Posted // 2013-09-19 -
After having one of its longest and most successful seasons last year, Salt Lake Acting Company kicks off the '13-'14 season with an impressive piece of work. Venus In Fur
is a Tony Award-nominated play from one of snappier and contemporary American playwrights, David Ives. The play showcases a writer/director auditioning a last-minute fresh-faced actress and their conversation over his adaptation of Venus In Furs
as she attempts to score the leading role.
Today, I chat with director Tracy Callahan, as well as both actors in this play, Patrick Kintz and Marza Warsinske, about the season opener and their thoughts headed into opening night Wednesday, Sept. 25. (All pictures courtesy of SLAC.)
Tracy Callahan, Marza Warsinske & Patrick Kintz
Gavin: Hey, everyone! First thing, tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Tracy: I am the head of the acting/directing program at Weber State University, I try to freelance as a director at least once or twice a year in Salt Lake, I am the mother of two incredible sons and a founding member of the Process Theatre Company.
Marza: I grew up in Oregon, and the night before orientation to study musical theater at Weber State University was my first time setting foot in Utah. After a solid year of culture shock, I really fell in love. I'm very passionate about Utah's unique theater community. Although I now divide my time between Los Angeles and the Pacific Northwest, I leapt at this opportunity to return to this community I love so much.
Patrick: My name is Patrick Kintz. I am originally from Cornwall, N.Y., though I have lived here for 12-ish years now; graduated from BYU in theater studies in 2008 and continued with specific acting training at UVU. I spent much of the last eight years playing bass in local bands until about two years ago, when I turned my focus to acting.
Gavin: What have you all been up to over the past year in local theater?
Marza: I was last seen onstage in Utah in the 2011 season at Old Lyric Repertory Company, doing my best Hitchcock blonde in The 39 Steps, belting out the doo-wops in Little Shop of Horrors and gossiping about Mozart in Amadeus. Since then, I've worked in both theater and film in Los Angeles and around the Pacific Northwest.
Patrick: Well, acting and training as much as possible. I was blessed to be a part of Sundance summer theater last year, and following that was Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson here at SLAC, then The Crucible at UVU and most recently training with the Steppenwolf Classes West summer intensive through CSU Summer Arts. So, having lots of fun acting and training.
Tracy: Over the past year, I have directed Kathleen Cahill's beautiful script Charm both at Weber State and then again in February at the L.A. Theatre Center. A couple of weeks ago, playwright Julie Jensen and I were invited to the Kennedy Center For The Performing Arts in D.C. to workshop and have a public reading of her new play Mockingbird. In March, Weber State will produce a workshop production of the play, and there is talk of it being produced in 2014 at the Kennedy Center. Last week, the theater company I am starting opened the play Closer at the Rose, and now I am fully embedded in the world of Venus In Fur!
Gavin: Tracy, when did you first learn about Venus In Fur, and what were your first impressions upon reading it?
Tracy: Well, I love the way David Ives writes. He is fast-paced, provocative and writes -- even in his short plays -- surprisingly playable and multidimensional characters. I was intrigued by the premise of the story and all of the twists and turns it takes. Ives unwraps the mysteries of this play in such a truly unique way, I was engaged in both the characters and how it was delivered; it is sexy and funny and dramatic and surprising. From an acting teacher's perspective, the roles are so juicy and refreshing, it made me want to jump into it with a couple of actors right away.
Gavin: What made you decide to come on board to direct it for SLAC?
Tracy: I love working at SLAC ,and I trust that when I am asked to direct there that Keven and Cynthia have thought carefully about who would be a good fit with the plays they have chosen. Since I am not directing at Weber until March, the timing worked out well.
Gavin: Is there any pressure on you to meet a certain expectation for the play, knowing it's a David Ives play and received Tony nominations last year?
Tracy: If there is, I can't really let myself go there because I feel it would get in the way of making this production unique and creative in its own right. Live theater is so magical because it is all about these people in this space creating something that really has never been seen before; it is essentially what separates live theater from film. It would be deadly to try to do an imitation of a play that was created somewhere else, no matter how "successful" it was. I did not see the Broadway production, but even if I had, I think I could appreciate it without being overtly influenced by it.
Gavin: For the cast, what were your initial thoughts on the play when you first read it?
