Venus in Fur
Historic Asolo Repertory Theatre
Written by David Ives – Directed by Tea Alagic’
The play inspired by Venus in Furs, Leopold Sacher-Masoch’s 1870 erotic novel, which became infamous after the author’s last name was used to coin the term “sado-masochism” for the interplay of sex and power depicted in the book.
90 Minutes of Good Kinky Fun – New York Times
Two cast members, 100 minutes and no intermission…..
A bleak stormy chilly day outside the Historic Asolo Repertory Theatre on Thursday April 4th, even though this storm continues throughout the set design and sound on stage – it won’t be long before Venus in Fur heats you up.
Scott Kerns plays Thomas; a playwright seeking the right woman to fit the part in his play. In walks Vanda played by Sarah Nealis; a frazzled actress looking to audition for the part yet she is late and must now convince Thomas to allow her to audition because she is perfect for the part. The play takes you through numerous power plays between desire, seduction, power and sex.
The play was inspired by Venus in Furs, Leopold Sacher-Masoch’s 1870 erotic novel, which became infamous after the author’s last name was used to coin the term “sado-masochism” for the interplay of sex and power depicted in the book.
When you go see a play it takes a team of people to put it on. I like to highlight different people throughout the production who have helped make it happen, a behind the scenes approach. After the play I had a chance to speak with Sarah Pickett; Sound Designer about her role in the play and what it takes on her end for the show to come together.
How long have you been preparing for the show?
The actors are in rehearsal for the past three weeks, but we start design process earlier than that. Drew is the scenic designer; he’s probably the earliest one who starts in the process because they have to get the drawings to him to build the scenery. We start the design process at least 5-6 months in advance, the actors start rehearsing about three weeks before we go into the technical part of the rehearsals which we have been doing for the past week.
We’ve been in the space doing lights and sounds for the last week and we’re still making changes, in fact were making significant changes before we open tomorrow.
That’s the whole point of a preview?
Yes, so we can hear how the audience responds, where we need to finesse things and clarify our story telling.
What did you see tonight that you have to tweak by tomorrow evening?
Were working on the end sequence where she becomes Aphrodite / Venus –‘Hail Aphrodite’ – it’s an interesting transition, because she unleashes her power and there is the question, who is she and how did she manifest – sort of ambiguous on purpose – trying to get that just right so it’s powerful yet leaves the audience questioning is what were charged with, so again we are clarifying storytelling.
You’re doing that through sound?
Sound, lights and some scenic elements, for example the curtain billows and the lights flicker and there is a whole bunch of sounds – car alarms, rain, crackling of lightning, thunder and there all natural elements occurring in the space and that’s what we’ve been playing with. We started out with some more fantastical elements, but we decided we wanted it to come from the space they are in.
The thunderstorm today, did that inspire you?
It’s always great to hear the real thing – some of the rain in the play I recorded and some of it’s practical – there is actual rain falling on stage that you can see –it sort of sounds like rain when it hits the bottom, then I add more rain on top of that.
What advice can you give to someone wanting to fill your shoes as a sound designer?
I’m actually a professor of sound design – everything from being super aware of the world around you, to closing your eyes and just listening, becoming hyper-aware of things that are happening around you. For instance now around us – the reverberation in the space – you know there is marble tile because of the way the sound reflects and when you are aware of that, when you work in theatre you use your imagination to support the storytelling.
Where are you sitting or standing when you make the decisions.
We sit in the orchestra section during the day when we tech-it, we have tables and computers. We sit in different places tonight I was up on the 2nd floor.
Do you listen to the audiences reactions as well?
Yes, sometimes I can see them –When it’s funny, you know they can hear – they can hear the actor, that’s what you want. Also that there in the right frame of mind – they feel it is funny. How they respond we can tell what we need to work on to clarify.
Did you feel like this audience didn’t get it?
Last night’s audience laughed at different things that this audience did. You bring so much to it with your own personal experiences, especially with this play and its sexuality. We all have different experiences and views of the world – how you view male female dynamics, depends how comfortable you are in public.
Sometimes the quiet sleepy suburbs is where this stuff emerges. You’d be surprised. That’s what’s interesting about this material. I was actually surprised the first night they were very vocal and laughing.
I took a friend of mine, Jennifer Regan-Kelly with me to this play. I respect her opinion as she has been involved in the theatre her whole life. I asked her what she thought of the play, granted she had no idea what the show was about. Sometimes it’s nice to not know, then you have no preconceived notions or expectations.
Jennifer: I was very impressed with the set design – the acting initially set me off – in the beginning I was thinking, “I have to sit through this for two hours,” then it started to make sense what they were trying to show.” Very impressed with the sensitivity and sensibility of it, it was a little intense. Surprised!
Loved the writing – loved the brilliant timing, even down to the exact timing of the music and when the lights came down and the dramatic worlds.
I love parallel and to have them in these existing worlds (like layers) bilateral, chicken or egg theory which came first. You knew throughout who he was, but never knew who she was, it leaves you wondering.
Well done, really like the directorial choice. The writing to me is the best part.
What I loved about the play is how Vanda lives in the moment and isn’t afraid to be who she is. If you see one play, be sure this is the one! Ticket can be purchased at www.asolorep.org
SMART * SEXY * HILARIOUS – VOGUE