Kellie Cooper has been forging her career as an actress for nearly a decade, beginning with Fringe productions and webisodes, then moving into live theater, playing Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire, Hedy LaRue in How to Succeed in Business, and Joanne Galloway in A Few Good Men. Today, she takes on her latest role…an actress becoming a character who is an actress becoming a character…Vanda in Venus in Furs.
About her interest in Vanda, Cooper says, “About 2 years ago my friend invited me to see Venus in Fur at the Suzanne Roberts theatre. I entered the theatre with not a stitch of knowledge on what the play was about. Our seats were a few rows from the stage. I sat taking in the incredible one-room set waiting for the actors to take their marks. From the moment Vanda rushed in I was enthralled. I went from hot and bothered to utterly mesmerized with the depth and persuasion Vanda’s character had. I walked out 90 minutes later feeling overwhelmed with questions and a burning desire to take Vanda on, knowing it would be a role of a lifetime.
“I searched for any theatre that may be producing this show since that evening 2 years ago…I pushed the script on a local community theatre that I have been a part of for many years…they were worried that the content and the fact that it was only two characters may lead to low audience counts. Then it happened! I saw the casting call for Venus in Fur at the Centre Theatre in Norristown. I immediately submitted my headshot and resume...”
But like auditioning, playing Vanda puts an actress at risk: Vanda is an auditioning actress who wants to be seductive, who wants to be loved, who wants to be seen as subservient and malleable, but who will lie and assert, and threaten just to get the role and play it her way.
About preparing for her audition, Cooper says, “I had an audition slot and it was time to revisit the script. The vision of this strong, beautiful female character never left my memory, the words however had. I knew that Vanda had to be candid, timed, and–to be honest–sexy as hell. Vanda, in my opinion, is calculated without the audience really realizing it until the end. Vanda is one of the most vivid, realized, brilliant characters that has crossed the stage in a very long time.
“I knew playing Vanda would be quite the undertaking. Two person shows are daunting on their own, but add in a leather corset, multiple accents, and 90 minutes of nonstop banter and you have gone from daunting to downright overwhelming!”
During preparation for the audition is the last time that the actress will see and feel and understand the role on her own. Preparing for the audition, the actress invests herself in the role she’s auditioning…learn the lines, create the look, create a feel, impart the character with an understandable life. That’s who Vanda is when she enters the stage…self-realized, self-styled, her “self” speaking someone else’s lines.
Cooper created her audition-version of Vanda from her own closet, “I actually discovered many things about myself and Vanda’s character while preparing for the audition. First and foremost I discovered I have way too many outfits in my closet! Finding the perfect audition outfit is like finding your wedding dress. I asked myself, should I dress as Vanda (leather and thigh high boots), should I wear a period dress for when Vanda reads in character, or should I stick with jeans and boots? [My] happy medium…a black cotton dress with combat boots and leather pants. I opened the link that was sent to all the actors with the sides we were to prepare. I must have read them a hundred times, picking apart every word and action. I listened to accents to ue …and recorded myself reading the 8-page side when she first enters. During the next 3 days, I began to notice how neurotic I am. I found myself walking to work with my headphones on saying the lines out loud, answering the phone with a transatlantic accent, and begging my coworkers to run lines with me. Three days felt like 3 years until I arrived at the audition.”
Next entry on Thursday, June 2nd. Cooper takes the elevator to her audition, her director, and exposing her idea of Vanda.