On Stage

Dracula, Times Two

Tales from the crypt

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Unless you’ve been sealed in a tomb for the past century, you’re likely well aware of who Dracula is, and what horrors the thirsty bloodsucker is capable of.

Although Irish author Bram Stoker didn’t invent the myth of vampires, he’s the one who, in 1897, introduced the world to the only-comes-out-at-night character who attempts to change his life by relocating from Transylvania to England and, in the course of the story, drains a whole lot of people of their precious platelets.

In the many decades since Stoker first shared the tale of Count Dracula, countless adaptations of the story—and of vampires in general—have made their way to the big screen, the small screen and many stages in between. With Halloween just around the corner, Whatcom County is getting in on the action by hosting not one, but two, versions of Stoker’s macabre tale in the coming weeks.

First up is Northwest Ballet, who’ll present Dracula as a two-act ballet Oct. 12-13 at the Mount Baker Theatre and Oct. 25 in Mount Vernon at McIntyre Hall.

Choreographer John Bishop says the performance will hew to Stoker’s version pretty closely, with Act 1 seen through the eyes of Dracula’s first victim, Lucy Westenra—who falls under the count’s spell and, in short order, turns into a vampire. Act II is devoted to the fanged one’s following prey, Mina Harker, who ultimately brings about his destruction.

When asked if Dracula got what he deserved, Bishop says he’s on the fence.

“I don’t see him as a good character, but not entirely evil either because he was betrayed and lost everything while trying to become a good warrior,” Bishop says. “He lost his way and evil took him. In the end, he is destroyed, but, just before, his heart is changed by Mina, who he truly loves and resists turning into a vampire.”

Bishop says Northwest Ballet’s version of Dracula is scary in parts, but notes he’s leaving out the fake blood and plastic fangs.

“This production is about the choreography, dancing and honoring the brilliant work of Bram Stoker, who did not create the vampire, but defined its modern form,” he says.

And, while dancing will be the prime attraction of Northwest Ballet’s take on Dracula, Free Key Productions—which will show the play starting Oct. 18 at the Firehouse Performing Arts Center—will put an emphasis on sound.

“Music will play an important role in this production,” director Christopher Key says. “The immensely talented John French is assembling a score that is truly spooky.”

Key says the performances will be based on a British script adapted from the original, and will also feature a spare set and unusual casting—the roles of Professor Van Helsing and Renfield will be played by women, and Dracula will be portrayed by a local actor who one might not equate with a scary master of the underworld.

“Dracula has traditionally been portrayed as tall and thin,” Key says. “I have cast TJ Anderson in the role. He goes against the physical type, but he is a superb actor and I believe he will change the way people perceive vampires.”

However you choose to meet the King of Darkness—whether it’s in the darkened cavern of the Mount Baker Theatre or in the intimate confines of the Firehouse PAC—you might want to bring along some garlic and a wooden stake (or two). Even though Dracula is just a story, when it comes to the undead, it doesn’t hurt to be safe.

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