“Venus in Fur,” the critically acclaimed Broadway play that tells the story of a complex actress trying to land the role of a lifetime for an equally complicated playwright, will take the stage at the Hippodrome on Jan. 9. Below, lead actress Lauren Nordvig shares her creative process.
Q: What initially attracted you to “Venus in Fur?”
A: Once in a great while, a new play comes out with a wonderfully complex, strong, sexy, intelligent, female lead role, and then EVERY girl wants to play her! I think “Venus” will be this sort of coveted part for today’s theater, and let’s just say that I, too, fell under its spell. Among many other things, this play is quite a departure from anything else I have ever done, and that in itself was the best reason to say YES — because I was scared, because it wasn’t just an eye-fluttering ingénue, and because the Hippodrome is the perfect place for me to feel safe while trying on this new “skin.”
Q: How do you prepare for roles?
A: I start by reading the play many, many times — each time with a different goal in mind. Then, I buy a journal that seems fitting to the piece, and I begin to fill it with all sorts of images, song titles, historical background, and any other connected research that I find along the way, so that I can build myself a shortcut to this new world I am attempting to venture through. My hope is that [the journals] can be a working library for me, and that throughout my lifetime, I can take one down from the bookshelf and either remind myself, “Oh yes, that was the language of the fan used during restoration comedies,” or “That’s what playing Viola felt like on July 12 of 2008 when my wig fell off.” Getting my costume is the final puzzle piece, and before every show, you’ll find me, headphones in, doing some power yoga to rev up!
Q: What is the most challenging aspect of portraying your character, Vanda?
A: She has so many sides to her! In life, I have to admit, I think I’m a little more boring than good ol’ Vanda, and she deserves every ounce of surprise, backbone, power, vitality, and sexuality that I can muster.
Q: What is it like to perform in a two-person show?
A: You know the phrase, “It takes two to tango?” A tango is definitely what this is — putting all your trust in your partner to create a moving work of art, and while you have choreography, it’s sure to be slightly different each time. I’ve never had to build up stamina like this before, but because I want to be there every moment for Tim [Altmeyer], I make sure I am sufficiently warmed up and ready to greet him with an open heart. I decided at the very beginning of the process not to waste any of it on fear.
Q: What is your favorite part about performing at the Hipp?
A: The people! Gainesville is so incredibly lucky to have such an all-star cast of characters to bring them relevant, thoughtful and innovative theater. It feels like home each and every time I’m here, and after many adventures hither and yon, who doesn’t like coming home?