Many would assume that Nina Arianda, the 27-year-old actress who stars in David Ives‘ latest play Venus In Fur, might not realize how lucky she is to not only star in a play written by famed playwright Ives but to be earning such rave reviews for her part.
But once you understand her preparation process for her audition as she outlined for the Los Angeles Times, you’d understand that Arianda truly understands the importance of the role.
Arianda was first contacted about the role and its mass audition process by her agent at the end of her term at NYU Acting Graduate School and knew she needed to play Vanda not only because she loved the role… but because she needed a job!
She describes her action as, “I instantly fell in love with it. I was hooked to this woman from ‘go’ — and I was also very hungry and kind of dying to work.”
The only problem? Arianda had only ten days to prepare for the audition. Seeing that as the kiss of death, Arianda decided to see how far she could take it, explaining, “I knew I wasn’t going to get the part, but I loved Vanda so much that I figured I have this audition coming up in about a week and a half, I can either get all crazy competitive about it or I can just say, ‘You have a couple more days with her’ and make the best of it.” She started her ten day immersion into the role by practicing as much as she could. She describes her preparation by pointing out, “I read it to myself, read it out loud, then I asked a friend, ‘Would you mind getting in a room with me and just work with me a little?’ I want to feel it out loud and get the script out of my hands and kind of move with it.”
She then prepared a costume, which was a bit difficult for Arianda, who describes herself as modest. She explains, “The script says, ‘Vanda strips down to her bra and underwear’ … that was a problem for me, like how am I going to do this thing? I don’t want to seem like I’m a prude in the room, but I also don’t want to take attention away from what I’m saying…. So I went out to American Apparel and bought this sort of black leotard thing, and I got black opaque tights, which was suggestive enough, but I could still feel comfortable in the room without shocking anybody.”
Next came the props: “And so I brought my big blue bag and filled it up with stuff…. Maybe that wouldn’t have been as smart in another audition, I don’t know if they hated props — I just couldn’t see the pace of the scenes working without … going to the bag and pulling things out.” Finally, she had to learn how to convincingly speak Vanda’s few lines in Greek, but luckily she had her family to support her, “The last part was in Greek at the time, and I was like, well, ‘I have an uncle who’s Greek’, and then it became a family affair, with family members going to Queens to get things transcribed for me. I had to memorize it phonetically.”
Why so much effort for a part that she didn’t think she had a chance of landing? Arianda believes that otherwise it would be a waste of time, pointing out, “If I don’t feel, like, 100% ready for anything someone might ask of me, I don’t like that,” she says. “Maybe it’s a little type A, but I just can’t stand not being prepared like that.”
Venus in Fur is on Broadway at The Friedman Theatre through December 18.