Interviews with the Vampires Dracula v. Dracula


Illustration by John-Ross Boyce

Utah’s theater community has had enough. In an attempt to outshine sparkly vampires, two stage productions of Bram Stoker’s Dracula are being performed this October. A third group is presenting a live version based on Orson Welles’ radio adaptation.

To get some insight into these dark creatures of the night, The V spoke with two of the actors portraying the legendary bloodsucker.

Interview with Mark Elliot Wilson, Pioneer Theatre Company’s Count Dracula

What makes this production of DRACULA different?

I think that Chuck Morey, the director who also adapted it, stayed very faithful to the novel. …  This is following the narrative and plot structure of the novel very closely.

How do you get into character?

I think it’s not difficult because I think that everybody has that dark side to their psyche if you just open it and walk through. I think the most difficult part for most people is opening the door. I’m just trying to stay connected to the novel. [Also,] late nights and a lot of tomato juice.

How long does it take you to get into your costume and makeup?

It’s going to take a long time. I have three different costumes and I’m going to be flying, so there will be harnesses … It’s probably going to take at least an hour.

After trying to get into his head, do you think Count Dracula is misunderstood or actually purely villainous?

I guess a little of both. The reality is, he’s evil if you’re doing the novel. He’s just not black and white, or else they’d dismiss him. He’d be a caricature or a one note character. I think he’s evil more in the way of Lucifer or a fallen angel. There is something that connects with the fear and sexuality that most people don’t want to deal with on a conscious level. The reality is, in the novel, he is evil. But there is a charm and an intellect and everyone wants to have that experience, to live hundreds of years. … He is evil, but he is also misunderstood. Most people cannot conceive of that kind of absurdity.

With the current TWILIGHT craze, how do you help the audience understand that you are the opposite of sparkly and “vegetarian”?

You know, I’ve never watched one of those vampire things that are out right now. … People are going to bring their own understanding and expectations when they come. No matter what role I attempt, don’t think of what’s going to be the most popular or understood or most accessible. I want to satisfy the story and tell the story and make it emotionally and psychologically responsible. I bring myself to it as fully and committed as I can.

Why do you think we are so fascinated with vampires?

Because of the underlying sensuality and eroticism and dark romance. There are concepts of life after death of which every culture and every society has been interested in.

What do you think is the best vampire story?

The original one. I don’t have a lot of experience with the newer stuff. The first time I read Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it was just great. It was one of the first novels I read with my wife.

Who is your favorite vampire?

There’s been so many great ones. I like Béla Lugosi for being smooth and setting a standard. I like Gary Oldman for being so strong and interesting.

Do you miss seeing your own reflection?

No. Not at all.

What blood type do you prefer? Or do they all taste like chicken?

I prefer beautiful women, whatever blood type they have.

———–

Interview with Pete Widtfeldt, Springville Playhouse’s Count Dracula

What makes this production of DRACULA different?

The way Dracula preyed on women and children is almost too disturbing to depict. In this particular play, it’s there. It was in the book, so it’s here. You’re going to see some things that will make you uncomfortable, hopefully. … In this day and age, people don’t get scared that easily. They can go and see a SAW movie and walk out not permanently scarred, so then what’s going to scare them?

We do it the old-fashioned way. One thing that a play has that a movie doesn’t is that it’s really there. You literally can make anything happen on screen. if a guy gets decapitated, you can say, “Well, they did that on a computer.” Obviously, on stage it’s not real either, but it’s there in front of you and you have to say, “Whoa! It’s a real person and it happened five feet in front of me.”

At this point in the process, there’s a lot of blood, probably to the point where we ought to give rain ponchos to the people on the front row. We have the ability to do things with a live audience on stage that really can’t be done with a movie.

How do you get into character?

I tend I usually just sort of find a dark corner and sit there by myself. I don’t interact much with the other cast. I’m not Heath Ledger by any means. I don’t need to explore the dark depths of drug use in order to find my evil self or anything else. By day I hang out with my kids and by night I – well, it’s creepy.

You have to know how to be charming on stage and how to be creepy and evil on stage, but there isn’t a whole lot of nuance that makes it so you have to feel his pain. You just sit down and put your head in that place before you go on stage. But the situations make it impossible to not be in character. When you kill someone, you don’t feel inclined to giggle. Maybe that’s why it was harder for Ledger – he had to laugh while he killed people.

How long does it take you to get into your costume and makeup?

The most difficult thing is to get the blood out. It’s not as difficult to get in costume as it is to get out of it and ready it for the next show.

I walk the earth looking too much like Dracula, so they don’t give me too much makeup. They just give me a pallor so that it looks like I’ve never seen the sun.

