Published on May 20th, 2016 | by Biz Books0
The Biz Interview: Katharine Venour
In Pacific Theatre’s newest production, Wit, Katharine Venour plays a renowned professor dealing with cancer who learns about kindness and redemption over the course of her treatment.
Now on until June 11th, the storyline and and acting demands in Wit ultimately offered Katharine Venour a deeply rewarding experience. She spoke to us about the play and her career.
What is your involvement with Wit and how did that get started?
I play Vivian Bearing in Wit. I’ve loved the play for many years now. I first saw the play in production at The Vancouver Playhouse and thought it was just a wonderful role and story. I was overjoyed to be offered the role by Pacific Theatre, and to be directed by Angela Konrad. I’ve always have wanted to work with Angela, so this has been an exciting collaboration for me.
What drew you to be a part of this production?
Margaret Edson has written a very beautiful play in Wit. The language, the character of Vivian Bearing, the construction and rhythms of the play are powerful, and have great range for an actress to play. The play says important and true things about what is important in life when we face the end of life. It is a joy to play an English professor of John Donne as I have always loved Donne’s sonnets. After I completed my theatre degree, I got a Masters degree in English Literature, so this play, to some degree, combines my two loves of theatre and literature. It also offers an actress a wonderful dramatic range to play, as it combines humour and tragedy in the Vivian’s story. It is a play that is ultimately about struggle and the movement towards grace, expressed with a humour and sensitivity that is very powerful. Also, I connect personally with the play in that I have people close to me in my life who have struggled or died from cancer.
Can you share some of your creative process in preparing for the role – from the initial planning all the way to opening night?
As soon as I heard that I got the role, I ordered the play and started to work. I researched ovarian cancer and the medical terms used in the play. I researched and read about John Donne. From the very first time I read a script, I begin to personalize the story – finding and searching for the ways in which the story is a part of me. That is – who is Vivian Bearing in the text and how do I find her in me? I think of people in my life whom I’ve met who are ‘forces of nature’, like Vivian. In practical terms, I set out a schedule for learning the text which is massive. The more time I have to ‘absorb’ a role, the better.
What should audiences expect from this show?
It is a beautiful expression of grace. It explores themes of life, death, God, John Donne’s literature, the struggle with illness, ambition, and identity, and it does all this with great depth of feeling, as well as humour. The play is a superbly written piece of theatre.
What are the three most important ingredients for a successful stage production?
Three most important ingredients for a strong production: I think a strong production always begins with the playwright. A strong show starts with a strong script. Then, strong actors and designers of set, lights, and sound. And I will add that a strong director who has a clear vision of the heart and workings of the story is very important too…I think that’s more than three ingredients!
Are there any books or authors that have been influential to you so far in your creative journey?
My acting mentor when I was an acting student doing my theatre degree in performance was Grant Reddick and he was taught by Uta Hagen. So Uta Hagen’s Respect for Acting and her approach to the craft has been a deep influence on me as an actor. In recent years, I have participated in workshops at the Michael Howard Studios with Patsy Rodenburg and I really like her approach to acting in the powerful work she does incorporating voice, body, presence, and Shakespearean text. I have all her books, and I highly recommend, The Second Circle.
What is the most important lesson you have learned so far in your career?
I think it is important for an actor to keep training. I try to seek out the professionals whose work I admire, and take workshops to continue to hone my skills. Remember that it is a joy and privilege to be an actor, and love the people in your life with generosity. Have faith. Breathe onstage, and in life. Technique and the craft of acting liberates you to be free and serve the story you share with other actors onstage and with an audience. The actor serves the story.
What other projects do you have coming up and where can people find out more about you online?
Not sure what project will be next, but I continue to hope for strong, powerful stories and wonderful artists to work with!
Thanks to Katharine Venour for speaking with us!
Wit is now on at Pacific Theatre until June 11th. For tickets, please visit pacifictheatre.org.