When director Kimberly Senior (above) made a splash on Broadway last fall with her rendition of Ayad Akhtar’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Disgraced,” those unfamiliar with her career might have assumed she was an overnight sensation. But Senior has been hard at work for 20 years right here in Chicago, where she founded Collaboraction Theatre Company and has worked at Steppenwolf, among others. This month, she makes her mark at the Goodman, directing Gina Gionfriddo’s “Rapture, Blister, Burn.”
Though the New Jersey native grew up thinking of New York theater as “the axis on which we all are just lucky to rotate,” she says that making her home in Chicago “has really opened my eyes and world view, and I am all the better artist and person for it.”
A resident director at Writers Theatre and an associate artist at TimeLine Theatre Company, Senior lives in Evanston with her husband, the play’s set designer Jack Magaw, and her two young children. The roster of work she’s undertaken ranges from Martin McDonagh’s “The Cripple of Inishmaan” to Amy Herzog’s “The Great God Pan.”
“I love a play with muscular language and characters who act almost impulsively to get what they need,” she says. “We go to the theater to see people behave in a way we can’t in real life, to say the things we would never say. I love plays that do that all while seeming so naturalistic.”
“Rapture, Blister, Burn” spins on the reunion of two grad school friends as they ponder the paths their lives have taken. Senior describes it as “a deeply personal story about regret, nostalgia and living life while you can.” If that makes it sound as if this show skews sad, not to worry. According to Senior, the play boasts “some of the funniest lines, situations and moments in the history of theater.”
It also examines the philosophy and practice of feminist principles and, in working on the piece, Senior had to re-assess her own notions of the independent and purposeful life. “On an intellectual level, it’s really moving me to a greater accountability, in particular the message I send to my daughter. On a personal level, I’m very challenged and excited by the questions the play asks: [such as] ‘Can you have it all?’ ”
‘Rapture, Blister, Burn’: Jan. 17-Feb. 22, The Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn. For tickets ($25-$81), call (312) 443-3800 or visit Goodmantheatre.org
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