The real irony of this particular role for me is that I look pretty good period-wise and facial hair-wise because six months ago, I grew out my beard and my hair to work on a film for the LDS church. I’ve played apostles and prophets and, in some cases, Jesus. By shaving off just part of my beard, I went from looking like an apostle or ancient prophet to looking like Dracula.

After trying to get into his head, do you think Count Dracula is misunderstood or actually purely villainous?

I believe in pure, unvarnished evil. I believe it exists. I think that it does people a disservice to believe that all evil they see is a sort of environmental evil: If only we talked to them and showed them we loved them. … I believe there are people in history and in the world right now who are truly evil. … I think in this show, we’ve tried to really do that.

With the current TWILIGHT craze, how do you help the audience understand that you are the opposite of sparkly and “vegetarian”?

It doesn’t take long, I think, for people to see that. One of the very first scenes is Dracula chasing down an innocent young woman and ripping out her throat. … We let people know pretty early on that Dracula is capable of super bad stuff. Even beyond the violence, there is manipulation and psychological stuff. … To some degree, if all you do is kill people, that’s bad. But there’s worse. And Dracula’s worse. He entrances them, puts them in some sort of a spell or trance state and then just continues to feed off of them emotionally and physically. He sucks their blood and forces them to love him. There’s nothing lovable about him. He’s forcing them to do everything they want. It’s disturbing psychosexual stuff.

Why do you think we are so fascinated with vampires?

I think that the sort of tame version of vampires which has kind of evolved over the years is something that is particularly interesting to women. Dracula, over the years, has morphed into a slick, suave debonaire guy who is just really, really selfish and strong in his expression of love for a specific person. I think that a lot of those are attributes that are attractive to women. He comes across as being tall, dark and handsome in the modern depictions of him. It’s been softened to become a deep, abiding emotional thing. A man who is that strongly attracted to them and that desperately in need of them, they don’t really take into consideration the dark origin.

If we look at a moodier Dracula who only seduces women using traditional means, that’s basically just a dark love story. I think that’s why the story perpetuates. It’s got all the romantic elements and a bit of scare.

What do you think is the best vampire story?

Probably any one where he ends up dead. I liked THE LOST BOYS. I thought it was pretty true to the idea of what a destructive influence that vampires can be.

Who is your favorite vampire?

If you’re hoping my answer is Edward, it’s not. We’ve got no glitter in this show. This is the real deal, Bram Stoker, nasty business and all, with Dracula stabbing a burlap bag that supposedly has a real child in it. Not for the squeamish.

Beyond Dracula, there aren’t that many that are known as individuals. They tend to be a flock of individuals. You don’t have individuals with star power like Dracula.

Dracula is kind of interesting. The original, more Victorian vampires were made scary because of the way that they were at war with the forces of good. At the time, the forces of good were depicted by Christianity. If you think about the monsters, if you think of Frankenstein or the wolfman, they might have problems with garlic or with fire. Dracula specifically has problems with Christianity. It’s a very specific battle between good and evil. … It’s a battle between God and Satan being depicted in a battle between Dracula and Van Helsing.

Do you miss seeing your own reflection?

You know, a lot of things have been brought into the legend that I’m not sure ever really existed, but we don’t do anything with the mirrors because I’m not sure that was introduced in the book. He doesn’t sleep in a coffin; he sleeps in a crate. He doesn’t turn into a bat, he turns into a monster, half-beast thing.

What blood type do you prefer? Or do they all taste like chicken?

He actually answers it in the play. He says he loves [people of] all shapes and sizes, all colors and temperaments, but the young ones most of all. Young blood would be the answer.

What: Pioneer Theatre Company’s DRACULA
When: Monday-Saturday, Oct. 22-Nov. 6
Where: 300 S. 1400 E., Salt Lake City
Price:$24-$42
More info: www.PioneerTheatre.org

What: Springville Playhouse’s DRACULA
When: Mondays, Fridays, And Saturday, Oct. 8-30
Where: 50 S. Main St., Springville
Price: $7-$8
More info: www.SpringvillePlayhouse.org

The radio broadcast adaptation, directed by UVU professor Christopher Clark, will be performed in the Upstairs Theatre at the Castle Amphitheatre. The ambiance of this location is sure to add to the experimental nature of the production.

What: Mortal Fools’ adaptation the DRACULA radio broadcast by Orson Welles
When: Oct. 22, 23, 25, 29 and 30
Where: 1300 E. Center Street, Provo
Price: $6-14
More info: www.MortalFools.org

One Response to "Interviews with the Vampires Dracula v. Dracula"

  1. Family First   November 7, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    But what about the family?

    Reply

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