Theater Uses Feminist Quiz to Promote Play

If you have burned up even minimal time on Facebook, you have likely taken those ubiquitous quizzes that offer a whole new level of self-knowledge than anything available to  previous generations—from which city to which superhero you resemble most. The Goodman Theater in Chicago has made the most of this innovation to test one’s feminist-history IQ and make it fun for a popular audience: It’s recently released three quizzes on feminist waves: the First, Second and Third. Can you, for example, name the first country to give women the right to vote? The brand name of the first birth-control pill? The city where the first Slutwalk was held?

A goal of the quizzes is to promote the Goodman’s very entertaining production of Rapture, Blister, Burn, a comedy by Gina Gionfriddo in which feminist dialogue among generations is a basic plot device. (The title alone is a good test of Third Wave knowledge: It’s from a line in the 1998 Courtney Love and Hole song, “Use Once and Destroy,” which compares love to a drug trip.) Gabriela Jirasek, the theater’s new media manager who created the quizzes, explained that they provide a way to engage audiences in feminist dialogue without resorting to dead-end cliches:

The quizzes kind of came out of idea to talk about feminism without asking the same old question of, ‘Which is better, staying home or working?’ We wanted to educate people about some of the topics in the show before they came to see it, grabbing their attention early and building up some interest around our production.

The play, which opened in New York City in 2012 (and was the subject of a Ms. blog interview  in 2013 by Holly Derr), features Catherine,  a 40something professor and national expert on “raunch feminism”—which she defines as “the belief that women can empower themselves by embracing sexual behaviors that carried a stigma for earlier generations. Things like stripping, sex without commitment.” As Catherine leads a seminar on these issues, also commenting on the status quo is her mother, Alice, who champions not “giving away the milk for free,” and a less inhibited young student, Avery, who, at first cannot even begin to fathom that hidebound concept.

Such questions underlie the main one that Catherine asks outside of the classroom about her own life: about the personal sacrifices she has made for her career ambitions. For this reason, many critics have compared Rapture, Blister, Burn to another comedy, Wendy Wasserstein’s classic 1988  work, The Heidi Chronicles, which will open later this month in a new production on Broadway, starring Mad Men‘s Elisabeth Moss. I would also compare Rapture to Mad Men just by considering the non-stop alcohol consumption in virtually every scene—underscoring the play’s theme of equating love to intoxication.

So far the reaction to the quizzes has been enthusiastic, with more than 1,200 people taking the First Wave quiz alone. Some gender studies teachers, such as Kelly Stokes of the College of DuPage in suburban Chicago, have requested permission to use these quizzes in the classroom. Says Stokes, an adjunct humanities professor,

I plan to use the quizzes as an introductory activity to see how much my students know about feminism and the women’s movement in the U.S., and then proceed from there to give a brief history of it before we look at specific artistic contributions by women (e.g., Judy Chicago, Urban Bush Women, Guerrilla Girls, Cindy Sherman) and how the unique perspective of women and their experiences is revealed in their art.

Andi Zeisler, editorial/creative director for Bitch magazine and author of a forthcoming book on marketing and feminism, said this is the first online quizzes she has seen promote a play. And she proudly reveals that she scored an A-plus on the Second Wave quiz.

How did YOU do on the quizzes? Let us know in comments below.

 Play photo by Liz Lauren


Paula Kamen is the author of four books and the play Jane: Abortion and the Underground, which has been performed at many college campuses. Her first book, Feminist Fatale, was about the importance of consciousness raising for the post boomer generation. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Women’s Review of Books and McSweeney’s, among others. She tweets @paulakamen.