She sits, tired from her day but ready to hit her cues, while he stands near his props, jumpy and anxious to start.
They approach each other like husband and wife with a marriage 10 years in, laughing at each other’s impatience to get the show on the road.
Hearing the assistant director, Jay, yell “One minute!” the two start to position themselves.
Again, they hear Jay yell. She says, “Go!” but Bruce and Denisce are gone, and onstage are characters Thomas Novachek and Vanda Jordan.
The lights fade–they begin.
“Venus in Fur,” written by David Ives, is being taken on by the UTRGV’s theatre department. Theatre Professor Richard Edmonson directs his two leads, Denisce Palacios and Bruce Gutierrez, in the hit play.
Intellectual, witty and sexy, it is a play within a play in New York City centered on a director trying to cast his lead actress in his newly written work, “Venus in Fur.”
“Venus in Fur” was cast by the end of the spring semester, with Edmonson going with his gut on who could deliver the characters well.
“Once they come into audition, and I hear and see them, then I kind of just have to go with my instinct about who I think will be effective on the stage playing these people,” he said.
After the audition process, Palacios, a junior pursuing degrees in international business and political science, with a minor in theatre performance, and Gutierrez, a sophomore majoring in theatre, were cast as the leads.
“We started Aug. 12, and we rehearsed anywhere from four to seven times a week,” Edmonson said.
Due to the play’s sexual tones, Palacios was fearful of having to go onstage with her revealing costume, but conquered that fear by “reading up on, like, confidence blogs, and trying to motivate myself, like, ‘Hey, this is OK, this is my body. Be proud of yourself, be proud of who you are.’”
The play advocates a feminist voice, embracing femininity and making it one’s power, putting women in control of their bodies and who they are. She is the cat in the game of cat and mouse.
Palacios loves that freedom within her character.
“I love that she doesn’t care what other people think,” she said.
This is the second time Palacios and Gutierrez appear together, the first having been another UTRGV production, “History of the Devil.”
Gutierrez sought out the role, wanting to challenge himself. Admiring the character’s sarcasm, he tried to embody that onstage.
“Character development happens for me onstage,” he said. “Whatever character develops onstage as I act, is how I develop the character.”
Costume design led by Jennifer Saxton, head of theatre production and costume lab manager, was student based. Saxton was excited for this project, due to the lesson it teaches design students about the Victorian period.
“It’s been kind of a nice case study for my students to look at how dressmakers built clothing, and how they embellished it,” she said. “I love seeing the students learning, that’s probably my best part.”
“Venus in Fur” premieres Wednesday in the Albert L. Jeffers Theatre on the Edinburg campus and concludes Sunday. The show will start at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $5 with UTRGV ID.
Word to the wise from Edmonson, “Look forward to the dramatic ending. It will be a surprise to most people.”