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Director Tom Whitaker Joins UCSB Theater and Dance Production of ‘Venus’ by Suzan-Lori Parks

Performances of ‘Venus’ begin Nov. 6.
Performances of ‘Venus’ begin Nov. 6. (UCSB Department of Theater and Dance photo)

The Department of Theater and Dance at UC Santa Barbara presents a fresh take on one of Suzan-Lori Parks’s most famous plays — a groundbreaking and provocative work by America’s premiere African-American female playwright, Venus, runs Nov. 6–14, 2015 in UCSB's Performing Arts Theater.

Venus is a tale of exploitation and love that draws from the real-life story of Sarah Baartman, a young woman from South Africa. Due to a physique that both fascinated and astonished Europeans of that time, she was lured from her home and billed as the Hottentot Venus, starring in one of the most famous freak shows of the 19th century.

The play examines both Venus' rise to stardom and her ultimate destruction as she battles society's fascination, scientists' cold curiosity and a lover's deadly obsession.

A cast of 12 undergraduate students from UC Santa Barbara’s Bachelor of Fine Arts Program is led by award-winning director Tom Whitaker.

“We are privileged to have the opportunity to work on Suzan-Lori Parks' Venus and so excited to embark on this adventure,” said Whitaker. “We have a very talented diverse cast, live musicians directed by Jon Nathan, director of UCSB's jazz ensemble, wonderful designs being developed by our skilled departmental designers — and of course Suzan-Lori Parks's powerful and theatrical text.”

Parks is a Pulitzer Prize-winning and Tony Award-nominated playwright, screenwriter and novelist. She was the first African American woman to win the prestigious Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for her play Topdog/Underdog.

As of this October, Parks is also the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize laureate. The Gish Prize is one of the richest prizes in the American arts and is currently about $300,000.  

Parks’s works include the epic Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3), which was staged in 2014 at the Public Theater, and an adaptation of the book for the controversial revamp of the musical The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, which opened on Broadway in 2012.

Theatrical, powerful, poetic, challenging, funny, frightening and deeply human — Venus is a play that calls for action. Dare to join the Department of Theater and Dance at UCSB in questioning our past and examining our deepest hungers.

Performances will take place at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 6–7, 10–14, and 2 p.m. Nov. 7–8. Tickets are $17 for general admission and $13 for UCSB students, faculty, staff, alumni and seniors.

For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit www.theaterdance.ucsb.edu or call the box office at 805.893.2064 Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Content Warning: This production includes mature content and language that is not intended for children.

Una Mladenovic is a community relations specialist for the UCSB Department of Theater and Dance


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