A Broadway hit in Mendocino!

Venus In Fur

By David Ives

Set in a rehersal hall in Manhattan, an actress auditions for a gifted, but demanding playwright/director and she insists that he read his adaptation of a classic novel about sexual domination with her. Their encounter explodes into a playful, witty, and erotic dance, blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, seduction and power.


Hugh Dignon, artistic director of the company, and director of “Venus In Fur”, wraps his theatrical philosophy around a rock fan’s attitude and comes up, in this instance, with one of the most refreshing, clear, sexy and intrigueing pieces of theater I’ve had the pleasure to see in a while. …Read More

— Lawrence Bullock

How can the little town of Mendocino have theater like New York?” That’s what I was thinking as I walked away from the Rock the Ground Theater Company’s production of “Venus In Fur. The writing is fantastic, witty and humorous! And the two performers, Emily Anthony and Bruce Cole, are electrifying. …Read More

— John Osborne, Ph.D.

The Cast

Vanda – Emily Anthony

Emily has come to Mendocino from Newport, Oregon where she has been involved in theater for 10 years. Her favorite musical theater roles include, Charity in Sweet Charity (Porthole Players), and Lulu in Cabaret (Red Octopus Theater Co.), among others. She has performed for Teatro Mundo (Newport, OR) as Olga in Three Sisters, Cressida in Troilus and Cressida, Mariah in Twelfth Night, Peasblossom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Helen in Cymbeline. Emily has also been involved in dance throughout her life, with a focus on ballet. She toured two seasons with The Eugene Ballet Co.’s Nutcracker and received training at The Joffrey Ballet School (New York, NY), Ballet West (Salt Lake, UT), and The North Carolina School of the Arts (Winston-Salem, NC), as well as from many talented teachers throughout the country. Emily is currently enjoying a hiatus from her 15-year career as an RN, is delighting in her time in the beautiful village of Mendocino and the great experience working with Rock the Ground Theater Company.

Thomas – Bruce Cole

Bruce returns to the North Coast where he was born and raised. He could last be seen in the area in Rock the Ground’s production of Hamlet as Horatio. As both an actor and a theatrical fight director his work has taken him all over California and beyond. Favorite roles include: Horatio in Hamlet, Tony in Faithful (Murphy’s Creek Theatre), Carson Beaumont in the independent film A River of Skulls and Badger in the film, Flea. Bruce received his actors training from the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts in Santa Maria, CA, where he first worked with Hugh Dignon. Hugh and Bruce have done many productions together over the years including BetrayalMuch Ado About NothingDracula: A Musical NightmareHamlet and Romeo & Juliet. Bruce is thrilled to be back in Mendocino and hopes to continue the exceptional theatrical tradition exemplified by Hugh and Rock the Ground Theater productions. Enjoy the show!

Director's Notes

I was lucky enough to see Venus In Fur in New York and was immediately smitten by it. I saw it after it had shifted to a larger theater on Broadway, due to its immense popularity, so I did not see it in its smaller incarnation Off-Broadway. Like Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage, which I had been equally taken with, I was anxious to stage both plays in a small space an give them the Environmental Theater treatment.

As Thomas, the playwright and director in this play keeps reiterating, Venus In Fur is based upon an old German novel written at the turn of the last century by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, and David Ives manages to tell the story of that novel while commenting upon it from a contemporary viewpoint. The play explores the themes of dominance and submission in male/female relationships, and life in the Theater world, as well as the pains and pleasures of the creative process in birthing a work of art.

And it’s a hell of a lot of fun. It’s sexy and funny and clever, almost too clever — and it provides two extraordinary tour-de-force roles for actors to sink their teeth into. For such a short play, it’s a full evening’s entertainment filled with Theater’s “rough magic”. Enjoy!

A Tribute to Lou Reed and His Influence on Our Culture

Would this play have been written without the influence of the Velvet Underground song, Venus In Furs?

I doubt it. Would this play have been written without Lou Reed first writing the lyrics, taking the Sacher-Masoch book as his inspiration, and effectively adapting it into a 5 minute rock song? I don’t think so. I would hazard to guess that David Ives was first drawn to the original novel after having heard the song, and not before. I can’t be completely sure about this, but it stands to reason. The book has been around since the 1870’s, but hasn’t always been in print, whereas, the song has been around since 1967 and was first released on the album, The Velvet Underground & Nico, and yes, it sold dismally when it first was released, but has gone on to achieve the status of a rock classic; it was listed at number 13 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time as well as being added to the 2006 National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress. So, I think that I’m right in assuming that Lou Reed’s song about bondage, domination and submission which must have shocked and appalled critics and listeners when it was first released in 1967 has had a profound effect on our culture since, and has been a major influence on David Ives.

So, I think it’s appropriate that I take some time to write a few lines about Lou Reed and the extensive musical legacy he has left us. The word, “Rock” is in this theater company’s title, after all, and I feel the need to acknowledge the marvelous, shimmering musical gift he has left behind for all of us when he departed this life this past October.

