that I am grateful for because it pays my bills. I was a history major in college, as well as a theater major, so I spend a fair amount of time being an insufferable know-it-all about historical matters. And I spent the month of June teaching backpacking to elementary and middle school girls at a summer camp in North Carolina. It was a blast so I am trying to remember to make time in my life for the outdoors.

What is your favorite thing about the Twin Cities?

I’m pretty sentimental about the skyline. Especially in the winter, when I am racing around — over scheduled & hating the weather — every once in a while a catch a glimpse of the skyline and maybe a really nice sunset and think, “wow, this is actually an incredible city.”

What is your favorite type of bird?

Probably the sparrow, less because of the actual bird and more because it is the central metaphor of one of my all time favorite books (go read The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell). I think I am way more into metaphorical birds than actual birds.

 

 

 

Advertisements

If We Were Birds Interview: Tara Lucchino

Through the lens of Greek tragedy, If We Were Birds presents an unflinching commentary on contemporary war and its devastating aftermath, particularly for the women who become its victims.

20% Theatre Company is excited to present this beautiful, shocking and brutal new play by Erin Shields at Nimbus Theater September 13-27, 2014.  Before and during the run of this show, we will be giving you the chance to learn a little bit more about the artists involved in our production. In this interview, meet actor Tara Lucchino.

 

Actor - Tara Lucchino

Actor – Tara Lucchino

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

I grew up near Pittsburgh PA in a suburb north of the city called Natrona Heights. I went to a tiny grade school and later graduated with a class of 32 from St. Joseph High School. When I was still in elementary school, there was an English teacher at St. Joe’s named Mr. Carosella (Mr. C. for short), who also happened to be the director of the plays and musicals that the high school produced. Mr. C. always invited our school to see the plays that the high school performed. I remember being in awe of these upper classmen and the shows they were able to work on. It was because of Mr. C. that I chose to go to St. Joe’s. He was able to get anyone, whoever they were, to go up on stage and tap into whatever raw talent they may have possessed. I don’t know how he was able to create magic out of thin air when he worked with us but he did.  He believed in us and he inspired us to think outside the box. He used to give his opening night pep talks and always ended his speeches with the simple wish for us that we would “sparkle”, and because of him, we had the courage to do so. It was his letter of recommendation that helped get me into Penn State’s School of Theatre.

What excites you most about If We Were Birds?

I love mythology and the ancient Greeks so I was drawn to this piece for those reasons, but particularly exciting is the modern spin this play takes on an ancient tale that’s still very relevant in the world today.  I’m also really looking forward to see where this piece will lead us creatively, as an ensemble. The group that we have gathered is incredibly talented and I’m really excited to see where the process leads us.

What is your role in the play? What do you think will be the most challenging and/or rewarding part of performing this role?

Being a member of the chorus, it is essential to work together as a collective consciousness. All of us need to be on the same page at all times. Early on in the rehearsal process we had several chorus rehearsals to work on just that, and it’s been really cool to see how we’ve all started to meld into a tight knit group. That said, we also need to develop our own distinctive individual characters. As a Greek chorus we are the voice of the people, but specifically in this play, we are the voices of all the women who never had their own voice, or who may have once had voices, but then had them taken away. We represent thousands and thousands of women who have been silenced. The biggest challenge will be to develop fully realized characters who are truthful to these women; To do all the research and do all the background work and in the end to be worthy to step into their shoes and tell their stories.

Tell us a little bit about the character.  Is this role similar to roles you have played in the past or will this be a stretch for you?

I am a servant woman in the chorus, The Mysterious One. I have chosen to create my character’s backstory by drawing on stories and accounts of survivors of the Armenian Genocide of 1915. In my research I came across a collection of beautiful poetry translated into English and written by Armenian women, some of whom were survivors of the genocide and some who wrote their poetry a generation after.  I was blown away by their tenacity of spirit and their style. The pieces are incredibly lovely and they were definitely a source of inspiration for me. I have done Greek Tragedies in the past and I have played incredible and amazingly strong women, but this character is not like anyone else. She has gone through so much yet she still stands strong and keeps on fighting. I’m excited to see how she continues to develop in this process.

What do you hope the audience will walk away from this production knowing, feeling, or thinking after seeing If We Were Birds?

I can’t really say what I want people to walk away feeling after viewing this show. There are a whole range of emotions that will be possible for people to carry out with them. What I want the show to do is to continue a dialogue. I want people to talk about what happens and I want most importantly for people to walk away with these stories. The stories of these women. They’re hard to hear and perhaps soul-crushing to even imagine, but in talking about them, at least we are taking a step in the right direction and we’re keeping their memories alive.

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

For the past two summers I have volunteered at a grief camp for children called Camp Erin. It is run by the Moyer Foundation and it does amazing work for children here in the Twin Cities Area and their families. For more information you can watch a documentary about the camp that was produced by HBO (and nominated for an Emmy this year) called One Last Hug.

