Aaron Kopec Talks Dracula
Intimate Vampire Show Opens Tonight
As I recall, it was a bout a year ago that the Alchemist Theatre announced it would be staging a production of Dracula: The Undead. And it was about a year ago that I spoke to the Alchemist’s Aaron Kopec about the show. As I recall, Kopec told me he’d read Bram Stoker’s original novel a long time ago . . . from a really old copy that he’d had for years. Now he’s staging a production that opens tonight. I’d emailed him a few questions about the show a few weeks ago for this week’s preview:
Me: Who is playing what?
Dr. Van Helsing........Douglas Smedbron
Vampire Bride........Rebekah Kopec-Farrell
Vampire Bride........Desiree Gibson
Vampire Bride........Melissa Freson
Dr. Seward........Andy North
Johnathon Harker / Nicu........Peter Blenski
Vampire Bride........Lauren Ashley
Vampire Bride....... Cynthia Kmak
[Notice the title character is missing here. The show's website lists the actor as a Hungarian gentleman named "Count Zsolt."]
Me: You’re pushing the space to its full effect. What are we going to see?
Aaron: Well, since we are a small venue, we typically get away with about 5 or 6 lights running on 3 to 4 channels. For this production we are running over 25 lights - 9 of them with color-changing capability and a total of 60 channels. There are 156 different lighting cues, many of them made up of 6 or more micro fades to help set the mood for each moment of the production. The play is basically told, like the book, in a series of vignettes. And as such, we tried to make every moment of the show worthy of a snapshot that, if looked at, one would know exactly what is happening on stage.
Me: You'd mentioned what sounds like a pretty exhaustive score. Could you give me a few details?
Aaron: the score runs throughout and kind of pulsates just under the surface, building tension and then breaking through in a release at peak moments of action or drama. some of it is very subtle and i attempted to weave a delicate beauty. some of it is wildly over-the-top and John Williams-esque. some of it borrows bits and pieces directly from grungy, industrial cyberpunk albums. this is my first attempt at scoring a live production to this extent and overall i think it turned out wickedly cool.
Me: You will presumably be making maximum use of the space . . . what's the set like? Does it reach out into the audience like Ripper's did?
Aaron: the set does reach into the audience somewhat. the audience is sitting directly in the middle of the ruin site of castle Dracula. they are surrounded by broken-down walls, branches, night creatures... and vampire brides.
we have removed our pretty seat covers for this production and are exposing the very ugly, old theatre seats underneath to further the feeling of a makeshift "theatre" out in the Transylvanian forest.
There is very little "backstage" built into this production as the ruined walls form caverns that reach back to the very back edge of the actual theatre wall.
All of the action centers around a single coffin that is used as a bench, a dining table, a bed, a ship, a coach and, of course, a coffin.
Me: How are you tweaking the script from what I saw at Off The Wall? [The Off The Wall Theatre's Dale Gutzman wrote the original script for this adaptation of Dracula, which debuted with a production staged in Bangkok in 2006 and Milwaukee a few years ago.]
Aaron: For better or worse, yes, the script is completely tweaked.
It is still the same, basic concept, but i think that i streamlined it a bit more.
I also pushed to create moments of levity. There are a few great scenes where extreme tension is broken for a moment by a bit of comic relief. I want people to know that it's ok to laugh. That said, it's not a comedy. It's a serious horror story told in a kind of dreamlike manner... but with a few moments of self-aware hilarity tossed in.
Me: costuming and make-up a really important in a show like this. How are those elements coming together?
Aaron: very well. Erica [Case] has been working with everyone for the past 5 months or so. we have some sponsorship from Halloween Express and most of the cast were wonderful enough to have some of the costume pieces.
But let's face it, with 5 sexy vampire brides and Lucy soon joining them, there wasn't a lot of costuming that needed to be done. We saved a lot of money on fabric!
Alchemist Theatre’s DRACULA: THE UNDEAD opens tonight (a show which at this writing is nearly sold-out) and runs through November 7th.