Theatre UNB tackle the politics of gender and sexuality in latest production.
Theatre UNB continues its tradition of thought provoking, politically charged works with this week’s production of the David Ives dark comedy, Venus In Fur. Described by the New York Times as being “delicious” and a “suspense-packed study of the erotics of power”, this contemporary two-actor play took the theatre world by storm when it debuted in 2010 and became the most produced play in North America during the 2013-2014 season.
Venus In Fur tells the story of a young actress (played by Hilary Ready) determined to land the lead role in a new adaptation of the classic 1870 erotic novel of the same name. Her audition with playwright-director Thomas Novachek (played by Djordje Lepir) becomes what Canadian Stage describes as an “electrifying game of cat and mouse with the director, blurring the line between fantasy and reality and testing the boundaries between dominance and submission”.
“The play has enormous audience appeal, as has been proven with its popularity and the number of productions of it that have been staged around the world,” said UNB’s Director of Drama, Len Falkenstein. “It’s a combination of so many things that are the definition of theatrical: it’s suspenseful, surprising, funny, and at the same time very smart, hard-hitting, and topical in the issues it raises. It’s a work about how desire, sexuality, violence, and power all come together—very provocative stuff.”
“This play is political, but in a different way than some of the other works we have staged recently,” said Falkenstein. “It’s about the politics of gender and sexuality and how power relationships get played out both in the bedroom and in the context of how sexuality gets depicted and controlled in art and the performing arts – how male authors depict women and female sexuality in works of literature, theatre, or film, the way that the business of theatre and film are mostly controlled by men while women have less ability to control how they are depicted in these mediums and are frequently objectified as sex objects. Further, it’s a play that might make you think in critical ways about diverse but connected things as the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon, the Jian Ghomeshi scandal, and the way that sexual assault and misogyny became an ugly part of the recent U.S. election campaign.”
Kyra-Brynne Lake will make her directorial debut with this production. Lake, a third year student at UNB, has been involved in dance, theatre and film and finds directing one of her favourite aspects of theatre.
“I love the thrill and rush of being under the hot stage lights but there is something to be said about leading individuals on stage and working together to create a piece that the audience feels something toward,” she said. “This directing project has taught me a lot about my directing and how I can continue to improve in the future.”
Lake and co-producer Jessica Vienneau chose this play from a number of options provided by Falkenstein. While it’s considerably smaller in size than many of the larger cast productions Theatre UNB has brought to the stage over the past few years, Lake believes two-actor productions still present a number of challenges from a director’s standpoint.
“I love the atmosphere that is created while having a small cast,” she said. “I feel like I have been able to get to know my actors very well and rehearsals have been a lot of fun. But with only two actors, there is no room for errors. With having only two people on stage without any scene breaks, fluidity is key.”
“All eyes are on the two actors for the whole run of the production so I have had to really work on making sure that they are both in character the entire time, and that the energy levels are high,” said Lake. “There have been many challenges to directing such a small cast but isn’t that what theatre is all about? Overcoming these challenges will be so rewarding in the end because I will be able to look back and say, ‘that was a lot of work, but look at how it paid off’.”
Venus In Fur | A Theatre UNB production | November 30 – December 3, 2016 | Memorial Hall | 7:30 p.m. | Tickets ($14 regular, $10 senior/underwaged, and $8 for students) will be available at the door.
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