Venus in Fur features two dynamic characters, Thomas and Vanda, who go head-to-head for a heated 90 minute battle eight times a week. Rufus Collins (Thomas) was gracious enough to take a moment between performances to discuss his fantastic career.
Place of birth and/or hometown?
New York City, born and bred.
First professional role/ production you were in?
I was first paid as an actor in 1985 as an ensemble member of a national, non-Equity tour of The Comedy of Errors, The Merchant of Venice and Othello. We logged thousands of miles on our bus and played everything from giant civic centers to high school gyms.
Favorite professional role/ production you were in?
It’s hard to pick one favorite. I played Hamlet, but I often love the role I’m working on at the moment, including Thomas from Venus in Fur. If I had to pick a favorite production it might be The Autumn Garden by Lillian Hellman which I did at The Williamstown Theatre Festival a few years back. I played Edward Crossman, a cynical drunk loosely based on the author Dashiell Hammett.
Dream role or production you hope to be in in the future?
I hope to play Iago, Macbeth and eventually King Lear.
Role you know you'll never get to play because of your age/sex/race but would love to play in an alternate universe and why?
Othello. White actors used to play Othello, but now it rightfully belongs to non-white actors. It is perhaps the most poetic, tragic and challenging role ever written. I’ll have to settle for Iago.
Production or role you've experienced as an audience member that left you speechless?
I just saw Mark Rylance as Olivia in a spectacular all-male production of Twelfth Night. Also, The Grapes of Wrath production Steppenwolf Theatre Company brought to London in 1990 while I was a drama student.
Biggest onstage flub and how you handled it?
I once sliced open my thumb opening a bottle of Champagne on stage. It was during a long scene in Michael Weller’s play Loose Ends. I bled all over the set. Eventually the stage manager handed me a towel from the wings, and I somehow got through the rest of the scene without fainting.
Do you have a pre or post-show ritual?
I stretch before performing and generally take a drink after.
Favorite thing about working in Chicago?
Chicago has a great and well-deserved reputation for theater. It’s an honor to be working here the first time. I’ve also had some awesome food.
How did you prepare for the role of Thomas?
Thomas is a physically and vocally demanding role and I’ve been doing yoga to stay strong and limber, but I haven’t done anything unusual while preparing. I like to let plays guide my imagination and allow characters to emerge out of rehearsal with the director and fellow actors. Venus is Fur is a very smart and fun script. It’s actually two scripts entwined because of the play-within-the-play, so a big part of the challenge is making the parallel stories separate and distinct, even as they begin to blend and overlap one another.