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Interview: Amanda Drinkall On Preparing For 'Venus in Fur'

By Melody Udell in Arts & Entertainment on Feb 7, 2014 8:00PM

Amanda Drinkall stars as Vanda in the upcoming Venus in Fur at the Goodman.

Rehearsals started this week at the Goodman Theatre for David Ives’ thrillingly seductive, whip-smart production of Venus in Fur, the Tony-nominated play that first sizzled in New York in 2011. Now, the suspenseful two-person show will heat up Chicago in March.

Ives’ play follows a casting agent and a seemingly clueless young actress in an audition gone wrong. But ultimately, as the play-within-a-play unwinds, the two become entangled in a messy, seductive power struggle—slowly unveiling that no one is really who they seem. The role of the wily actress, Vanda, made a star out of Nina Arianda, who earned a Tony for her performance. At the Goodman, Chicago actress Amanda Drinkall is stepping into Vanda’s stilettos for her turn as the dynamic, wildly unpredictable actress-turned-seductress.

We caught up with Drinkall to learn how she’s preparing for such an iconic role—Clueless viewings and all.

CHICAGOIST: You starred in Great Expectations at Strawdog Theatre last season, and you’re an ensemble member at Red Tape Theatre. Despite your resume, many are calling this your breakout role. Would you agree?

AMANDA DRINKALL: Well, I'm not sure that I'd say that exactly, but it is definitely the biggest role of my career thus far. Is that the definition of a breakout role? If so, then I guess I agree.

C: Before auditioning, how familiar were you with the David Ives play? Did you see Nina Arianda’s Tony-winning performance in the Broadway production?

AD: I read the play after the Goodman first announced it in their season last year, but before that I didn't know much about it at all. After getting the audition invitation, I read it a couple more times and watched some clips online, but I've never seen it live.

C: When you first heard that the Goodman was putting on Venus in Fur, did you envision yourself playing the role of Vanda?

AD: I think every female actor in Chicago envisioned herself playing this part... but the thought passed just as quickly as it came. Even after I started the audition process, actually getting the part was not in the forefront of my mind.

C: Vanda is a difficult and multifaceted character. How did you prepare for the audition?

AD: Honestly? I watched His Girl Friday, It Happened One Night and Clueless.

C: How did you react when you learned you got the role?

AD: I freaked out. Which, I think is a fairly predictable response, given the situation. Then for about three straight days after I got the role, I had a permanent smile on my face and would randomly start giggling.

C: One of the characters you played in Great Expectations last year was the cruel, tragic Estella. Both Estella and Vanda are deeply complex characters. How will having played Estella help you in your role as Vanda?

AD: Actually, I think the work I did in Great Expectations is oddly similar to what I'll be working on in Venus—only in a much more contemporary light. Playing multiple characters in Great Expectations, I had to jump back and forth from cold to sweet to cruel to down-to-earth, which is a lot like the dynamic shifts that occur in Venus in Fur. But this time there will be a lot less clothing.

C: Are there any similarities between you and Vanda? How are you preparing yourself mentally to inhabit the role of a whip-wielding, power-seeking seductress?

AD: No comment... My mom is probably going to read this and put it in her scrapbook.

C: What other iconic, challenging roles do you hope to portray next?

AD: Stella from Streetcar and Ophelia [from Hamlet] are on the top.

Venus in Fur runs Saturday, March 8 through Sunday, April 13 at the Goodman, 170 N. Dearborn St., 312-443-3800 or online.