AN INTERVIEW WITH KRISTIN KALBLI
We are thrilled to support Kristin Kalbli in her full-length directorial debut with Out of Box Theatre in June 2016 with Gina Gionfriddo's Rapture, Blister, Burn. Here are some insights into her thoughts on the play overall, the casting process, and why #RBBatOOB is a perfect fit. OOB: Why do you like working with Out of Box Theatre as a company?
KK: When Carolyn Choe first approached me about making my directorial debut with OOB, I was thrilled. I know OOB is committed to bringing brainy, challenging, and human stories OTP and I have been a part of that mission as an actor here since their second season. Directing was a natural progression for me and it only reinforces my experience of OOB as an artistically rewarding and energizing place to work.
OOB: What do you believe makes RBB perfect for Out of Box? Is it in line with the other shows that we consistently produce?
KK: OOB is such a gem in Atlanta theater, picking up scripts that challenge, dare, and push. There are in-town theaters that aren't doing the sharp work OOB is doing. Rapture, Blister, Burn is a fantastic fit because it challenges both sides of the feminist equation, and leaves us with no clear answers. If anything, it asks us to think deeply about the discrepancy between what feminism told us was possible, and what it could realistically deliver. That will rankle and challenge people on either side of the feminist coin. And, as a theater company, OOB does not back away from a challenge!
OOB: What first drew you to the script and story of Rapture, Blister, Burn?
KK: This script is so "right now." The word "feminism" is loud in the cultural zeitgeist right now. It is being debated/embraced/rejected/decried by a whole new generation of Americans. Beyonce and J-Lo have declared themselves feminists, Cheryl Sandberg is exhorting women to "Lean In" to their careers, Kim Kardashian is pushing buttons and boundaries and stirring debate on what being a sexually liberated woman really means, and we are on the verge of possibly electing our first female president. Rapture, Blister, Burn injects us right in the middle of this discussion, asking us to examine our own relationship with feminism, and consider what ground feminism has gained for us as women (and men), but perhaps more interestingly, what feminism has left undone or outright failed to do. This is not a play that blindly endorses or embraces feminism, but rather a play that examines its naivety, imperfections, and the disillusionment that many women (and men) are left with when the promises of 2nd and 3rd wave feminism remain unfulfilled.
OOB: At auditions, what was something that called to you about one or more of the actors that are appearing in the show?
KK: There is so much acting talent in Atlanta, and casting this show was a real privilege. I was looking for a cast that could bring some heart and humor to each of their characters. Otherwise, watching these adults make some obnoxiously immature (even if understandable) life choices would be hard to stomach. These actors brought an extra dimension of vulnerability and relatability into the auditions. A good example is Zip Rampy in the role of Don. Don's character is quite an overgrown man-child, but Zip gives him a soft underbelly and a humility that helps us understand how men can buckle under the pressure to be "success objects" in today's culture, and opt out of "adulting" in self defense.
OOB: Has anything changed about your vision of the show as you've moved through the rehearsal process?
KK: I am more and more astounded at the depth and nuance of Gina Gionfriddo's deconstruction of feminism in this play. As the cast and I have worked over the weeks, we are constantly discovering new and deeper layers of questioning, disillusionment with, and re-affirmation of the brave new world of gender equality. But even more interesting have been the very personal discussions of the cast early on. As real women in the world (and one man), we've marveled at how our own ambiguous choices, and the ambivalence we have felt around them, mirror the choices of the characters in the play. We have made real choices between career and family, we know the haunting feeling of a missed an opportunity, the nagging uncertainty around life choices made, the spectre of the path not chosen that still whispers to us. The principal characters of this play get a chance to pull a George Bailey and see what life would have been like had they made different choices in their youth, back when the road forked. While some life choices may be affirmed, clarity remains elusive for these women.
-- Kristin Kalbli is an Atlanta-based stage and voice actor. She is grateful to be making her full length directorial debut here at OOB, with this script, and this cast. She was last seen on stage at OOB in last summer's production of Blackpool and Parrish. When she is not working in theater, she stays busy narrating and directing audiobooks. Thank you to the audiences who boldly venture out to support theater artists!