I also enjoy reading, writing and and playing guitar. I recently collaborated on a few songs with a local singer-songwriter, Daniel Bonespur and you can hear me singing on his newest album entitled Dead People. You can check it out here.

Lastly, I play Janet in Rocky Horror Picture Show (the Twin Cities Shadow Cast) at the Uptown Theatre in Minneapolis. Shows are always the last Saturday of the month at 11:55 pm. Come and catch us. You’re bound to have an excellent time!

What is your favorite thing about the Twin Cities?

All the amazing people who have welcomed this Pittsburgh girl with open arms and who have made me feel so very much at home! Xxxx

What is your favorite type of bird?

For this show I have been studying Cranes. They are such beautiful and graceful birds and they have an air of mystery to them, which is perfect for my character. It’s fascinating to me that they pop up in mythologies in many different cultures all around the world. Watch a video of the Japanese Cranes doing their mating dances and it looks like a ballet. They’re all incredible birds!

 

 




 

 
 

 

 

If We Were Birds Interview: Anita Kelling

Through the lens of Greek tragedy, If We Were Birds presents an unflinching commentary on contemporary war and its devastating aftermath, particularly for the women who become its victims.

20% Theatre Company is excited to present this beautiful, shocking and brutal new play by Erin Shields at Nimbus Theater September 13-27, 2014.  Before and during the run of this show, we will be giving you the chance to learn a little bit more about the artists involved in our production. In this interview, meet our sound designer Anita Kelling.

Sound Designer - Anita Kelling

Sound Designer – Anita Kelling

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

I knew I wanted to be a part of theatre when I first realized that the stories on television weren’t real.  I wanted so very badly to make that kind of magic my whole life since.  It was a super secret wish for most of my life.  One I didn’t share with friends or family for fear it would never come true.  Fast forward to college!  I took a chance and fell in with the theatre crowd at Augsburg College.  I majored in theatre there but narrowly escaped without a degree.  I tried being a “grown up” for a while but I was miserable in an office setting.  My only joy was performing in a folk rock band. So, I went back to school and shifted my theatre focus from performing to sound.  It seemed like a really good fit for me.  Little did I know at the time just how much.

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

Yes, I have!  Both really wonderful experiences too. My first show with 20% was Where We’re Born and I also worked on Changes in Time.

Tell us what drew you to designing the sound for If We Were Birds?

I love a challenge and this is a challenging show.  There are so many things about this play that are uncomfortable.  My general rule of thumb is, if I am uncomfortable with something, I should do it.  There are some really powerful moments in the script that I think are nice opportunities for sound to make them even more powerful.

The play involves four main characters and a chorus of additional actors? Will sound play a part in differentiating the roles and personalities of these characters?

It is always my intention at the beginning of any design process to differentiate characters, places, moments, by changes in music.  Whether that be the mood, tempo, or even style.  At the beginning I think in very broad terms about changes and as other elements are introduced to me, like actors, sets, costumes, or colors, I refine my ideas.  I try to support the actors and the overall production. Sometimes that means I can really makes some bold choices about sound and sometimes my touch needs to be much more subtle. I never really know for sure which way it will go until we are nearly to tech week. Rarely the music I am drawn to at the beginning of a design project, remains in the design until opening night.

What do you hope the audience will walk away from this production knowing, feeling, thinking after hearing your sound design?

I hope that it doesn’t get in the way of their enjoyment of the production.  I hope they remember the actors performances and perhaps when thinking on those performances they have bits of sound from the show in their memory without realizing that it is there.  I hope they like the music, but aren’t distracted by it.

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

I’ve been pretty busy with sound design this year which is awesome.  I also help run the entertainment department of the Minnesota Renaissance Festival.  That takes over my summer and has for the last 6 years.  Other than that, I read a lot and write fiction a fair amount of the time.  I also have a folk duo called Briar.  We perform mainly out at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, but also the occasional coffee house around town.

What is your favorite thing about the Twin Cities?

You have to understand that I come from a small town in the east central part of Minnesota. We don’t have a stop light in that teeny town of about 1000 people. Nothing ever happened there and there was almost nothing to do. So my very favorite thing about the Twin Cities is the activity that is always present.  There is always someplace close to go and something to do.  People are all around rather constantly and they are always up to something interesting.

What is your favorite type of bird?

A hard choice.   Since my childhood it has been the red winged blackbird.  Seeing them clinging to cattails in ditches along my rural bus route, red winged blackbirds just remind me so much of home.  Lately, being a city dweller cardinals have become my backyard companions.  Whenever I do a backyard soundscape I often include a cardinal in the mix. Red winged blackbird calls are so distinctive and they really are only near water. I delight in being able to use them and those soundscapes are always special to me.

