By Steven Dietz
Adapted from the novel
by Bram Stoker
Directed by Dany Vilchez
October 24-November 2, 2003
For the final show of 2003, HSC decided to produce another classic story just in time for Halloween, Dracula. Using the stage adaptation by Steven Dietz, this version of the Dracula's story followed more closely to Bram Stoker's original novel than other previous film or stage adaptations. Over the year's many incarnations of the famous count from Bela Lugosi to Christopher Lee have played so fast and furious with the characters and basic story, that Stoker's powerful original vision has often been overlooked. Who Dracula pursues when he gets to England? Which character is courting whom? Suitors are changed to parents and so on. One of the mainstays of current Vampire pop culture is the destruction of the vampire when exposed to daylight. A touch not known in the original work but that was added later by the silent film classic Nosferatu. In the original material, Stoker only notes that the undead remain powerless and incapacitated during the day. Some die hard horror fans, who thought they knew the basic story and who saw our production, noted the "new changes" in some story elements and characters. They were even more surprised to know that these weren't new changes but the author's original story.
Left, a brief cast get together after a performance at Loew's Jersey theater. Right, Count Dracula (Jared Reinmuth) with his ladies (from left, Nicole Clavell, Christine Zappella, and Dana Devega). Pictures above from performances at the Loew's Jersey Theater.
The production marked a first for Hudson Shakespeare as well as we debuted the show in Jersey City's historic Loew's Jersey theater main stage. Located in the heart of the city's Journal Square, the Loew's is a movie palace that first opened its doors in 1929 and designed in the style of European Opera houses. Taking advantage of film as the only mass medium at the time, this ornate theater sat 3000 people. However, as Radio, Television and other tenets of pop culture came on the scene, the demand for such a numerous house dwindled. The Loew's continued to operate as a movie and performance venue until the early 1980's. Abandoned and forgotten, the building stood unused for several years, until a group of dedicated volunteers began to slowly bring the mammoth structure back to its former glory. The Friends of Loew's Inc. now manage the facility and continually strive to make restorations to the theater. While performances and other events had been ongoing at the site since the group took over, most had taken place in the ornate front lobby, to which HSC first performed in 1993 with Driving Miss Daisy. In 2001, the main auditorium and primary dressing rooms become usable for live and film productions. The Friends of Loew's Inc., now offers year round events, while continuing their monumental task of completing a full restoration of the theater.
A shot of the marquee and facade of the Loew's Jersey theater in Jersey City.
Our tour of Dracula capped off with a run at the Hackensack Cultural Arts Center. The show was our second offering in the space, having debuted in April 2003 with Taming of the Shrew. We were proud to finish off a rather prolific year with Hackensack and contribute to the center's growing calendar of events. To see the accompanying article for Dracula at the arts center, click here.
Left, the opening scene of the show with Renfield (John Short), Dracula's servant setting the pace for the show as a direct inspiration from Stoker's novel. Right, Mina Murray (Jennifer Short) and Jonathan Harker (John Trigonis) share a quiet moment in the middle of Dracula's conquests. Pictures above from the Loew's Jersey Theatre run.
Our production of Dracula began with a nod to the author himself. Renfield (John Short), resident of a London mental asylum and Dracula's servant, served as a narrator at times and began the show with a synopsis of Stoker life. As the main play opened, Jonathan Harker (John Trigonis), a young law clerk, in en route to the mysterious country of Transylvania to complete the purchase of a property by an elderly nobleman, Count Dracula (Jared Reinmuth). Waiting anxiously back in London for him is Mina Murray (Jennifer Short) his fiancée. Bidding her time until his return, Mina visits her lifelong friend, the precocious Lucy Westenra (Saluda Camp), to catch up and share in her engagement. Lucy informs her that she too is being courted by not one but three men and is indecisive about which to choose. One of Lucy suitors, Dr. John Seward, the bookish head of London mental asylum and the man who truly loves her most, arrives to plead his heart to Lucy and for her to reconsider his offer of marriage. Unfortunately, Lucy decides against and the heartbroken Dr. Seward (Carlos R. Fernandez) retreats into his work. He relentlessly tries to unlock the mind of a bug eating, life devouring patient. Renfield, a once respected official of the legal community, now spends his days writing incessantly, cultivating little forms of life as pets and eventually food and calling out for a mysterious master. One evening a violent storm slams into London's docks with all of its crew dead with the exception of large grey dog. Dr. Seward, curious to see the wreck, meets a mysterious man who claims to be Jonathan Harker.
Left, Dr. Seward seeks to understand the ravings of his mystery patient Renfield (John Short). Renfield, acting at times as a narrator, speaks about Dracula's plan to the audience. Pictures above taken at Hackensack Arts Center.
