The Story Behind the Photo: "Venus in Fur"

 | Oct 09, 2020
Venus in Fur
Graham Hamilton and Jaimi Paige in​ SCR's production of Venus in Fur (2014). Photo by Debora Robinson.

About Venus in Fur

Auditions are over for the day, and Thomas still hasn’t found the perfect actress for his adaptation of a 19th-century erotic novel. Vanda stumbles into the bare rehearsal studio, soaking wet and hours late. Before he can stop her, she strips down to lingerie, wiggles into a white period dress and mysteriously becomes his elusive leading lady. But will the power play for sexual dominance be limited to the stage?

Director Casey Stangl helmed South Coast Repertory’s production of David Ives’ Venus in Fur in 2014—a two-actor show. The Los Angeles Times said “the most delicious pleasure … comes from watching [the] actors dazzle us in a psycho-sexual pas de deux expertly choreographed for the dramatic stage.” Stangl selected the photo above as an important moment from the play

What does this moment depict?

Casey Stangl: In this moment, Thomas still thinks he is in control of the audition and is simply playing along with Vanda's role playing. Little does he know what Vanda has in store for him. Inch by inch, she uses his own hubris to trap him.

How did you work to make this moment happen?

CS: The actors, Graham Hamilton (as Thomas) and Jaimi Paige (Vanda) had previously worked together and had an incredible amount of trust and willingness to be vulnerable with each other. They were game to try anything. We did a lot of experimenting to both illustrate and obfuscate the power dynamics. In this photo, Graham is in the classic power position—standing above her, taking the action of kissing her hand, while Jaimi is prone and allowing the action to happen. So visually, he is in charge; but, in fact, she is about to turn the tables on him.

Anything else you’d like to say about the photo or the production

CS: YES! The shadows on the wall behind the actors. That show was my first time working with lighting designer Elizabeth Harper and she has become one of my go-to designers. The idea of using a lot of shadows was key to our visual plan, which culminated near the end in a literal giant shadow of Vanda on the walls when she stood on the table.