A Blog by Megan Rosenberg – Performance Network Theatre Apprentice
When I try to explain this play to people, I am at a loss. My first impulse is to say, “Well, it’s a play about S&M,” which is a drastic oversimplification and also makes it sound like Performance Network is inviting its audiences to come see some porn…which couldn’t be less true. Next, I would try a different angle: “It’s a play within a play.” That sentence either evokes this idea of a very meta production, Hamlet, or possibly the contrived literary device Mise en Abyme… all of which are partially true (except maybe Hamlet), but none encompass what the play is ACTUALLY about. And then I start to flounder: “It’s a play about gender roles!” “It’s a play about psychology!” “…about repression” “…mythology” “…the comparisons between now and then!” Maybe it would be better if I just didn’t try at all and instead assured you that it’s a great play. Well written. Witty. And it has been carving out a place for itself on the shelf of modern theatrical genius since it opened off-Broadway in 2010. As an alternative to explaining what the play is about, I thought a good place to start would be to explore how it came to be. Then, once you’re as hooked as I have become over the last week and a half of rehearsal, I’ve also found some interesting tidbits about the other adaptations of Sacher-Masoch’s text that exist.
1.) Venus in Furs (Venus im Pelz): The german novella was published in 1870 by the Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. The term “masochism,” meant to identify human behavioural phenomena and classify a distinct psychological illness, derives from Sacher-Masoch’s name and was coined because of the themes of domination explored in this book and in Sacher-Masoch’s life.
(Image from : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_in_Furs)
THOMAS: The word “masochism” comes from Leopold von Sacher-Masoch because of this book.
VANDA: “Masochism,” “Masoch,” I shoulda seen that. Wow. So S&M is like named after that guy! Cool!
THOMAS: I’m not sure that’s what Sacher-Masoch had in mind.
2.) Venus: The Roman goddess of love, beauty, sex, fertility, and prosperity, and her Greek counterpart Aphrodite are the embodiment of sexuality, beauty, enticement, and persuasive female charm. Symbols of Venus include doves, apples, roses, and wine. Look closely for some of these in Performance Network’s production.
(Image from: http://www.theoi.com/Gallery/S10.1.html)
3.) Venus with a Mirror: The painting (about 1555) by Titian plays a significant role in the play by fueling Kushemski’s fascination with the goddess Venus.
VANDA/DUNAYEV: I can certainly understand your fascination. The plush red velvet. The dark fur outlining her naked body. The bracelets cuffing her wrists. Her golden breasts. The picture’s ravishing. But is Venus covering herself with the fur – or is she opening the fur to reveal her glories?
THOMAS/KUSHEMSKI: We’ll never know. Both, I suppose.
Other Adaptations of Sacher-Masoch’s book
1.) Venus in Fur (La Venus à la Fourrure): The film by Roman Polanski, released in 2013, stars Emmanuelle Seiger and Mathieu Amalric. Click here to see the tralier: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RXtmQxeKPY
2.) “Venus in Furs”: The song by The Velvet Underground was written by Lou Reed and released in 1967. Click here to listen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwzaifhSw2c
(Image From: http://thescope.ca/music/venus-in-furs-by-sonny-tripp)
More to come soon about rehearsing VENUS IN FUR by David Ives!