Digging into Rapture, Blister, Burn


Warning: Spoilers are uncovered during this digging

You may have already seen our production of Rapture, Blister, Burn or it may be on your list of activities this week (and if it is, get ready: you’re in for an amazing show). If you’re the former, we want to keep you thinking about the myriad of topics covered in the Pulitzer-nominated play. If you’re the latter and don’t mind some spoilers, read on!


The Title

While we know the play’s title comes from the lyrics of a Hole song, we still wanted to delve deeper into the meanings of these words in the context of the play.


  • An expression or manifestation of ecstasy or passion. Perhaps how Catherine feels about her affair with Don.
  • The final ascension of Christians into heaven during the end-time, according to Christian theology. This is not a religious play, however Catherine and Gwen do return to their rightful places at the end of the show.
  • The carrying of a person to another place or sphere of existence. This seems to relate to when Catherine and Gwen try switching lives.


  • To criticize or rebuke severely. We certainly see the characters criticizing each other for the way they’ve chosen to live their lives because each generation and each character thinks they made the right


  • To be damned. These characters may not actually be damned, but it does feel like they are stuck in the lives that they had made for themselves - lives that didn’t necessarily make them happy or fulfilled.
  • To consume rapidly, especially to squander. In their desperation to see if the grass truly is greener, it feels like Gwen and Catherine have squandered the lives that they had already built for themselves.


Rapture, Blister, Burn ProductionThe Feminist Conversation

This play is absolutely saturated with feminist conversation, but there are some underlying feminist themes that you might not have noticed.

  • Don is a prime example of how patriarchy and gender inequality harm men. Feminism is not just about women, it’s for everyone. It’s about bringing women up to an equal level with men. Men have naturally been put on this pedestal, but the thing about patriarchy is that it hurts everyone - the expectations and pressure put on men to be strong, masculine and a provider hurt men in unequal ways to women, and feminists fight for them too.
  • Catherine in particular struggles with a possible desire to be mother. Is it right for her? Is it too late? Just because you’re a feminist doesn’t mean you can’t be a stay at home mom. But it means you have the option to be treated equally to men regardless of what you do.
  • If you’re involved with the fight for equality, one key is to know the difference between feminism and humanism. Check out this great article that breaks it all down.
  • Connie Britton, star of ABCs Nashville, has teamed up with The Representation Project and the #AskHerMore campaign to create this hilarious video explaining the secret behind her beautiful hair. (Spoiler: It’s feminism.)


Extra Nuggets of Knowledge

  • Playwright Gina Gionfriddo didn’t originally set out to write a play about feminism. “I thought I was going to write a play about pornography,’’ she says. “I was reading books about the ramifications of hard-core porn being readily accessible, and the books sort of pointed to the way pornography fractured the feminist movement in the late 1970s.”
  • In 1842, Robley Dunglison's Medical Lexicon: A Dictionary of Medical Science coined the English term "pornography," defining it as "a description of prostitutes or of prostitution, as a matter of public hygiene." Within a decade, the word gained widespread use as a general term for sexually explicit material - possibly inspired by the French term pornographie, which had already taken on that meaning.


Rapture, Blister, Burn brings feminism, pornography, cross-generational debates, and a whole lot more to the table. What could be better?