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Bram Stoker's Dracula

By Gary Wien

originally published: 09/27/2018

Bram Stoker's Dracula

Long before we had Twilight and True Blood, one vampire ruled them all - Dracula.  Bram Stoker’s classic horror novel brought Count Dracula from Transylvania to Victorian London.  In this blood thirsty tale of terror, the city seems helpless against his power, and only one man, Dr. Van Helsing, can stop the carnage.  But to do this, he must uncover the vampire’s lair and pierce his heart with a wooden stake.  

As Halloween tales go, this ranks at or near the very top, but Charles Morey was never happy with the adaptations of Dracula on stage, so he wrote his own.  Centenary Stage opens their 2018-19 season with Morey’s adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula - one that strives to be as faithful to the classic novel as possible.  The production runs from October 12 through October 28 in the Lackland Performing Arts Center in Hackettstown, New Jersey.

Morey, who directs the production, spoke with New Jersey Stage about the play.

What is it about the Dracula story that still captivates people more than 100 years since first being published?

Stoker managed to tap into something that was mythic - a potent brew of fear and death; hope for the afterlife; and the nexus where sex, God and death meet in some strange, psychological way that we don’t fully understand.  That’s why it fascinates us and terrifies us.   



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In some ways, when Dracula was first written in 1896 it was accepted as a pot boiler like a gothic, mystery thriller. But he tapped in all kinds of mythic elements.  It’s very much tied up in Christian symbology where the blood is the life.  It’s tied up in sex - at a point in 1896 when Freudian ideas were beginning to reveal themselves.  He just tapped right into a very potent brew and it’s fascinating.  Vampire myths are ancient; they go back to the earliest recorded history, but mostly existed in Eastern Europe.

Lord Byron wrote a fragment of a vampire story loosely based out of a poem he wrote called The Giour.  John William Polidori, turned it into a novel called The Vampyre which was published in 1819.  This was kind of the first modern vampire; one that ultimately developed into the Dracula we know from Bram Stoker.

Bram Stoker's DraculaIs this a topic that you were already interested in or did you learn such things while doing research for your play?

I basically researched that while doing the adaptation.  I first read the novel when I was 13-14 years old. I distinctly remember sitting up late in bed reading the book and it scared the pants off of me! Then I read it again when I was in college.  I’ve just always loved the novel.

I’ve been in a very bad version of it and I’d seen the standard version.  I wrote this adaptation in 1989. The ones up to that point were very creaky because they were old or were very camp, done in tongue and cheek.  I always had an enormous amount of respect for the novel and I thought I would try to write one that’s a faithful adaptation, which would be scary and creepy and tap into all these mythic elements.

Were there specific themes you thought the other adaptations were missing?

Yes, in particular, the earlier adaptations completely omit the first quarter of the novel which happens in Transylvania.  Many move the story entirely to London.  The novel starts in Transylvania in the spring and ends in Transylvania in the late fall.  The art of the seasons is very much part of the mythic sensibility.  The journey from Transylvania to England and the chase back to Transylvania is also an important part of the story which they all omit.

And there’s another thing which I think is important.  Every vampire story you’ve ever seen has good guys holding up a cross and the vampire shrinking back from it because of the religious power of the cross.  But none of them ever deal with what they’re actually talking about, which is the Christian ethics - an incredibly potent myth.  The novel is written from the point of view of a believer.  Stoker was a good Catholic.  This posits the vampire as the Anti-Christ and the only thing that can defeat him is the goodness of Christ.

I wanted to be faithful to the novel because I think the novel hits it right at the dead center of where we have fear of death, hope for the afterlife, and sex, death and God all meet in a sort of potent psychic mythic brew.   That’s what the novel touches on and evokes strongly, and that’s what I wanted to do on stage.  I didn’t think any of the existing adaptations did it.

Bram Stoker's DraculaCulturally, Dracula has moved beyond its original roots as a novel and has become this cultural icon which has been demythologized in so many ways.  I mean Count Chocula is used for kids’ breakfast cereals and The Count teaches children how to count on Sesame Street.  A lot of the movies we’ve seen recently tend to be somewhat camp.  This adaptation tries to go back to the basic story and tap into those mythic roots.  It can be very creepy when it’s done right.  It can be very scary.

Ultimately, when you think about it, Dracula is a ghost story.  It’s a story we read to scare ourselves before we go to bed at night.  There’s nothing real about it. There’s no attempt in this adaptation to update the vampires like in Twilight or True Blood or an Anne Rice story.  It’s just to tap into the mythic core of the story.

One of the things that is unique about this adaptation is that the novel is told in letters, newspaper articles, and diary entries of the principal characters. I stole that.  There’s a lot of direct address in this.  So it very much has the sense of a story being told to the audience on an autumn night around the campfire when there’s a full moon.  I think that’s something we respond to very viscerally as audience members.

 

This is a play you’ve directed several times before.  Have you learned things about the work each time?

This will be the fifth time I’ve directed it and it’s had about 30-40 productions.  I’ve certainly learned a great deal every time I’ve done it.  I try to describe it as very language-driven.  It is classical in terms of its style, if you will, in that it hangs on the language and that language being truly emotionally filled throughout.  It’s almost operatic in scale.  It feels like a big play and these are big emotions.  In almost every scene, the stakes are enormous (pun intended).  So it requires actors who can use language and play it fully while, at the same time, be very real emotionally. One of the scariest and creepiest things about it is the actor’s ability to generate the emotions in the moment of utter terror.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula runs at Centenary Stage Company (715 Grand Avenue in Hackettstown, New Jersey) from October 12 through October 28.  

