Dracula is different than anything we’ve done before. Usually the plays we do have some greater meaning, but this is a play that is just about the fun of being scared.
It’s great to do Dracula and show all the fans of Twilight, True Blood and all the other recent vampire stories why those vampires are sissies in comparison with the king of vampires. And it’s got knife fights; doing plays with knife or sword fights is always great!
Here are Steve Dietz’s notes from the premiere of his adaptation of Bram Stoker’s horror classic. He sums up eloquently why it’s so much fun to tell this story:
I write to you from the midst of an enormous shadow. It is a shadow cast by history and fate; legend and myth. It is the shadow of Bram Stoker.
Stoker was a man of the theatre, serving as noted actor Henry Irving’s business and tour manager for more than 25 years. It is altogether fitting, then, that Dracula has found a home not only in book stores, but on the stage. Even more so than film (cursed by its technology to always present a full picture) the stage presents an audience with the exact conundrum faced by a reader of Stoker’s book: pieces of a story; fragments and clues, left partly unassembled. Events awaiting a detective.
Most of the characters in Bram Stoker’s Dracula spend the better part of the book trying desperately — with absolute best of intentions — to keep secrets from one another. Their reasons have to do with safety, honor, respectability, and science … but every secret buys the vampire in their midst more time. Every evasion increases the impossibility of anyone assembling the totality of the facts, the cumulative force of the information. Secrecy breeds invasion. Darkness begets darkness. It is this secrecy breeds invasion. Darkness begets darkness.
It is this secrecy among the principal characters — heightened by the lack of third-person objectivity, since the novel consists entirely of personal letters, diaries and news reports — that is the heart of the book’s unique power. The objectivity so desperately needed by the characters is handed to the reader. A transcontinental jigsaw puzzle. A myriad of disturbing clues. And it falls to the reader alone to make the connections between these events.
The theatre’s intrinsic reliance on the imagination of its audience (where one flower can represent a garden; one flag, a country) finds its perfect compliment in Stoker’s Dracula. Stoker, like the greatest of playwrights, understands that the mind is constantly in search of order. We cannot help but make stories out of whatever [seemingly] random information is presented to us. We are unwitting conspirators to the art of story telling. In this way, stoker gives us the feeling that the story cannot happen without us.
I had a blast adapting Mr. Stoker’s masterpiece. It was a thrilling, humbling, invigorating experience. As I was writing, my friends kept asking what my “take” on the story was. In my adaptation, they wondered, what did Dracula “represent?” And though I was tempted to join them in their esoteric aerobics, I realized that, for my purposes to make Dracula a “metaphor” was cheating. It was akin to putting a muzzle on the most terrifying aspect of the story. You can hide from a metaphor. A metaphor doesn’t wait outside your window under a full moon. A metaphor doesn’t turn into a bat and land on your bed. So, instead, I took Mr. Stoker at his word: Although there are obviously many metaphorical dimensions to Count Dracula, the actual being is the most haunting. The question, then, is not what Dracula represents, but what he is: A brilliant, seductive, fanged beast waiting to suck the blood from your throat. Hide from that.
So, as the Count himself would say: “Welcome to my house! Enter freely and of your own will!” The shadow has been cast. The clues are here. The story awaits you.
What will happen tonight?