Without a doubt, Lou was a true artist whose canvas was rock and roll. He delighted in pushing the boundaries of what was possible in a rock song, lyrically and sonically; he was a master story teller whose songs were like short stories in a book, or chapters in a novel which comprised an entire record album.

For those of us who were looking for more in rock and roll than the mainstream crap on the radio or what record companies were shoving down our throats in their relentless search for the next big hit, Lou Reed’s music was pure, reviving water in a desert of superficiality. Lou never lied to us. He was like an undercover investigative journalist armed with a guitar who was scouring the filthy urban streets in search of the truth, uncovering uncomfortable, dirty faults; faults in the city, in the government, in lovers, and in himself. Nothing and no one was safe from his scrutiny.

He took on right wing politicians who hypocritically espouse family values in Sex With Your Parents, raked Jesse Jackson over the coals in Good Evening Mr. Waldheim, and he exposed the thoughtless polluting of the environment in Last Great American Whale. In songs dripping with vitriol, Lou called them like he saw them and let the chips fall. But he could also be extremely funny, just check out I’m Sick Of You, or Women, or I Want To Be Black. And he could bring a tear to your eye as well, singing of “the glory of love” in Coney Island Baby , or in Sad Song, the powerful, mournful climax to his rock opera, Berlin.

Without Lou there would be no Walk On The Wild Side, or Dirty Blvd., or Vicious, or Heroin, or All Tomorrow’s Parties, or I’m Waiting For The Man, or Romeo Had Juliette, or Femme Fatale, or Sally Can’t Dance, or White Light/White Heat, or Rock And Roll; no Sweet Jane, no Perfect Day, and no Venus In Furs.

I hope Lou got to see this play when it was running in New York. I know he loved the Theater. This play was so popular, the hottest ticket in town, so I’m betting that you saw it, Lou. I’m betting that you saw it, and that you took Laurie to it, or she took you, and you both saw it. I hope it made you smile. This is for you, Lou baby.

David Ives, Playwright

David Ives is perhaps best known for his evening of one-act plays, All In The Timing (he has been included in the “Best Short Plays” series seven time), and for his drama Venus In Fur, which was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play. His plays include New Jerusalem: The Interrogation of Baruch De SpinozaThe School For Lies (adapted from Moliere’s The Misanthrope); The Liar (adapted from Corneille), Time Flies and Is He Dead? (adapted from Mark Twain). He has also translated Feydeau’s A Flea In Her Ear and Yasmina Reza’s A Spanish Play. A former Guggenheim Fellow in playwriting and a graduate of The Yale School of Drama, he lives in New York City. He is also the author of three young-adult novels: Monsieur EekScrib, and Voss, and has adapted 32 American musicals for New York City’s beloved Encores! Series.

Hugh Dignon, Director

Hugh is the Artistic Director of Rock the Ground Theater Company and is an actor, director and producer. He was last seen as Oberon in the Company’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the title roles in Uncle Vanya and Hamlet. Hugh has performed on the stages of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, Foothill Theater Company, California Shakespeare Company, PCPA Theater Festival, Kern Shakespeare Festival, San Jose Stage Company, Wyoming Shakespeare Company, Central Works in Berkeley, Wichita Center for the Arts, The French Institute and Target Margin Theater in New York City. He has also performed locally at Mendocino Theater Company and the Warehouse Repertory Theater. As a director: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (with Hillary Spector), Hamlet, and The Rocky Horror Show (Rock the Ground Theater Company); The Underpants and One Shoe Off (Mendocino Theater Company); Dracula (Foothill Theater Company); Romeo and Juliet, The Cripple of InishmaanA Midsummer Night’s DreamMuch Ado About Nothing and The Taming of the Shrew (Wyoming Shakespeare Company); Our Town and A Christmas Carol (The Warehouse Repertory Theater). Favorite roles include: Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, Johnny Pateen in The Cripple of Inishmaan, Valere in La Bete, the title role in Tamburlaine, Lord of the Underworld in Eurydice, Chandel and Poche in A Flea in her Ear, Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, Melersh in Enchanted April, and the title roles in Richard II and Hamlet. He is a graduate of Vassar College and the American Conservatory Theater Advanced Training Program.

Venus In Furs
Lyrics by Lou Reed

Shiny, shiny, shiny boots of leather
Whiplash girl child in the dark
Comes in bells, your servant, don’t forsake him
Strike, dear mistress, and cure his heart
Downy sins of streetlight fancies
Chase the costumes she shall wear
Ermine furs adorn the imperious
Severin, Severin awaits you there
I am tired, I am weary,
I could sleep for a thousand years
A thousand dreams that would awake me
Different colors made of tears
Kiss the boot of shiny, shiny leather
Shiny leather in the dark
Tongue of thongs, the belt that does await you
Strike, dear mistress, and cure his heart
Severin, Severin, speak so slightly
Severin, down on your bended knee
Taste the whip, in love not given lightly
Taste the whip, now plead for me
I am tired, I am weary,
I could sleep for a thousand years
A thousand dreams that would wake me
Different colors made of tears
Shiny, shiny, shiny boots of leather
Whiplash girl child in the dark
Severin, your servant comes in bells,
Please don’t forsake him
Strike, dear mistress, and cure his heart