As much as she loves Jane Austen and Edwardian England, Jenny Strassburg also enjoys keeping her acting résumé a bit diversified.
A native of Charleston, S.C., Strassburg has found plenty of acting work in the Northeast lately, and is starring in the Capital Repertory Theatre production of David Ives’ “Venus in Fur” along with Timothy Deenihan.
Nominated for a Tony for Best Play in 2011, “Venus in Fur” tells the story of a young actress, Vanda Jordan, going to great lengths to make an impression in her audition before Thomas Novachek, the show’s playwright and director. Strassburg’s Vanda is everything from a ditzy blonde to a desperate dominatrix during the course of the show, which is being directed by Capital Rep’s Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill.
‘Venus in Fur’
WHERE: Capital Repertory Theatre, 111, North Pearl, Albany
WHEN: Opens Tuesday and runs through Oct. 20; performance times vary
HOW MUCH: $60-$20
MORE INFO: 445-7469 or www.capitalrep.org
Strassburg began performing as a young child and got her degree in acting from Marymount Manhattan. She stayed in New York City after graduating and has been a steady actress ever since, doing numerous regional theater productions as well as television commercials and daytime dramas, including short gigs on “The Guiding Light” and “All My Children.”
This appearance in Albany is her Capital Region debut, although area theater fans may have seen her in Vermont at Oldcastle Theatre Company or at the Dorset Theatre Festival. Since 2007, she has performed in “Tom Jones,” “The Importance of Being Earnest” and “Sky Girls” in Dorset, and just this past summer she was in “Other People’s Money” and “A Strange Disappearance of Bees,” both at Oldcastle, as well as “Boeing-Boeing” at the Depot Theatre in Westport on Lake Champlain. She met her husband, Loren Dunn, in 2009 during her Oldcastle debut in Wendy Wasserstein’s “Third.”
She and her husband live in Astoria in the northwestern section of Queens.
Q: When did you realize that you wanted to make acting your profession?
A: Looking back, I always kind of wondered, “when did it start,” but I can remember doing a production of “Winnie-the-Pooh” in second grade and really getting the bug. I think I always wanted to be a performer, and when it came time to go to college my father asked me what I wanted to go to school for. I told him, “for acting,” and he told me that I couldn’t go to school for that. I said, “Well, actually you can go to school for that,” and that’s what I did.
Q: Have you enjoyed your time in Vermont the past six years?
A: Vermont has been a life-changing experience, and it really was because it’s where I met my husband. Doing the show in Dorset brought me to this part of the world, but my father is actually from Vermont and moved away when he joined the military. I asked him why he left and he said it was too cold.
But I really love it up here, and working at Dorset and Oldcastle has been great. I believe they both do very good work, and during the summer it’s nice to get out of town and come up here. The theatergoers up here are lovely and seem very appreciative. I find this part of the country so beautiful so I’m very happy.
Q: Would you like to do more television and film work?
A: I just shot a film earlier this summer that will be out in the fall called “Una: A Dark Fairy Tale,” directed by Daniel Terry. I’ve also done some TV work, but my fantasy is that I would not have to go to L.A. I love the theater and I’m so very happy in my New York home. It’s been a great summer for me, and now I’m thrilled to get this part. Maggie is fantastic and my co-star is lovely as well. I hadn’t met him yet, but so far this whole experience in Albany has been wonderful.
Q: Did you see Nina Arianda’s Tony Award-winning performance as Vanda in “Venus in Fur” during its Broadway run?
A: I didn’t and I’m kind of glad I didn’t. All of her reviews were spectacular and she did win the Tony. It’s one of those parts that’s wonderful for an actress, and sometimes when people create these iconic characters, it’s best not to watch them. I haven’t even watched any clips of her, and generally I try not to do that when I’m working on something. I want to be able to put my own stamp on it.
Q: What do you like about the play?
A: Well, there’s just two people on stage, and like I said earlier, it is a wonderful piece for both actors. There are several different stages that I go into throughout the course of the play, and it’s an amazing opportunity to play a whole range of different things. It’s a chance to use every trick in your bag, every tool in your toolbox.
Q: What’s next on your schedule after your Capital Rep run?
A: I’m going to go back home and spend some time with my husband, who’s been out in Arizona doing “The Importance of Being Earnest.” We’ll have to see what’s next on the horizon, but this has been a wonderful summer stretch for me. Hopefully this summer will lead to many more great things.
Q: What would you like to do?
A: A: Well, I think I lived in Edwardian England in another life, and I just loved doing “Pride and Prejudice” at the Pioneer Theatre in Salt Lake City. So I’ve always enjoyed doing Jane Austen, but things have changed in this business, and as a result you have a wonderful opportunity to create your own material. People who ended up with a film or TV career did so because they wrote and directed their own material. I don’t profess to be a writer, but I have directed a few small projects and I’d like to do a few more things like that.
My husband and I also collaborate on a few things with other people. He also has his own web series, and there are a lot of ways to entertain people. It’s fun to put together something that’s three minutes long so people can have a cup of coffee and laugh when they watch it. That’s what it’s all about. Doing a little something to make the world a better place.