The cast includes Carl Wallnau (Dr. Van Helsing), Gary Littman (Reinfeld), Christopher John Young (Jonathan Harker), Emaline Williams, Nicholas Wilder, and Marc LeVasseur as Dracula.





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Center Players Presents "The Emperor's New Duds"
(FREEHOLD, NJ) --  Center Players Dessert Theater will present a family-friendly production of “The Emperor’s New Duds” at Center Playhouse, 35 South St, in downtown Freehold, NJ from December 7 – 16. A musical adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s the “Emperor’s New Clothes,” the play was written by Bernice Garfield-Szita, who co-directed the production with Enid Bush.
Centenary Stage’s Young Performers Workshop presents 2018 Winter Festival of Shows
(HACKETTSTOWN, NJ) -- Based on the Gospel According to St. Matthew with music and new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, Godspell is composed of various musical parables from The Gospel. Jesus Christ recruits a group of followers and teaches them various lessons through song and dance. Toward the end of the second act, the show begins to follow a more linear narrative as Jesus is betrayed by Judas and eventually crucified. Performances are Sunday, December 9 at 5:00pm; Saturday, December 15 at 8pm and Sunday, December 16 at 7:30pm.
The Shakespeare Theatre Presents "The Winter's Tale"
(MADISON, NJ) -- The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s concludes its 56th season with its sixth and final Main Stage production, The Winter's Tale. Last seen at The Shakespeare Theatre in 2008, Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte directs this production of Shakespeare’s tragicomedic romance. Veteran company members Jacqueline Antaramian, Jon Barker, Erin Partin, John Keabler, Raphael Nash Thompson,Seamus Mulcahy, Patrick Toon, and Ames Adamson are among a cast of 20 actors. Performances run from December 5 to December 30. 
American Theater Group Announces Full Cast & Creative For "Tell Them I'm Still Young"
(SOUTH ORANGE, NJ) -- American Theater Group has announced the full cast and creative team for its World Premiere production of Tell Them I’m Still Young, a new play by Julia Doolittle, which will run at the South Orange Performing Arts Center from January 24 - February 3, 2019. Joining the previously announced Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Streets, Men of a Certain Age, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) andMichele Pawk (Hollywood Arms, Hairspray, Mamma Mia) are Janice Amaya (Seen/Unseen) and Seth Clayton (The Madrid).
Holmdel Theatre Company Presents 'ART'
(HOLMDEL, NJ) – The Holmdel Theatre Company (HTC) will present 6 performances of Yasmina Reza’s ‘ART’  from December 7th through December 16th. Translated from French by Christopher Hampton, the play tells the story of what happens when Serge buys an expensive painting, and the reactions of his two closest friends, Marc and Yvan, to his purchase. As what begins as a discussion about the quality of the painting that Serge has purchased quickly devolves into petty jabs and personal attacks, the three men border on destroying their friendships.


Broadway’s Mandy Gonzalez LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
Broadway is in the house at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center for the Arts with a Fearless live concert performance by Broadway star, Mandy Gonzalez!
"The Spitfire Grill" and Caitlin Geisser Return To Their Roots
“I saw something in her that you rarely come across,” recalled Ted Wioncek III, Artistic Director at Eagle Theatre in Hammonton. “She’s more than wise beyond her years; I believe she’s going to be a game-changer and a trendsetter for this art form.”
Broadway’s Next H!T Musical LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s Friday, October 26, 2018, and the Broadway’s Next H!T Musical cast is just about ready to take the stage at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts, located on the campus of Ocean County College in Toms River, NJ.
The Last Apple Pie: "Apples In Winter" Opens At Centenary Stage
Jennifer Fawcett’s new play centers around a mother in a kitchen, doing something countless people across America will take part in over the upcoming holiday season: making an apple pie.
See Andrea McArdle LIVE! in Annie at Deal Park’s Axelrod PAC!
Leapin’ Lizards! Annie’s finally made it to the Axelrod Performing Arts Center in Deal Park, NJ, and it stars Broadway’s original Annie, Andrea McArdle, as Miss Hannigan!










Event calendar
Saturday, Nov 17, 2018


MUSIC

THE GAY BLADES @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

HERMAN'S HERMITS STARRING PETER NOONE & THE BUCKINGHAMS @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

Nelson Riveros Trio: “The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery” @ Englewood Public Library, Englewood - 7:00pm

Hawaiian Music and Hula @ 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing, Ewing - 8:00pm

Pop 2000 Tour @ iPlay America, Freehold - 7:00pm

THE MACHINE PERFORMS PINK FLOYD @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 8:00pm

THE FAB FAUX A HARD DAY'S NIGHT AND REVOLVER IN THEIR ENTIRETIES @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm

Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm

Swamp Boogie Trio @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm







THEATRE

Annie @ Broad Street United Methodist Church, Burlington - 8:00pm

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm and 7:30pm

Annie @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 8:00pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 8:00pm

Billy Bishop Goes to War @ Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown - 2:00pm

Kiss Me Kate @ Broadway Theatre of Pitman, Pitman - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Phoenix Productions Presents: The Hunchback of Notre Dame @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Enchanted April @ The Summit Playhouse, Summit - 8:00pm

Heathers, The Musical High School Edition @ Pebble Players, Oakes Center, Summit - 7:30pm

Junie B. Jones The Musical at Black Box PAC @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 11:00am

Into the Woods @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm

The Drowsy Chaperone @ Lauren K. Woods Theatre at Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 8:00pm


COMEDY

Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm


DANCE

BALLET FOLKLORICO DE MEXICO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


KIDS

ROALD DAHL’S WILLY WONKA JR. @ Ridgewood Ave School Theater, Glen Ridge - 1:00pm and 7:00pm

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