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!

Director

Director

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.

 

Rapture, Blister, Burn – Get to Know Grete Bergland

20% Theatre Company is thrilled to present Rapture, Blister, Burn by Gina Gionfriddo at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage April 26 – May 10, 2014. We are giving you the chance to learn a little bit about the artists involved in this production. In this interview, meet Grete Bergland!

Scenic Designer

Scenic Designer

 

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

I got into theatre as a overly energetic child and was hooked from the first minute. During college I found more belonging designing than I did on stage.

Tell us how you originally got involved with 20% Theatre Company?

I got involved last year during Changes In Time, when I worked as an intern.

What are you designing in this show? As a designer, what do you find most exciting about working with this script/production?

Scenic design.  The show examines feminism from a cross-generational perspective, examines choice and fulfillment, and manages to be pretty academic with a humorous edge. It’s casual, with a strong message.

What is your favorite genre or type of theater to design? What are some plays on your design “dream list”?

I like anything I can get away with taking in a more thematic direction and help visually illustrate the message of the show.

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?

It’s a discussion. Feminism has been evolving since it’s inception, and the show makes that a point.

How do you personally balance the expectations of being female in our society with the concepts of feminism in your daily life?

There are parts of me that would be considered traditionally feminine and others that would not. I do what makes me happy, and try to surround myself with people who do the same.

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

I like finding new places to eat, traveling, overcommitting myself and playing trivia games (although I’m actually pretty bad).

Favorite guilty pleasure snack?

DONUTS.

How did you get to Minneapolis? (Where did you grow up? Where are you from?) 

I was born in eastern Montana, grew up mostly near Tacoma, Washington, and went to school in Southern California. I never really know where to say I’m from since my life has been divided in a few places.

Rapture, Blister, Burn – Get to Know Jenna Rose Graupmann

20% Theatre Company is thrilled to present Rapture, Blister, Burn by Gina Gionfriddo at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage April 26 – May 10, 2014. Learn a little bit about the artists involved in this production. In this interview, meet Jenna Rose Graupmann!

Costume Designer

Costume Designer

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

My name is Jenna Rose Graupmann. I graduated last May from the University of Northern Iowa with an undergraduate degree in Theatrical Design and Production, as well as minors in Art History and French Language. Ever since I was old enough to hold a crayon, I’ve considered myself a visual artist, however, I’ve always been intrigued by theatre as visual spectacle meets storytelling. I became limitedly involved with theatre in high school, but it wasn’t until entering UNI that I discovered how well my artistic talent could accent the collaborative creativity of theatre.

Tell us how you originally got involved with 20% Theatre Company?

Rapture, Blister, Burn is my debut with 20% Theatre Company. While participating in summer stock in Utah in 2012, I heard about 20% Theatre and the thought-provoking plays that are produced there. After researching more about the company and others in the Twin Cities, I realized that I wanted to design shows that were not only entertaining, but which also shed light on contemporary societal issues. This knowledge also prompted me to move here after graduating from UNI to pursue a freelance career in costume design.

What are you designing in this show? As a designer, what do you find most exciting about working with this script/production?

I’m designing costumes for Rapture and am so thrilled to be working on this production with the company that first inspired me to move to Minneapolis/St. Paul. I’ve always considered myself a feminist, and so it was easy to fall in love with Gianfriddo’s script and the questions posed therein.

What is your favorite genre or type of theater to design? What are some plays on your design “dream list”?

My favorite shows to design are shows that raise thought-provoking issues with complex characters. Equally, however, I also love to design period shows with intricate costume needs. I would love to design a classic comedy like The Importance of Being Earnest, My Fair Lady, or Tartuffe.

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?

Feminism has always been a constantly evolving movement, serving every generation of complex women and their societal needs. The women of Rapture, Blister, Burn try to identify how feminist ideals have impacted their lives, only to discover that there are numerous, oftentimes contradictory, ways to exemplify feminism in everyday life. Today, many think that the “feminist fight” is over. This notion is completely absurd. The media still bombards our culture with patriarchal views: Katie Couric’s journalism is secondary to her wardrobe choices, action movie heroines are valued only for their sex appeal, domestic abuse and rape are the subject of jokes, and women still earn only 77 cents to every man’s dollar. Feminism has made a lot of progress if the women in Rapture can find fulfillment as stay-at-home mothers, activists, and students, but obviously not all of the questions posed by Rapture have been answered.

How do you personally balance the expectations of being female in our society with the concepts of feminism in your daily life? 

I think that by supporting myself financially, graduating from a university, and avoiding the media’s bombardment in television and popular magazines, I’ve upheld many expectations of what feminism means today. Granted, I probably still spend too much money on lingerie, clothing, and cosmetic products, and I quite enjoy when my boyfriend treats me to dinner, but I like to think that my priorities in balancing my agenda as a career woman and that of a silly 20-something girl are well placed!