Marza: It was love at first read. This is the kind of script that actors dream about. Vanda is perhaps the strongest and most complex female role I've ever read. Plays like this just don't come along that often. In preparation for the audition I drove to the library and picked up a copy. I devoured it. I made my roommates read it with me, then opened a bottle of wine and made them read it again. I forced it on my non-theatre-person boyfriend. I read the novel. I watched the Broadway interviews. I was, in a word, obsessed.
Patrick: I thought it was smart. I really enjoyed the pacing of David Ives' writing and the layers, of which I have discovered even more through the rehearsal process.
Gavin: What was it like for each of you auditioning and eventually getting your parts?
Patrick: Exciting! When I read the play, I loved it and was delighted to be working here at SLAC, and had heard so many wonderful things about working with Tracy. So, needless to say, I was really excited!
Marza: I saw the audition notice during my daily scan of the Actors' Equity breakdowns. When I saw Tracy Callahan would be directing, I went straight to my phone to call SLAC and ask if they accepted out-of-town auditions. I offered to come to the audition in-person, but the good folks at SLAC graciously spared me the 15-hour drive and let me audition on video. I submitted three videos in total. Auditioning doesn't normally make me nervous anymore, but I was so in love with this role that I spent days in suspense, superstitiously telling no one that I had submitted. The phone call telling me I'd gotten the part arrived like Christmas morning.
Gavin: How has it been for both of you fitting into these roles and discovering these characters?
Marza: There's so much to learn about Vanda. Without giving too much away, this woman is so much more than she seems. Playing a character in whom I am so emotionally invested is an enormous and welcome challenge. My own expectations are high, let alone the demands of the script and the production.
Patrick: Well, Thomas is a big jerk and really selfish. It's been really fun and interesting trying to embody that and find all of his layers, too. It's been a difficult and yet welcome challenge. I love it.
Gavin: Considering that it's just the two of you, does it present more of a challenge that you have to play off each other more without an ensemble of characters, or do you find it easier with the one-on-one back-and-forth?
Patrick: Speaking for myself, I prefer two-person shows; they are typically shorter in my experience, so doing a full -ength play with just two actors is definitely a challenge. Yet, Marza really is incredible and she makes it so easy to make choices and connect as an actor.
Marza: It's intimate, exhausting and exhilarating. A 90-minute two-hander with no intermission, swinging widely between worlds and styles, is difficult, to say the least. Lucky for me, Patrick has an infectious positivity that keeps me going through the marathon that is this play.
Gavin: Knowing the kind of style Ives writes in, how is it keeping up with his pace and style and keeping it all contained within 90 minutes?
Marza: David Ives' writing is like a treasure map. In the way Shakespeare gives you iambs or Pinter gives you pauses, Ives' writing tells you exactly how to tell the story. The play is dense and difficult, but at least you don't have to work too hard to make his great dialogue shine.
Patrick: Yeah, you just said it. It's an amazing pace and a challenging build in energy because the energy in this show never drops, which is why I think audiences will love it.
Gavin: How has it been for all of you working together on this production, being a small cast and crew?
Patrick: I love working with small groups; it's my favorite.
Tracy: I have enjoyed every minute of this process. Both actors have been open to my style of directing, willing to experiment and staying open to the possibilities that are so beautifully written into the dramatic action of the play. It has been both fun and challenging to work so quickly and intimately on this piece with these two incredibly talented actors.
Marza: I crave small companies! In large productions, you can get lost in the shuffle. With smaller groups, everyone's voice gets heard and you can all dig into the story collaboratively.
Gavin: What are all of your thoughts going into opening night?
Marza: Vague panic about being onstage in my underwear, mostly. No, I jest ... kind of. I'm ecstatic that this is the regional premier. This will be the first time most of our audience members will have been exposed to this story, and I can't wait for it to move them the way it moved me. This play doesn't end when the lights come up. This play will carry you well through post-show conversation, populate your dreams and stay with you, the way it's stayed with me.
Patrick: I just can't wait to share this roller-coaster ride with the audience.
Gavin: What can we expect from all of you over the rest of the year?
Patrick: That is yet to be seen, I guess.
Marza: I don't know what's next for me -- back to auditioning in L.A. and the PNW. But, hey, for the record, I am available as a local hire for theater and film in Utah. Just saying.
Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?