Fund for New American Plays


New York Shakespeare Festival, NY

Venus is loosely based on the story of an African woman who was taken to London in the early 19th century, to be exhibited in a circus. The exhibition of "the Venus Hottentot" was exceptionally successful and the woman gained a dedicated following with members of society. Because of the notoriety of the viewings, a debate began as to whether the exhibition constituted slavery, and a court actually heard a case to determine whether the exhibitioner should be sentenced under England's antislavery laws. From this story, Parks has crafted an epic play which examines such issues as the objectification of people and cultures; our fascination with what is "heathen" or foreign; and how people are influenced more often by appearances than substance.

Suzan-Lori Parks is the author of Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom, which received a 1990 Obie Award for Best Play and was produced by BACA Downtown in Brooklyn. The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World, also originally produced by BACA, was subsequently presented as part of Yale Repertory Theatre's 1992 Winterfest and is published in TCG's anthology Moonmarked and Touched by the Sun. Parks' The America Play was co-produced by Yale Repertory Theatre and the New York Shakespeare Festival, was directed by Liz Diamond. Her other plays include Betting on the Dust Commander, The Sinner's Place, Fishes, and Devotees in the Garden of Love. She is the author of the screenplay for Spike Lee's film Girl 6. Parks is the recipient of a Whiting Foundation Writers Award and two National Endowment for the Arts playwriting fellowships and has been awarded grants by the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. She is an associate artist at the Yale School of Drama and a member of New Dramatists. Venus was co-produced with the Yale Repertory Company.

Director: Richard Foreman
Set Designer: Richard Foreman
Lighting Designer: Heather Carson
Costume Design: Paul Tazewell
Music: Phillip Johnston
Featured Performers: Peter Francis James, Lynn Hawley, Adrian Lenox, Adina Porter, Ben Shenkman
Running Dates: Opened May 2, 1995

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