Left sometime lovers: The spirited Lucy Westenra (Saluda Camp) and the shy bookish Dr. Seward (Carlos R. Fernandez) part ways under amicable circumstances. Photo taken at Hackensack Cultural Arts Center. Right the couple are reunited briefly after Lucy's "transformation" into a vampire.
Dr. Seward visits a now ailing Lucy, who is complaining of strange dreams and restless nights, and discovers strange marks on her neck. Shaken that Lucy already seems to have found another man, Seward proceeds to take a sample of her blood keeping her promise to remain friends. Seward then comments to Mina about meeting her fiance but an insulted Mina retorts that Jonathan has been gone for weeks and until recently had received no word. Jonathan has turned up in a hospital in Budapest, though suffering from major lapses in memory and new violent tendencies. Mina then travels to Budapest to collect her fiance and the only clue to his disappearance, Jonathan's journal written in shorthand. Back in England, Seward can find no cause for Lucy's condition and decides to call upon his mentor, Professor Abraham Van Helsing (Jon Ciccarelli) to consult on her case. As the Professor arrives, the source of Lucy's affliction becomes clear as she is visited once again by Dracula. Van Helsing, notices the marks on her neck and embarks on an investigation into the goings-on in his former student's circle. A troubled Mina enlists the professor's to help her delve into Jonathan's journal. As Mina reads, the events of the journal are played out in flashback. Harker arriving at Dracula's castle is welcomed as an honored guest but soon realizes the count is not what he seems and he is a prisoner. Dracula, systematically breaks him down, taking his things and learns to impersonate Harker, to eventually take his place. Harker is left for food for Dracula's three slaves (Nicole Clavell, Dana Devega, and Christine Zappella).
Above, the aged gracious host, Count Dracula (Jared Reinmuth), welcomes his guest Jonathan Harker to his castle. Below, Harker is subdued by Dracula's power, as Dracula prepares to leave for England. Castle shots taken at the Hackensack Arts Center.
Van Helsing hypothesizing that a centuries old vampire is wreaking havoc with his friends sets out to protect Lucy and hunt down her assailant. Lucy is moved to Seward's asylum for protection but "dies" shortly after her arrival. A distraught Seward mourns over his loss only moments later to be enticed by a reanimated Lucy. She beckons him to join her apologizing for her past treatment. Her efforts are interrupted by Van Helsing and Harker and her vampire demon is shortly dispatched. Van Helsing, instructs that she be buried as soon as possible, but insists that this is not her end. He convinces the two men that she is the undead and must be truly killed and sanctified. The three meet later at Lucy's grave where a still skeptical Seward has a last encounter with his beloved. A stake is driven through Lucy's heart and her head severed, freeing her soul of Dracula's curse, however learn that the count is closer than they thought. He has taken up residence in an abbey near Seward's asylum.
Left, Mina confides with Professor Van Helsing (Jon Ciccarelli), Dr. Seward's mentor and expert in matters of the undead. Right, Dr. Seward, Professor Van Helsing and Jonathan Harker share a tense moment after Lucy's "death".
Left, the ultra-rational Dr. Seward is confronted with something his science cannot explain in the form of his beloved Lucy. Right, Dr. Seward says goodbye to Lucy for a second time.
With Lucy gone, Dracula now sets his sites on Mina. Slowly, he feeds on her in secret until one night when the three men come clean to her about what has truly been going on. As the four of them discuss how to go about and defeat the count, Renfield escapes and Seward and Van Helsing go in search of him. Dracula appears to take his new bride and to finally turn her. No longer needing Renfield, Dracula kills him. Seward and Van Helsing return to find the object of their chase, but only to loose him as they try to contain the count. Van Helsing states a vampire must sleep each day in his native soil to survive and they have found all but one of Dracula's coffins, sanctifying the soil of each of them. He concludes that the count now is returning to Transylvania with his remaining coffin. The four travel to the castle only to have Mina disappear as the converge on the count's crypt. As Van Helsing, Seward, and Harker are about to kill Dracula, Mina as a new slave and Dracula's three vixens appear.
Left, Dracula's conquest of England becomes personal as he pursues Mina (Jennifer Short), Harker's fiancée. Right, Mina starts her own journey to joining her new immortal master.
Mina, supposedly turned into a vampire, takes her new place with Dracula, but as she kisses him she feeds him a holy wafer, weakening the count enough for the men to dispatch him. As the three drive the stake into Dracula's heart, Mina begs for his soul and they agree to release him despite all his evil deeds. Mina and Jonathan reaffirm their love for each other and Van Helsing reminds all of them to that evil is always present and to never forget their unholy experiences.
Mina take her place beside her new master, but all is not as it seems.
Professor Van Helsing, Dr. Seward and Harker dispatch Lucy in her coffin. Above shots taken at Hackensack Arts Center.
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