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

In the world outside of the costume shop, I like to paint, visit art museums, ride my bike, and explore my new Twin Cities home.

Favorite guilty pleasure snack? 

My favorite guilty pleasure snack is a Tim-Tam slam. If you aren’t familiar with this Australian cookie-meets-hot-cocoa phenomenon, it’s high time you googled it!

How did you get to Minneapolis? (Where did you grow up? Where are you from?)

I’m originally from the Quad Cities and have visited family in Minnesota often. The vibrant theatre community prompted me to move to St. Paul post-graduation (see second question), and since then I have been delighted to call the Twin Cities my home.

Rapture, Blister, Burn – Get to Know Rachel Finch

20% Theatre Company is thrilled to present Rapture, Blister, Burn by Gina Gionfriddo at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage April 26 – May 10, 2014. Here is your chance to learn a little bit about the artists involved in this production. Stay tuned for more interviews from our designers and director. Before we open the show, hear from our last actor, Rachel Finch!

Actor

Actor

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

I got cast in a play in second grade. The Brave Little Tailor. It was all downhill from there. 🙂 Kidding. I got into it in High School. That was where I fit in. I made the decision to major in Theater Performance at Viterbo University, and I’ve been enjoying the TC theater scene ever since.

Tell us a little about the character you will be playing in Rapture, Blister, Burn.

Avery is so much fun to play – she’s got a LOT of attitude, and says exactly what she thinks. Other people might see her as rude, but she’s just really, really honest, and she misses nothing. Like it or not, you are going to get the truth from this girl.  She’s still figuring out what she wants, and really is in a place where she has a lot of freedom, but is maybe longing for some of the security that comes with a steady relationship. Learning that she doesn’t actually have all the answers throws her for a loop towards the end of the show, and we see her grapple with that too.

In what ways do you personally relate to this character?

I’m definitely in a place in my life where some of the big choices (family, marriage, career) are on my mind a lot. Even though she’s a lot younger than I am, Avery still has all those options in front of her too, and is deciding what path to take. And like Avery, I’m kinda fuzzy on what it would mean to call myself a “feminist” in 2014.

What is exciting about your character? What are some of the challenges that you, as an actor, are facing in portraying this character?

Her honesty and humor are my favorite things. You always know where you stand. The challenge for me here is playing someone who is so intelligent, but also really young. Avery struggles with things that aren’t clear cut, like the How-To’s of successfully navigating a long distance relationship with her boyfriend.

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?

This is a really hard question because there is SO MUCH in this script to talk about. I keep telling Anya that the talk-backs are going to be 4 hours long. Feminism is really personal – even in rehearsals, its hard to explain how you feel about it without referencing your own life experience. Our careers, our relationships, family life – these are the things we use to define our value. So it is really personal, and people get really defensive over labels like “Just a Housewife” or “Lonely Career Woman” and with good reason, because this is who we are. This show asks those hard questions about what should you pursue, and what will you give up to get it?

How do you personally balance the expectations of being female in our society with the concepts of feminism in your daily life?

I think being a “feminist” has a looser definition than it has had in the past. I love being a woman, think one of the best things is about it is claiming that right to choose your own path and not apologize for it. I get tripped up, however, over the Miley Cyruses of the world. Is that feminism, because its her choice to dress in skimpy clothes and twerk her ass off? Or is she simply creating a cheap image of women as sex objects to get media attention? There are arguments on both sides. The other aspect of feminism that I see is really body-focused. Fat-shaming, Skinny-shaming, Dove Ads versus Victoria’s Secret models: what is the image of a “real” woman? There’s a lot of conflict over this as well. Randy said this in rehearsal and I think it kinda sums it up: you see a female celebrity on the cover of People Magazine with an article about an unflattering photo of themselves in a bathing suit. In the article, they all say “This is my body and I’m proud of it!”…. and then they lose 20 pounds. We’re torn between wanting to embrace our bodies as they are, and also wanting to fit society’s standards of beauty. We’re a work in progress.

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

I work in Human Resources at Twin Cities Public Television. I’m a novice runner, and starting to train for the Women Rock 1/2 Marathon in August.

Favorite restaurant to eat out at in the Twin Cities?

Salut Bar American. Fabulous wine, and really good beef. When I want a hamburger or steak, this is where I go.

How did you get to Minneapolis? (Where did you grow up? Where are you from?)

I grew up in Blaine, and while I still go there to visit my parents, I never want to live in a suburb again. I’m a city girl, and I have an apartment on Grand Avenue in St. Paul. I’ve lived in London and New Zealand as well.

Do you have any pets?

I have a tuxedo cat named Groucho, and I am absolutely smitten with him. I was always a dog person, and now I’m one of those women with a picture of her cat on her desk at work. How did this happen?