This month, Theatre Workshop of Nantucket brings David Ives’ Venus in Fur to Centre Stage. Based on the novel of the same name, this sultry two-person show explores the lines between seduction and power and the relationship between director and actor. Prior to their July 1st opening, N Magazine caught up with the stars of the show – Kaitlyn Kurowski and Jeff Barry – to get their thoughts on this provocative play.
N MAGAZINE: Venus in Fur is a two-person play. What is it like to perform one-on-one with another actor versus in a larger ensemble production?
KK: One-on-one requires a lot more trust than in a larger production. Trust in the other person, but also trust in yourself. You have to be very on top of your game and can’t miss any lines or cues while in a larger ensemble, there are other people to work through what is missed.
JB: I’d say the biggest difference is the stamina that is required, specifically over the rehearsal period. In larger ensemble pieces, you usually have a scene or two that you’re not in (after all, even Hamlet gets Act IV off!) But that’s not the case with Venus in Fur. We’re both physically on stage from lights up to lights down, which, in rehearsal, translates to always being called and never having much of a break. You have to be very diligent with your time outside of rehearsal hours to make sure you’re getting your character work and personalization done. But on the flip side, once the lights come up you’re on a pretty fun roller coaster ride that never stops!
N MAGAZINE: If you had to describe Venus in Fur in 5 words, what would they be?
KK: Manipulative, Provocative, Silly, Twisted, Daring.
JB: Not your mother’s theatre. Period.
N MAGAZINE: The Broadway production of Venus in Fur received a Tony Award nomination for Best Play and won for Best Actress. Is there any added pressure when performing in a play that has reached such great success?
KK: At first, I was worried about the comparison – but that’s inevitable to a certain extent. I’ve taken comfort in the fact that my performance will not be like the original. With all due respect to Nina Arianda, I don’t want my Vanda to be like hers. I want her to by MY Vanda and embody all that I bring to the table. At some point, you have to just let the talk go away, put in the hard work, let go of all the insecurities and hit the stage! That’s my plan, and I’m stickin’ to it.
JB: Not in my mind, no. I think there’s only that kind of pressure with a few roles/plays in the theatre: Hamlet, Richard III, A Streetcar Named Desire. And that’s only because those roles have the shadows of great performances seared into them. Those are performances that people have talked about for years and years so there’s some received wisdom on the part of the audience when they go to those shows.
N MAGAZINE: What is your favorite line from the play and why?
KK: “You want the piece, you gotta put up with the rest of me.” I think that line sums up Vanda – she’s a complicated whirlwind, a very complex woman.
JB: “What’s your program bio?” That is a fantastic theatre pick-up line. Well done, Mr. Ives.
N MAGAZINE: Is there anything about your character that you related to when you first read the script?
KK: I could relate to the struggling actress. Being late for an audition or trying to win someone in the room over. All the trials and tribulations that everyone in the business experiences when trying to make something of yourself. Sometimes we hit our breaking point at the word moments, but there’s always a way up from there and maybe even our best work comes from those moments…
JB: The given circumstances at the top of the play are very relatable for me. I’ve been fortunate to direct a couple films over the last few years and holding auditions is an incredibly rigorous part of the process. It’s very easy to feel like you’re never going to find the right actor and, as a result, your project is going to fail. That’s exactly where my character, Thomas, is when the lights come up. And on the flip side, it’s also incredibly invigorating when you do find the right actor – your script suddenly comes to life and the possibilities of the project seem infinite. That’s where Thomas finds himself when Vanda auditions.
N MAGAZINE: If you could perform in a production with any one actor – dead or alive – who would it be and why?
KK: Rachel McAdams. I fell in love with her when I watched Slings and Arrows. I’ve always thought her work was honest, very present, and showed grit. She’s a chameleon, and after her performance in season two of True Detective, c’mon, who wouldn’t want to work alongside her?!
JB: I’d say Liev Schreiber. His performance in Talk Radio on Broadway in 2007 was incredible. The combination of craft and passion that he put on that stage was something I have not seen since. Liev is ferocious in the way he attacks material and he very obviously gives it everything he’s got. That’s the kind of artist I want to be around.
N MAGAZINE: What has been your favorite aspect of living and working on Nantucket this summer?
KK: The beach! Ugh, this place is stunning. I pinch myself every day that I get to do this job in this beautiful town.
JB: I’ve never really been in this kind of climate – cool in the mornings and evenings, sunny and warm during the day. It’s incredible. And it’s gotten me outside a ton, which is something that can be easy to lose sight of in New York. Also, when we drive to the theatre there’s a turn onto Washington Street where the water and the boats mooring in the harbor come into view. It’s simple, but it gets me every time.
Venus in Fur will be playing at Centre Stage (2 Centre Street) July 1 – 16 and you can purchase your tickets here.