This paper considers how and why the American playwright David Ives's 2010–2012 New York hit play Venus in Fur directed by Walter Bobbie borrowed the plot of Euripides' Bacchae to dramatize a new version of Leopold van Sacher-Masoch's 1870 novella Venus in Furs (Venus im Pelz). The play gradually reveals that the actress auditioning for the part of its heroine, Vanda, is in fact the goddess herself, who arrives to challenge and punish the playwright/hero for refusing to comprehend her divinity/the nature of female sexuality. In Bacchae, Dionysus's divinity enables reversals of gender and power, hard-to-categorize blurring of genre boundaries, and an uncanny control of plot. As she transforms and directs the play, Vanda/Aphrodite's superhuman metatheatrical powers permit similar reversals to Venus in Fur, while challenging plots that traditionally link female liberation with (especially anti-male) violence and the female gender with a propensity for irrationality and uncontrolled desire. Through exploring and then reversing an initially stereotypical relation between male director and actress, the play exposes modern theater's own parallel agenda to reinforce traditional gender divisions.


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pp. 57-73
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