The Duality of Dracula

Two area theater groups showcase bloodthirsty plays—in the same month

It shouldn’t come as news to anybody with eyes, ears and an interest in pop culture that a recent fascination with the bloodsucking vampire has become quite the phenomenon. From the monumentally popular Twilight saga to the dark and brooding HBO series True Blood it’s difficult to deny the effects these fang-bearing characters have had on modern society. Nevertheless, long before Edward Cullen and Bill Compton graced our television screens, Bram Stoker’s original Count Dracula instilled true fear in the human psyche in a way that had never been so graphic and daring. 

This Halloween, the stages of Madison will embrace the gore, sensuality and terror of Bram Stoker’s original Dracula as both Stage Works Theater and the Mitby Theater at Madison Area Technical College bring their unique renditions to life. While both performances are embracing the original texts of Bram Stoker, these creative adaptations could not be more different from one another. 

Stage Works Theater’s artistic director Coleen Kehl toyed with the idea of bringing Dracula to the stage for a number of years, and will finally see her unique vision become a reality at the Stoughton Opera House this October. A fusion piece mixing dance and monologue, Drakula: The Performance will not present the story of Count Dracula in an ordinary fashion.

Nicole Novak, business manager at Stoughton Center for the Performing Arts, comments, “This really is an original work that we’re building from the ground up based on the classic. We’ve gotten our inspiration from a lot of different places [like] other movies and ballets, and it will be a perfect meld of everything we want, put together in this really intense show.” 

So while gargoyles, bats and Dracula brides fly across the stage on opening night for Stage Works Theater, a much closer adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel will simultaneously captivate audiences at MATC. Michael Lussenden, director of the MATC’s Dracula: Based on the Novel by Bram Stoker, chose a script by Steven Dietz based on its authenticity and closeness to Bram Stoker’s text.

“The novel was written all in the form of correspondence, so we learn about the action as it’s recorded by the different players. [Our production] maintains that fine balance of action portrayed for an audience with the elements of the diary entries.”

And while both directors are extremely passionate about their individual productions, there is a shared anticipation between them that further heightens the enthusiasm of bringing Dracula to life. For Stoughton’s Coleen Kehl, the fact that MATC had a version of the Bram Stoker novel in production came as a surprise—yet a positive surprise nonetheless. “In the world of theater, good theater begets good theater,” she says. “It’s not about a competition, just getting it out there and getting people to experience theater no matter what level it is. It comes as a surprise that we would have two of the same shows on the same weekend but—good for all of us! It’s always enchanting and interesting to see what spin another company will take.”

Michael Lussenden also had a similar take on the overlap of the productions. “When we selected the show, we didn’t know about the other, and we look at it as our community has two options.” With a hint of laughter in his voice, Lussenden also made sure to note the modern day fascination with the vampire—the Twilight obsession and the increased popularity in movies, books, and television. For Madison to embrace this bloodthirsty fascination only allows audiences and the community two extremely unique opportunities to absorb themselves in the dark world of Count Dracula. But don’t forget the garlic.

Stageworks Projects presents “Drakula: The Performance” October 30—31, 2009 at 8:30 p.m. $14 general admission. Rated PG-13.

Mitby Theater at MATC presents “Dracula: Based on the Novel by Bram Stoker” October 30—November 8th, 2009. Times vary. Ticket prices TBA. Not recommended for audiences under 12 years old.

Natalie Sandy is an editorial intern with Madison Magazine.

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