Jasper sat down with Jennifer Moody Sanchez who is starring opposite Bobby Bloom in the new Trustus play, Venus in Fur, opening on Friday, November 8th. We're sharing just a bit of our conversation.
Jasper: Jennifer, you’re starring, along with Bobby Bloom, in Venus in Fur opening on November 8th at Trustus Theatre. Jasper had the opportunity to read playwright David Ives’ script, and it wasn’t until the end that we had any idea where the play was going. We don’t want to suggest any spoilers, but how do you keep suggestions or hints or clues to the ending of a play like Venus in Fur from the audience as the play moves along? Or do you?
Jennifer: We toyed around in rehearsals with the idea that let's leave these little "clues" for the audience to feed off of. Clearly in the script, Thomas is catching my character, Vanda, in all of her lies. When he calls her on it, she changes the subject and manipulates the conversation. She is always one step ahead of him. She's a master manipulator. I think we all know at least one person like that!
Jasper: All of the promotional material, and the poster itself which depicts a young woman dressed in a merry widow and holding a riding crop, suggests that the play is pretty racy. Is it racy?
Jennifer: Yes, it's racy and erotic but more importantly it's about men and women and the power struggles that go along with that. There are issues that deal with role playing and sexual politics but it's also a sort of backstage comedy. There's tons of humor in the play, especially about the world of working in the theatre.
Jasper: Venus in Fur isn’t exactly a play within a play, but it is about a play within a play – how difficult is it for you to be an actor who is acting like an actor who is acting like an actor? There’s a lot of switching of parts – do you use an accent?
Jennifer: This is an actors’ dream role! My wonderful director, Jim O'Connor and I sat down and counted about 14 different roles I'm supposed to play … not two. There are so many layers to this role and unexpected turns. I'm still finding them! She takes not only Thomas on this wild ride but the audience is locked in the room with her on a 90 minute journey. It's such a juicy role and it's been the most challenging roles I've ever played, but also the most rewarding. I use a mid Atlantic dialect with the help of my fabulous vocal coach, Erica Tobolski.
Jasper: Early in the play your character Vanda, in talking about the play that is the subject of this play, refers to the play as “basically S&M.” Is Venus in Fur about S&M or does Venus in Fur possibly use S&M as a vehicle for a larger question?
Jennifer: Venus in Fur is a play about an aspiring theatre director/playwright who adapted a famous erotic novel called Venus in Furs. In the novel, just like the play, the balance of power shifts as my character, Vanda establishes total power over Thomas. It does deal with the idea of people "getting off" with this type of pain=pleasure but more importantly the larger question is basically: "Be careful what you wish for." Vanda takes Thomas into his own play and then teaches him about the power of his own words!
Jasper: Vanda, in her role as Dunayev, also says that “in our society, a woman’s only power is through men. Her character is her lack of character. She’s a blank, to be filled in by creatures who at heart despise her.” This is a pretty accurate take on how misogyny works to socially construct reality. Was playing this part, and saying lines like this, liberating for you as an actor or as a woman or as either?
Jennifer: One of my favorite parts in the play is when I give this women's empowerment monologue. As a woman and as a new mother, I feel like this is the entire point of the play. When I am saying these words I feel like I'm levitating! It really is mind blowing to think that a MAN wrote this play. David Ives wrote a complex, brilliantly structured play about sexual politics and the power of women! God love him!
Jasper: Given that the definition of feminism is the belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes, would you say that Venus in Fur is a feminist play? Why or why not?
Jennifer: Absolutely. Without a doubt. This character comes into a man's world and he thinks that she is not right for the part. She's vulgar, classless, and everything that he doesn't want in his play. But she ends up being brilliant! She changes his script and he goes along for the ride. She takes total control over him and teaches him that women are not objects or play things. She shows him the power of a woman.
Jasper: Is there anything you’d like to talk about that I didn’t ask you about – What?
Jennifer: This is the first time this production has been produced in Columbia, SC. I'm so honored to be a part of this history. After leaving LA in December, I knew exactly where I wanted to perform: Trustus Theatre. Trustus is on the verge of cutting edge theatre and I'm so happy to be a part of the company.